Most people would agree that the only difference between the nutritional needs of the athlete and the non-athlete is calories—the more active you are, the more food you need to eat. But are there differences among athletes? Does a swimmer need to eat differently than a runner or a biker?
The answer is yes...sometimes. Susan Kleiner, sports nutritionist and author of “Power Eating” says that although technically there are differing needs, it’s very individualized. “While an endurance athlete does need less protein and more carbohydrates than a weightlifter, few athletes train purely in their own sport; most do some cross-training.”
Identify your Training Style
When planning your diet, what matters most is how hard and how often you exercise. During low-level exercise such as walking, the muscles burn primarily fats for energy. During light to moderate aerobic exercise, such as jogging, stored fat provides 50 to 60 percent of the fuel. When you exercise hard...you rely primarily on glycogen stores.” Glycogen—a form in which your body stores carbohydrates—is converted into glucose (energy) as you need it. It’s found mostly in your muscles and your liver and you can replenish it and prepare your body to exercise well by consuming adequate carbohydrates.
Carbo-Loading: Do it early and often
To build muscle and burn fat, you need carbohydrates, but if your muscles are low on stored glycogen, eating a big spaghetti dinner the night before you need it won’t do the trick. Experts suggest eating carbo-rich meals two or three days before an event. Start replacing those depleted carbohydrates immediately after your event or workout.
Most people eat 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day (one kilogram translates into 2.2 pounds). If you eat a low-carbohydrate diet your muscles will feel chronically fatigued.”
Susan Kleiner, offers the following rule of thumb for daily carbohydrate intake:
Working out for one hour: 6 to 7 grams per kilogram
For two hours: 8 grams per kilogram
For three hours: 10 grams per kilogram
For four or more hours: 12 to 13 grams per kilogram
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles, and it can be used for energy if you’ve exhausted your carbohydrate supply. Kleiner stresses that to ensure that you get enough protein each day, it’s important to assess your intake as it relates to your training goals.
For more information or to buy a copy of Susan Kleiner's book visit: www.powereating.com