Many athletes are super type A. If there is a workout on the schedule, no matter what, they complete the activity. So much discipline! For some reason, that same discipline does NOT always carry forward into daily nutrition. Proper nutrition is of equal value to proper training, yet this aspect of training is often overlooked. But, why?
Many adults who begin training, do so to lose weight. The first few months, the plan seems to work. As the adult becomes more active, more calories are burned. The body begins to shed a few unwanted pounds. After a few weeks, the weight loss plateaus, and the athlete becomes frustrated. Often, when an adult begins swimming, biking, or running, over time he or she inadvertently begins increasing caloric intake. I’ve actually heard runners and triathletes say, “I do this so I can eat what I want.” While to some degree caloric intake should increase while training, athletes get the amount of increase skewed. For example, depending on body composition, a 3-mile run will burn anywhere from 250 to 450 calories. One may rationalize that after running 3 miles, the right to eat a slice of frosted chocolate cake has been earned. An average size slice of this treat is about 510 calories. This not only creates a net calorie gain of 60 to 260 calories (again, depending on body composition), but also fills your body with zero nutritional value or “empty calories.”
The American culture views food as a form of entertainment, rather than a necessity to fuel the body properly. The thriving fast food and processed food industries are testaments to this. I recently heard on the radio that in Ireland, bread from the fast food chain Subway, is not classified as bread, as the sugar content is too high. It is considered a pastry. Yet, in America, we think we’ve eaten healthy if we choose Subway over McDonalds. And, yes, it probably is a better choice, but neither choice nourishes the body in the best possible way.
Even athletes who have no struggles with weight gain often sabotage themselves with poor eating choices. Just because you can eat that fast food burger, fries, and Oreo cookie every day and stay slim does not mean that you should. We have a friend who has been an avid runner and extremely thin all his life. In his late 50s, he had to have quadruple bypass heart surgery to repair all the damage from decades of fast food drive throughs and sweets.
We’ve always heard the phrase, “you cannot outrun the fork.” Whether it be weight gain or other underlying health issues, this is absolutely true. No amount of swimming, biking, and running will compensate for poor nutrition. As coaches, we focus on the whole athlete. In addition to quality workout and training activities, we offer suggestions and advice on how to properly fuel for maximum performance. After all, if you are going to do the hard work to condition your body, you may as well take it one step further and eat to maximize fitness gains.
If you’d like us to partner with you to not only customize workouts to fit your fitness goals, but also help you make optimal food choices, we’d love for you to join our team!
When working with our athletes, we let them take the lead on how involved they’d like us to be with their daily fueling and nutrition. Some of our athletes desire no interaction in this area and others want us to be as involved with their nutrition as we are with daily training plans. For athletes relatively new to the sport of running or triathlon, we generally encourage focusing on the training first, and layering nutrition goals later, as needed. Just as training activities must be customized for each individual athlete, nutrition is not a one size fits all prescription.
When athletes suggest wanting help with daily nutrition, we must start where they are. Current eating habits? Any allergies? Favorite foods? Issues with weight gain? Issues with weight loss? Digestive issues during run? Current hydration habits? Body type? Vegan? Keto? Intermittent fasting? Cravings? Height? Weight? The list goes on…
Once baseline data has been established, we work to develop meal plans that fuel the athlete's sport properly. Athletes can read a variety of books and figure this out for themselves. It is not proprietary information, as many infomercials would lead you to believe. Once you know the premise, it’s basic math. However, it takes time to put it all together in a way that works.
Here is an example of an analysis we put together for one of our athletes. Based on her height, weight, activity level outside of workouts (sits at desk versus up on feet all day occupation…) and weight goal, we determined her baseline calorie intake per day is 1,650 calories. We also worked with her to determine the percent of carbohydrates, protein, and fats that worked well for her. Many factors influence this, including gender, body type, and age. With this athlete, we like her to manage her macros at about 45% carbohydrate, 40% protein, and 15% fat. This will vary from day to day, but as long as she gets close to her daily calories and grams of protein, we don’t worry much about how carbs and fat land. Based on this information and her food preferences, here is one of her sample meal plans.
When we sent this athlete her customized meal plan, she was amazed at the QUANTITY of food we had given her to consume in one day. What she quickly learned is that her cravings and hunger were not due to a lack of eating enough calories (quantity), but not eating the RIGHT food (quality) to give her body what it needed. For hydration at meals, we encouraged her to grow accustomed to hydrating with water. To feed her caffeine needs, she also consumes black coffee in the mornings and occasionally enjoys unsweet tea.
As we’ve learned of the foods she enjoys most, we have enjoyed continuing to put together meal ideas for her. Keep in mind that her calorie intake BASELINE in 1650 per day. Depending on her workout, quantities must be adjusted upward or additional foods added in order to consume enough calories to fuel her body sufficiently.
We love helping our athletes learn to fuel properly and we save them tons of time! It takes TIME to figure all this out, and we are delighted to remove this layer of stress from our already busy clients. To learn more about our coaching services, please reach out to us at [email protected] or visit our website Let’s get started today!