Time to get real. Time to get serious. Time to talk about food and how it relates to performance AND injuries. We all know we need food to survive, but that doesn’t mean we all know how much food we need. And then, even if we do know how much we need, it doesn’t mean we are actually taking in the appropriate amount.
Our bodies require a certain amount of calories in order to function on a daily basis. Add any activity to what we do on a daily basis and the calories required goes up. As a very general rule, if you want to gain muscle, the amount you take in needs to be in a slight surplus. If you want to lose body fat, the amount needs to be in a slight deficit. It’s simple math on a very basic level.
Now, here’s where things get tricky…actually knowing that number and making sure you are taking that amount in.
It is time to stop thinking about food as simply calories and start to think of it as fuel. As athletes, that is essentially what food is – fuel! Food is what fuels our performance. When we take in the appropriate amount, food is what allows us to perform at our best. Food is what gives you the energy to keep going during a workout rather than fatiguing out and needing to take more rest breaks.
“But I don’t want to gain weight.”
I totally get that! Believe me, I do! This is where knowing how much food you need is important. If you know your maintenance number, the break even amount for your day when taking into account everything you do on a daily basis, and eat that amount daily, you won’t gain weight. (Assuming you are eating healthy foods. Throw fast food and processed foods in the mix and that does change things a bit.)
Even if you feel you are strong and performing well during your workouts, if you are someone who is significantly under eating, I bet you will notice huge improvements if you get your intake up closer to your daily requirement.
“I’m already below my number and I am not losing like I want to.”
My question in response is ‘how far below are you?’ Many times, I find people are significantly under eating, sometimes barely the amount their body needs to function. When that happens, your body holds on to everything possible so instead of losing weight, you either maintain or even gain weight at times. As crazy as it sounds, when you increase intake to a healthier range, you actually begin to lose weight. You basically turn your metabolism back on and allow it to function again.
And then we must get into the injury discussion. This is a much more common issue in women runners but can happen with men as well. If you have been in a chronic injury cycle, especially with stress fractures, it is time to take a look at your food intake. Significantly under fueling will cause your body to pull nutrients from your bones. When this happens, it weakens the bones, which can result in stress fractures. Yes, stress fractures can be due to other reasons as well, but nutrition is an avenue to explore as well when investigating why they are occurring for you.
Have more questions regarding your nutrition? Not sure where to go next? Let’s talk. Schedule a call with me to chat about your issues and figure out what your next steps are.
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