It’s 9pm and practice just ended. You have 2 hours of homework, a project to finish and hopefully a few hours of sleep before the 5:45am alarm!
How does a high-level competitive athlete eat? How can your body get the proper nutrients you need, at the right time, and in the right amounts when your schedule is jam packed down to the second?
Over the course of a day, a female athlete needs anywhere from 2,000-3,000 calories, even more for males! This number is on the higher end if an athlete is training in competition season, lower end on an off-day or off-season.
That is a lot of food to cram into just a few eating times. But this is what happens as a result of our busy schedules.
- If meals are eaten too far apart, it leads to your body storing extra energy at meals as body fat – because this is the fuel it uses during the large time gaps between meals.
- If you are not eating enough (<1600 calories / day), your body also resorts to storing food as body fat since it isn’t sure how else to fuel your entire day.
Your body is WAY too smart, it thinks, ‘since I am not getting enough food, or not eating frequently enough, I will just store this meal like I would in a kitchen pantry!’
The negative cycle starts: notice body fat, eat less, skip meals, notice body fat, eat less, skip meals…
Meanwhile, your muscle, bone tissue and hormone systems start deteriorating because your body has to compromise somewhere. If you notice less power at practice, stress fractures / stress reactions, frequent sickness (or for women, losing your period), these are all indicators that you are not fueling enough or at the right times.
Get yourself on schedule:
- Breakfast: within 1 hour of waking
- Snack: 2 hours later
- Lunch: midday
- Snack: 2 hours later (can be before or after practice)
- Dinner: 3-5 hours before bedtime
- Snack before bed: 1 hour before bedtime
Pay attention to portion size:
- All three meals should look like evenly-sized plates – think column, not inverted pyramid
- Typically this looks like making breakfast much bigger (eat as you would for dinner!) and dinner much smaller (eat as you would for breakfast!)