You need extra calories during rigorous training periods to make up for the food your body burns for energy. But how much is enough, or too much?
How much you should eat depends on three things: hunger levels, body weight goals and daily routine. Here's how to use this information to determine your training food schedule.
Assess Your Hunger Levels
Note your hunger levels to predict and plan when you should eat in relation to your training schedule. Use this scale to assess hunger before, during and after your workout:
1—Starving, weak, dizzy
2—Very hungry, cranky, low energy, lots of stomach growling
3—Pretty hungry, stomach is growling a little
4—Starting to feel a little hungry
5—Satisfied, neither hungry nor full
6—A little full, pleasantly full
7—A little uncomfortable
9—Very uncomfortable, stomach hurts
10—So full you feel sick
Plan to eat when you're between three and four and stop when you're between five and six. Waiting until you get down to one or two can affect your mood and energy levels, which will hurt your workouts: low fuel input translates to minimal energy output.
Don't forget to consider the influence training has on your appetite. Observe your hunger before and after each workout for three to five days, and note where it falls on the scale. This will help you determine whether you need a pre- or post-workout snack or meal.
Assess Your Goals
If weight loss is your primary goal, plan energy input—calories eaten throughout the day—with the output, or how many calories you burn during training. The key is to burn more calories than you eat. Build this into your training diet plan and set short-term goals to see if it's helping you meet your weight loss goals.
If you want to maintain weight and maximize performance, pack a post-workout snack to replenish energy stores and build muscle, even if you're not high on the hunger scale. Low-calorie food items that will help you recover without getting full include:
- Banana and peanut butter
- Turkey roll-up with low-fat cheese
- Hard boiled egg and celery sticks