Calories: Are you getting enough?

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I’m often asked about nutrition and how an athlete can optimize consumption.  I’ll try to explain a simple and effective strategy I use (and recommend).

Step 1: Learn what a calorie is.

Step 2: Learn how to count calories.

Here’s a video that explains these two steps.

Step 3: Find out how much calories are in something.

Knowing how much calories are in a piece of food is tricky.  Luckily, there are plenty of calorie counting APPs for your smart phone that have huge libraries so you do not have to remember these details.

Step 4: Estimate how much energy you need to live and how many calories you burn during each workout (see my table below).   You can actually measure how many calories you need per day but its expensive (and time consuming!).

Here’s table that summarizes the approximate amount of calories required for the size of person and workout time per hour.

Size Daily Calories Required Workout Calories Per Hour
Small female 1400-1600 Easy 200/Hard 500
Small male/medium female 1600-1800 Easy 300/Hard 600
Large female/medium male 1800-2000 Easy 400/Hard 700
Large Male 2000-2200 Easy 450/Hard 900

Example (let’s use me)

I would fall under the small male size, so I require about 1800 calories to maintain my body mass each day.  Let’s say, I go for an easy 1 hour run and then later in the day I go for a hard 1 hour swim.  My daily calories to maintain my body weight would be about 1800+300+600=2700.

So how much food is 2700 calories?  An example: A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is about 500 calories.  Basically, if I ate 5.5 of these sandwiches I’d meet my daily caloric intake.

The trick with knowing how many calories you need (if you followed my example) is finding out how much energy is in something!  Try downloading an APP and tracking your calories for a day or two.  Find out if you’re running a surplus (so excess calories) or a deficit (not enough calories).

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