There are as many opinions on what we should eat as there are experts on the subject. The issue becomes even more convoluted when people with little to no background interject their opinions. The simple truth is there is no perfect diet, no magic answer to the question “what should I eat to perform better?” What I am going to attempt to do is synthesize the knowledge that I have gained from close to 15 years of trial and error in sports nutrition and the time that I’ve spent in college classrooms learning from registered dietitians. I, myself, am not an RD but do have a great deal of real-world experience working with athletes from all backgrounds.
The first question that you need to answer is, what is my goal? There is a huge difference between eating to perform at a sport or military selection than there is for eating to achieve the desired goal weight or just maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of your goal, it is important to understand your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is simply the number of calories (energy) that your body needs to maintain itself if your entire day’s tasks consist of sitting around on your lazy ass watching a Macgyver marathon on TV.
There are about a half dozen long equations that you can use to figure this number out but I’ve never taken the time to memorize any of them. Why? because that’s what google is for. Don’t ever commit something to memory that you can easily lookup. So If you are curious, as you should be, what your RMR is google “RMR calculator” and then punch in some basic pieces of information. I received some information from a Black Side Concepts follower named Kevin and entered it into a calculator that can be found here….
Kevin is a 28-year-old 6’4″ tall, 205lb male with 8-10% body fat. The calculator said that he had an RMR of around 2,250. That means that just to maintain his current jacked-up self, he has to consume 2,250 calories a day. From the other information that I received from him, it sounds like he doesn’t spend his days sitting around knitting scarves. In addition to regular day to day activities, he is training 12 times per week. (I bet you feel like a lazy shit bag right now don’t you?) In order to avoid going into a caloric deficit each one of these activities must be accounted for. There is something called a “MET” (Metabolic equivalent) that is used to determine how many calories are burned during a given activity at a given intensity. At rest, most people consume 3.5ml of oxygen per kilogram per minute. Don’t worry, you won’t be tested on that later.
The reason that is important is that 1 MET is equal to your RMR (3.5ml/kg/min) The higher intensity and/or the longer duration you maintain a higher intensity the higher your MET output will be. If you have ever been on a sliding horizontal torture device (also known as a row machine) you will see that there is an option for not just meters but also calories. The machine is using a crude equation using the resistance and stroke per minute to determine your MET output, that is how it computes your calories. There are calculators that will do the math for you to determine what kind of output you are dropping:
I plugged in Kevin’s data holding a 6-minute mile for 20 minutes. This yielded a MET rate of 16.3 or a caloric burn of 532. Those are calories that he must account for in order to come back strong and train again later in the day. Bottom line, if you are burning more calories than you are taking in you will be in a deficit and you’re not going to be able to train at your maximal output. If you can’t train at or near your best then good luck seeing optimal gains. Just like your American made truck with the gun rack and anti-Obama sticker needs fuel to run, so does your body. You know that not all fuel is created equal; put crappy gas in your dodge and it will run… but it’ll run like crap. The same goes for your calories. The food (fuel) that you take in is THE ONLY thing that can replenish your body on a cellular level. If you put crap in it don’t expect your cells to regenerate as effectively.