Your best training fuel starts with calories, but ultimately depends on the composition of your daily food choices. Carbohydrates, fats and to a lesser extent protein are used for training. However training intensity and duration, fitness level, previous and present diet, amount of daily stress and sleep will all impact the fuels you use on any given workout.
High-intensity, short-duration workouts like track, bike and swim intervals rely primarily on sugar and stored sugars in muscles and liver—called glycogen for fuel. Without a high carbohydrate diet, especially for high-intensity workouts, races, track workouts or other workouts such as sprinting, weight lifting, tennis or boxing you’ll run empty.
Complex carbohydrates such as 100% whole grains including cereals, brown rice & even popcorn; fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes are healthier for your body than simple sugars from candies, desserts and soft drinks because they are more nutrient dense—tend to be higher in:
Vitamins and minerals which help you to use carbs , fats and protein from food
Fibers—which keep blood sugars spikes to a minimum, your gut in check and consistent;
Phytonutrients—natural plant compounds that help your body to use fuel, stay fit, recover faster and reduce the risk for chronic diseases.
How much is enough?
If you train moderately, say between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate ((220- age) x .50-.70) (you can check this by taking your heart rate manually or with a monitor), you can meet your daily fuel needs by using the following formula:
• 45-55% carbohydrates (3 to 5 grams/kg/day)
• 10-15% protein (0.8 to 1.0 grams/kg/day)
• 25-35% fat (0.5 to 1.5 grams/kg/day)
(Kilogram bodyweight= weight in pounds divided by 2.2)
For example, if you weigh 120 pounds then you divide by 2.2 and you get 54 kilograms.
If your training picks up, or you’re maintaining a hectic lifestyle like going to school & working along with consecutive training days, 2-a- days or several workouts a week, then you will need more carbohydrates and protein to prevent breaking down. Shoot for a minimum of at least 50%, but ideally 60% to 70%, of total calories from carbohydrates (5 to 8 grams/kg/day); protein (1.2 to 1.7 gms/kg body weight) and fat (20% to 35% of total calories).
These numbers are just a MAPQUEST starting place. As you know, getting to the race start is a whole different story. You may eat well during training, but don’t forget to change it up—keep it plain and simple for race start. No heavy spices, fats or fibrous meals! You see diets, like races require trial and error. The more you try, the better you get.
And like selecting the right gear, keeping the following in mind will help you select the best food value for your training calorie budget:
Make your calories count—eat a wide variety of foods, even within food groups and brands to get the most vitamin and mineral bang for your buck. Some brands may also just work better for you.
Choose at least 5 colors a day for your plate representing all the food groups on a daily basis.
Eat at least 3 meals and 3 snacks throughout the day to sustain energy levels, manage blood sugars and assist with pre workout and recovery fuel.
Choose wholesome and fresh foods whenever possible with limited additives, colorings, flavoring and/or processing. If you have limited access to fresh and wholesome, go for frozen organic or without sauces/seasonings, then canned, low sodium and/or rinsed.