How to eat like an Athlete!

dsc_2796I’m hungry! I’m hungry all the time!!! This is expected since I’ve upped my workouts, right? I don’t know! I am trying not to gain weight while training for this triathlon, but my body is making it really hard! It’s screaming for FOOD!!!! I tried the “fill up on water” trick….NOPE, didn’t work! So what am I doing wrong? I want to look like an athlete, not a blubbery whale! How? What do athletes eat and when do they eat it? I am beginning to believe that it’s all in the timing! So I did a little research and here is what I found…

Weight Loss

Weight loss is a numbers game! It’s actually basic math! To lose 1 pound you have to expend 3500 calories more than you consume. Sounds like a lot right? Well break it down a little farther. If you want to lose a pound a week you would divide that 3500 calories by 7 days which gives you a 500 calorie deficit per day. Sounds doable right? Just cut out two 20oz Cokes…right?  Turns out there are a number of ways to lose this weight. You can eat less (not an option when you are training hard), burn off 500 calories through exercise (I’m doing that), or you can combine the two, eat less and burn more. This sounds simple, but doesn’t help me stop the cries for food! There must be more!!!

Fuel

Turns out that the body is fueled by carbohydrates. Hmmm! So what are those low carb dieters using for fuel? If you think of your body as a car, the carbohydrates are the gas, and protein is the oil. Would you put oil in your gas tank? Wait…I really don’t know anything about cars…so, let’s think of it as laundry, since that’s what I know! We have a load of clothes that needs washing. Think of the detergent as your fuel and the fabric softener as the protein.  Would you pour just fabric softener in your washing machine to clean your clothes? No! So why eat high protein when you are trying to fuel your body? Protein is used to repair the muscles after an intense workout. Like fabric softener is used to soften fabrics and prevent static. While the protein will fill you up, they are not as efficient as a carbohydrate in providing energy! Just like fabric softener will make your clothes smell good, but it won’t clean your clothes like detergent!

OK, now I feel like I am beginning to understand my diet flaw. I tend towards protein packed foods, because, being a vegetarian, I just figured that’s what I needed. I’ve been trying to stay away from carbs, thinking that they were BAD!!! Turns out, not all carbs are bad! The complex carbohydrates that come from whole grains found in oatmeal, multi grain bread and whole wheat pasta, are much more effective at fueling your body. Simple carbs that come from highly processed, white flour found in white bread, regular pasta and processed cereal, do not work your body to it’s maximum. So eat your carbs, but eat the brown ones!

Timing

DO NOT SKIP MEALS!!!! This is key to eating like an athlete! You must eat breakfast! I’ve heard my mother tell me this for years! But I’m just not a big fan of breakfast. I like my coffee alone! But according to everything I have read, you must “break” your fast in the morning with a high quality complex carbohydrate, such as oatmeal. If you exercise in the morning, make it a smaller size portion so you don’t feel weighed down.

Evidently, if you eat a big meal you should do so 3-4 hours before exercise. Smaller meals are fine 2 hours prior and snacks can be eaten right before and even during exercise, depending on how you feel!  Really, I can eat while I am exercising? This sounds wrong! But I will try!

And contrary to popular opinion, eating after a workout is a must! The experts say you must eat a balanced meal within 2 hours after your workout! This meal should include complex carbs, proteins and healthy fats. This will help the body repair the muscles and rev up the metabolism, so more calories are burned throughout the day!

So I have found that I was just doing the wrong foods at the wrong times. I am making the change and with any hope my body will stop screaming for food! I’ll keep you posted!

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