“What percent of my calories should come from carbohydrates, protein and fat?” my client asked in his efforts to improve his sports diet and his performance. “Should it be 40% carb, 30% protein and 30% fat? Or 65-15-30?” Clearly, he had been reading the popular literature and felt totally confused by the mixed messages.
According to the American Dietetic Association’s Position Stand on Nutrition and Athletic Performance, active people should target a diet with 50 to 65% of calories from carbs, 10 to 35% from protein and 20 to 35% from fat. But the paper goes on to say that percentages are not the best way to calculate a food plan for athletes. Here’s an example why:
• If you are a 150 pound high school soccer player who wants to add muscle and require about 4,000 calories a day to support your traiing and growth, a diet with 10 to 15% of calories from protein would offer 400 to 600 calories of protein or 100 to 150 grams protein. This comes to about 0.65 to 1.0 grams protein per pound. Perfect!
• If you are a light-weight rower who is trying to drop five pounds to make weight and are eating only 1,600 calories a day, 10 to 15% of calories from protein translates into 160 to 240 calories of protein, or 40 to 60 grams protein. (There are 4 calories per gram of protein.). Forty to 60 grams of protein is way too low. Dieting athletes need about 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.5 g pro/kg). The rower who weighs 140 lbs. would need closer to 100 grams protein per day, not 40 to 60.
Instead of fretting about percentages of calories, try this simple concept:
--Choose three different kinds of foods with each meal (such as cereal + milk+ banana or salad + cottage cheese + chick peas)
--Enjoy carbs (fruits, veggies, grains) as the foundation of each meal and protein (meats, dairy, nuts) as the accompaniment.
You'll end up with the right balance of protein and carbs as well as vitamins and minerals.
With a blizzard blanketing the East Coast, snow shovelers will welcome a warm and hearty dinner. Here’s one of my family’s favorite winter meals: Enchilada Casserole (one of 70 sports recipes in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook). If you keep the ingredients stocked (keep meat in the freezer), you can easily create the casserole with little effort.
This particular recipe is made with hamburger, but you could just as easily make it with ground turkey, diced tofu, or kidney beans. For color and crunch, top the casserole with diced peppers.
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (or fresh tomatoes, chopped)
10-ounce can enchilada sauce
16-ounce can refried beans, preferably low fat
6 ounces baked corn chips
4 ounces cheddar cheese, preferably reduced fat
Optional: 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 teaspoon chili powder; 1/2 teaspoon dried basil; 1 green pepper, diced
1. Brown the ground beef (and onion) in a large nonstick skillet.
2. Drain any fat, then add the diced tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and refried beans (and chili and basil, as desired). Heat until bubbly.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Crumble the corn chips and spread all but 1 cup in the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking pan.
4. Pour the enchilada-beef sauce over the chips.
5. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the enchilada-beef sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup corn chips (and diced green pepper, if desired).
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
I’m training for the Boston Marathon as part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society. This will be my first marathon, and I’m very nervous; I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy and “hit the wall.” I know I should “carbo-load” before long training runs. Does this simply mean stuffing myself with pasta?
Stuffing yourself with pasta the night before your long runs is one way to carbo-load, but there’s another approach to consider as well. Here’s what I recommend for your training runs:
1. Cut back on your running one or two days prior to the long training run. Your muscles can store maximal amounts of glycogen only if they are given non-exercise time to do so.
2. Eat the same tried-and-true carbs you (should) have been eating as a part of your daily training diet. As you know, you can only train at your best if you fuel your muscles daily with a carbohydrate-based diet: cereal for breakfast, sandwiches made with hearty bread for lunch, pasta for dinner.
3. The night before the long run eat well, but do not eat so much you upset your digestive system and wake up feeling like a beached whale.
4. Eat adequately on morning of the long training run. This is your time to practice fueling as you might do before the marathon itself. Figure out if you prefer bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, energy bars, cereal … this your time to experiment so you learn which foods—and how much of them—settle well and enhance your run.
5. During the long training run, maintain a steady fuel intake by drinking sports drinks, and carrying with you hard candy, twizzlers, sports gels, energy bars, dried pineapple and other forms of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. You should target about 200 to 300 calories per hour, after the first hour of running. Fueling during the event helps prevent you from “hitting the wall” and also replaces the need to stuff yourself the night before.
By practicing your fueling during your long training runs, you’ll be able to learn how to fuel on Marathon day and will have no need to worry about hitting the wall.