You’ve heard of Michael Phelps eating up to 12,000 calories per day. Unfortunately, most of us don’t train 8 hours a day as a full time job, so we cannot afford to eat that much. But, if you are an athlete or workout on a daily basis, your needs will be different compared to someone who is sedentary.
Whether you are an athlete or workout on a daily basis, putting high quality foods into your body is an absolute must. Your body cannot function or recover on highly processed foods with little nutritive value. Think about foods where you will get the most “bang for your buck.” Foods like whole proteins and vegetables have the most nutrition in them, from vitamins and minerals to amino acids and antioxidants.
When we workout, we are actually breaking down muscle. In order for us to get stronger, and rebuild that broken down muscle, we need supply our body with the proper nutrients to do so.
Let’s start with protein. The current RDA for protein is .8g/kg, but this does not take into consideration if you are exercising. Therefore, depending how long you are working out for and your goals, protein intake should be between 1.4-2g/kg per day according to the International Society for Sports Nutrition (1). The increase in protein will help with muscle recovery and will help to build muscle. Ladies, this means more of that “toned” look you’ve always wanted, and men, an increase in muscle size.
Next are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are very important in an athlete’s nutrition plan, as they help to propel you through the workout. An athlete’s main concern is their performance, and refueling with carbohydrates after a workout helps to replenish the glycogen that was lost during the workout. We are not talking about refueling with donuts and ice cream, rather with whole food sources like sweet potatoes, quinoa and even gluten free pasta like you will see in the Perfect Fuel meals. Consuming 1.5g/kg of carbohydrates post workout gives athletes an even greater advantage by offsetting muscle damage and replenishing glycogen (2). This means, you will get stronger, faster!
Lastly, we have fats. Fats help our bodies produce key hormones, make our skin, hair and nails look healthy, provide us with energy, and keep us feeling satiated. You will notice that every Perfect Fuel meal, has a small amount of fat in it so we can enjoy all of these benefits. Athletes need to be aware of how much fat they are consuming pre workout, as this will slow down digestion which can feel uncomfortable. Limit your intake to 1-2 tablespoons or servings of fat pre workout.
To maximize your gains and increase lean body mass, keep it simple. Consume a 4-8 ounces of protein, .5-2 cups of carbohydrates, and 1-2 servings of fat at each meal. Exact portions depend on how many hours you are training, and the type of sport as well. Happy training and healthy eating!
Liza M. Scott MS, RD, CISSN
- Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2008.
- Campbell B, Kreider R, Zeigenfuss T et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2007.