Take the first bite
No matter what I eat, I cannot seem to gain weight. What am I doing wrong?
These situations are all too common for many endurance athletes. Some people want to sensationalize nutrition, spending too much time to fine-tune their plan.
Credit the chalkboardmag.com
“Apart from training, nutrition is the most important influence on athletic performance,” said Dr. Michael Liebman. “Nutrition is a trial and error process.” There are certain principles to follow, but there isn’t one prescription for everyone.
The skinny on gaining weight
Skinny athletes who have a hard time bulking up may feel frustrated. They can’t do something as simple as gain a few pounds. The struggle to bulk up is equal to that of obese people who yearn to trim down.
Some people have difficulty gaining weight because they are simply hard gainers. That is, they require more energy than might be expected to gain weight.
Athletes in a sport, such as weightlifting, think that strength, power, and sports performance will get better if they are able to gain weight. However, it is important to remember that weight gain can come from increases in either fat or muscle. Dr. D. Enette Larson-Meyer said, “It is hard to gain only muscle, you will usually gain a certain ration of muscle and fat.”
Calories equal pounds
Many athletes wonder how many extra calories they need to consume gain weight.
Dr. Larson-Meyer said, “To gain one pound, you could eat approximately 500 more calories a day.” Approximately one pound of weight is equal to 3500 calories.
To gain weight, athletes must know their maintenance requirement (number of calories to maintain weight). This can be done by keeping a food record for a few days. Usually by adding 500 calories per day, athletes on average could gain per week.
When adding calories to a diet, athletes should avoid empty calories. An increase in carbohydrates and protein, such as lean meats, whole wheat bread, legumes, provides a diet that allows a body to gain weight that is lean body mass.
Amanda Barlow, University of Wyoming graduate in Human Nutrition and Food said:
“Eat every 2 to 3 hours, or about 5 to 9 times per day is the best approach to consistently and properly fueling your body. Every day, enjoy a breakfast, an early lunch, a later lunch, dinner, and a bedtime meal. You can even add snacks to increase your caloric need.”
An athlete’s diet is not much different from regular diet. The biggest difference is an emphasis on certain nutrients.
Credit to cdc.gov
Although you cannot change your genetics and your tendency to fidget, you can increase your calorie intake.
One important aspect of nutrition is meal-time. Spreading out the calories throughout the day. “It is better to have more eating episodes,” said Dr. Liebman.
Another way to increase calories is to select higher calorie foods. This allows an athlete to increase caloric intake without having to add more meals. The highest caloric foods have the highest fat content.
Athlete’s calories should come from ratios of carbohydrates and protein to body weight. An athlete should consume eight to ten gram of carbohydrates for every kilogram of body weight. As for protein, athletes should consume 1.2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.
The big three
Carbohydrates are very important for endurance athletes. Endurance athletes exercising for more than 90 minute will want a high carbohydrate diet. Athletes want good carbohydrates, meaning less processed, such as legumes. While exercising athletes want quick carbs found in sports drinks and fruits. For post workout, athletes should mix and match complex and quick carbohydrates.
When increasing the amount of protein, an athletes should add weight resistance training. “The new protein needs to go to skeletal muscle,” said Dr. Larson-Meyer. “Athletes should be encouraged to make changes that will help with improving strength, rather than just gaining weight.” Endurance athletes training more than 2 hours a day need more protein.
Not all fat is bad. Nuts, for example, contain quality fats. These are essential for endurance athletes. Enjoy peanut butter, nuts, avocado, and olive oil. Their high fat content means they are calorie-dense.
Credit to imbuebody.com
When you combine all three, there has to be a balance. Endurance athletes’ diets should consist of up to 60 to 70 percent carbohydrates, 15 to 20 percent protein and 10 to 15 percent fat. These are on sliding scales, if one changes, so do the other two.
The last bite
A strategic nutrition plan can allow you to reach the potential that genes allow you to. Nutrition supports your ability, it will not make you a world-class athlete Though, there is no substitute for well planned athletic training program.