We all know that our diets are going to be different than the average Joe. This is because we are working hard to push our bodies and so we require different amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Yes, endurance athletes need fat we just need good fat (well everybody should have good fat.)
As a vegetarian I have to be creative with how I get the right amounts of these nutrients plus I have to be cognizant of calorie intake depending on intensity and length of workout. It really is a science. On days that I rest, which is always Friday, I do not need to take in as many calories as on a Sunday which is an epic training day that includes swimming, cycling and running. Last Sunday I burned 3,851 calories and with a typical 2,000 calorie diet I can eat 5,851 calories to maintain my weight. On a Friday my caloric intake should be about 2,000 to maintain my weight. The math is quite simple in that if you burn 2,000 and eat 2,000 your weight will be the same. Eat less calories and lose weight. Eat more calories and gain weight. Simple.
With all this dancing in my head and wanting to be at my ideal racing weight for Oceanside I decided to start tracking my food. I eat healthy and have been able to lost 6 lbs since I switched over to a vegetarian diet back in December, but I wanted to make sure that this was true. Funny thing about this is that tracking my food really opened up my eyes to what I actually put in my body. Now, I have only been doing this for 2 days but just like tracking your training this tracking has held me accountable. For example, the idea of eating an apple for an evening snack would have been easy for me to do, but last night I knew that I was coming up on my calorie limit and decided against it and drank 16oz of water instead and I felt full and no calories consumed. I will say that Friday has always been my hardest diet day because I’m not training but my body is used to consuming calories that I continued to do this on Friday’s and when I wake up on Saturday I would find that I gained 1-2 lbs. This morning there was no weight gain.
I did some research on what an endurance athlete should have in terms of macronutrients. Macronutrients are defined as being the classes of chemical compounds humans consume in the largest quantities and which provide bulk energy. These are protein, fat, and carbohydrate.
Athletes in general should eat a diet high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Another key nutrient that is a must for athletes is water. We all know that we need to drink water for hydration but we sometimes forget to drink our water. Rule of thumb for water is to drink half your body weight in oz. For example, if you weight 150 lbs then you need to drink 750z of water throughout the day.
Why are carbohydrates important?
The body’s preferred fuel for endurance sports is muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the body’s storage form of carbohydrate. If muscle glycogen breakdown exceeds its replacement, glycogen stores become depleted. The result is fatigue and inability to maintain training and racing intensity.
How much carbohydrate should I be eating?
Carbohydrates should provide ~ 65% of total calories. To figure out the amount that’s right for you, multiply your weight in kilograms by 7, or multiply your weight in pounds by 3.2 – to give you the number of grams of carbohydrates you should consume per day.
Why is protein important?
Protein is needed for muscle growth and repair. Regular physical training tends to reduce muscle protein breakdown and protein loss from the body. While some protein breakdown may occur during exercise, protein build-up is enhanced during the recovery and the effectiveness of protein synthesis is increased. When muscle glycogen stores are high, protein contributes no more than 5% of the energy needed. However, when muscle glycogen stores are low, due to inadequate calorie and carbohydrate intake, protein is used for energy rather than for muscle growth and repair and may contribute as much as 10% of the energy needed for exercise. Such use of protein for fuel is expensive and inefficient.
How much protein do I need to eat?
Endurance athletes need up to 50% more protein than sedentary adults. Protein should contribute ~15%-20% of total calories per day. To figure out the amount for you, multiply your weight in kilograms by 1.3, or multiply your weight in pounds by 0.6 to calculate the number of grams of protein you should consume per day.
Exercise does not completely eliminate the health dangers associated with eating a high-fat diet, such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
How much fat can I eat?
Endurance athletes as well as all people should consume less than 30% of total calories from fat and less than 10% from saturated fat.
Packed with my new knowledge I wanted to see how my first day, which happened to be a rest day, came out in terms of the macronutrients. On Friday I consumed 2,439 calories and my breakdown was 65.22% Carbs, 11.02% Protein, 23.76% Fat. I was a little light on the protein side but I did not train so I think I was right where I need to be.
Today I have consumed 1,040 calories (as of 12:50p) and burned 1,494 calories. This leaves me with approximately 2,889 calories based on a 2,446 caloried diet. My breakdown so far is 56% carbs, 17.5% protein and 26.5% fat. The fat can be attributed to the fact that I consumed 3 tbs of peanut butter already today. Up for lunch is some quinoa chili topped with an egg substitute scramble. This should help me with my protein and carbs and lower the fat since the only true source of fat will be the 1tbs of olive oil used to cook the chili.
Do you track your food? Are you monitoring your macronutrients?