Q. I am using an app that tells me I need to lose weight by eating 1,400 calories. I am having a really hard time eating that little bit of food. What should I do?
A. Without knowing your height and weight, I can only take an educated guess at answering your question. My guess is: If you are having a hard time following the diet, don't even try! A 1,400-calorie reducing diet is lower than I would recommend for even a sedentary couch potato.
For many of my dieting female fitness exercisers, I recommend 1800 to 2,000 calories to lose weight and 2,000 to 2,400 for athletes who are doing hard training. While that may sound like “too much”, it is not! In order to lose weight, you only need to chip off 100 to 200 calories (from your weight-maintenance calories) at the end of the day. Theoretically, this will contribute to a loss of 10 to 20 pounds over the course of the year.
Slow weight loss, with a small calorie deficit, allows you to still have energy to exercise and function effectively in your daily life. Semi-starvation diets tend to backfire. While you may lose weight quickly by sheer will power and white- knuckling the hunger pangs, research suggests you will gain it back —plus more — in a short amount of time. Weight loss is far more complex than any app can figure out, and not as simple as eating less and exercising more. After all, if weight loss were simple, than everyone who has ever been on a diet would be thin. Not the case! Rather than rely on an app, I highly recommend you get personalized help by meeting with a sports dietitian. To find this local nutrition professional, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.
Athletes of all sports and abilities commonly ask me what they should eat before, during and after a competitive event:
When should I eat the pregame meal: 2, 3 or 4 hours beforehand?
How many gels should I take during a marathon?
What’s best to eat for recovery after a soccer game?
The same athletes who worry about event-day fueling often neglect their day to day training diet. Hence, the real question should be: “What should I eat before, during and after I train?” After all, you can only compete at your best if you can train at your best.
As you prepare for each workout, remember you should be training your intestinal tract as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. To get the most out of each workout, you need to practice your pre-, during- and post-event fueling as well as your sports skills. Then, come day of the competition, you know exactly what, when and how much to eat so you can compete with optimal energy and without fear of bonking nor intestinal distress.
For help with personalized advice on optimizing your training diet, find a local sports dietitian by using the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. (SCAN is the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition Dietary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association.) Alternatively, many active people have found my Sports Nutrition Guidebook to be very helpful.
Fuel wisely and enjoy training faster, stronger and longer.