How the Pros Stay Lean

Step 2: Manage Your Appetite

At the height of his training for the IRONMAN World Championship each year, triathlon legend Peter Reid kept no food in his kitchen—none—so that he wouldn't be tempted to overeat. It was an extreme measure, but Reid knew his ideal racing weight was 164 to 165 pounds (or 7 to 10 pounds below his natural offseason weight), and he knew that he could not reach his racing weight if he fully indulged his appetite. It's hard to argue with the results: three victories and three runner-up finishes in Kona between 1998 and 2004.

Research conducted by Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, and others, has demonstrated that most people automatically eat more food than they need unless they take conscious steps to control their "food environment" and eat more mindfully. These measures do not need to include removing all of the food from your kitchen, but they may include removing all of the low-quality temptations from your kitchen, and replacing your current dishes with smaller dishes on which you serve yourself slightly smaller portions.

More: How to Avoid Underfueling Without Overeating

Step 3: Balance Your Energy Sources

The world's best runners come from Kenya and Ethiopia. The diet of the typical East African runner is 76 to 78 percent carbohydrate. Compare that to the diet of the average American, which is only 48 percent carbohydrate. Research going all the way back to the 1960s has consistently shown that a high-carbohydrate diet best supports intensive endurance training. Unfortunately, the low-carb diet craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s has cast a long shadow, causing many age-group athletes to eat too little carbohydrate to support their training properly. 

More: 5 Best Carbs for Athletes

Actually, not every endurance athlete needs a high-carb diet. Carbohydrate needs are closely tied to training volume. The more you train, the more carbs you need. Use this table to determine the daily carbohydrate intake target that's right for you.

Average Daily Training Time
  (Running and Other Activities)  


  Daily Carbohydrate Target  


30 to 45 minutes


3 to 4 g/kg*


46 to 60 minutes


4 to 5 g/kg


61 to 75 minutes


5 to 6 g/kg


76 to 90 minutes


6 to 7 g/kg


90 minutes


7 to 8 g/kg


>120 minutes


8 to 10 g/kg

* 1 kg = 2.2 lbs

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