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Eating the right food at the right time is a vital part of the serious runner’s schedule. Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD explains why you’re sabotaging your training if you’re not eating correctly. Here in part one she looks at the importance of taking on the right amount of calories.
Respect for the power of food“Too many athletes show up for training but don’t show up for meals. They might as well not show up for training.” These are the words of a successful hockey coach but they apply equally to runners. You’ll be better off taking ten minutes out of your training time to fuel your body properly than rushing to training, only to show up poorly fueled and unable to get the most from your workout. Adequate calories during the day The same athletes who show up under fueled for training are the ones who under-eat by day, get too hungry, crave sweets and fats, and then overeat ‘junk’ by night. This pattern fails to support an optimal sports diet, to say nothing of long-term health.
Why do so many athletes under eat by day? Some claim they are too busy. Others are trying to lose weight. A survey of 425 female Division I collegiate athletes across the US reports the women, on average, wanted to lose five pounds. Forty-three per cent reported feeling terrified of becoming overweight and 22 per cent were extremely preoccupied with food and weight(1).The fear that ‘food is fattening’ can certainly deter athletes from optimal fueling. If you are a weight-conscious athlete who wants to know how to eat and be lean, the trick is to pay attention to when you eat: fuel adequately during the day so you have energy to exercise and prevent ravenous hunger and food binges, then eat reasonably at night.Towards the end of your dinner, ask yourself if you’d rather be leaner or eat more—and then push yourself away from the table, brush your teeth, and go to bed earlier than usual. Active people should plan to lose weight when they are sleeping, not during the active part of their day.
Spread your food over the course of the day and don't pack your daily calories into your evening meal.
Knowledge of how much fuel an active body needsSome athletes under eat because they would feel piggy eating two bowls of cereal or two sandwiches, despite their need for thousands of calories a day. Others try to eat enough, but run out of time to actually consume what their body requires. And then there are the dieters who under eat in their efforts to lose undesired body fat. They cut back way too severely.If you are struggling to lose undesired body fat, there’s no need to try to lose weight on 1,000 calories a day when you can more successfully lose weight by eating 2,000 calories. That is, the less you eat, the more your body hibernates to endure the ‘famine’. To lose weight and keep it off, simply make small changes that knock off about 100 to 200 calories at the end of the day. This can lead to 10 to 20 pounds of fat loss a year. A sports dietitian can help you estimate your calorie needs. Most active women can lose on 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day.Eating evenly sized and evenly scheduled mealsMany active people eat in a crescendo, with the biggest meal at the end of the day. This is backwards! The better plan is to divide your calories evenly throughout the day, eating about every four hours, so you are always in the process of fueling-up or re-fueling. Use the following table as a guideExample: If you are an active woman who maintains weight on 2,400 calories:
Breakfast 7-8:00 AM 600 calories Lunch 11-12 noon 600 calories Second Lunch 3-4:00 PM 500 calories Workout 5-6:30 PM (Minus 600 calories) Dinner 7-8:00 PM 700 calories
JUMP TO OTHER PAGES:
Part 1 - Counting Calories
Part 3 - Eat Before Running
Part 4 - Post-Exercise Food and Recovery
Part 5 - Taking on fluids
Part 6 - Rest days
Nutrition Points to Remember
Sources1. (Beals, Manore Int’l J Sports Nutr, 2002).Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD (Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice, located at Healthworks in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, USA (+1 617-795-1875). ). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, soccer players and cyclists are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com for information about upcoming and online workshops.
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