eating for athletes

Note (09/01/14) – Just to keep things organized (and since I don’t always tag posts correctly), here are the latest food x performance related posts:

Fuel – part 1

Fuel – part 2

Note (01/03/14) – Yes, it is that time of year again. You will be pounded with various 2014 diet plans that will *finally* get you over the top. Remember, most of these folks are out to separate you from your $$ and are putting things in the most easily sold package they can imagine. They are NOT necessarily motivated by making you healthy.

I encourage everyone in the new year to make smart choices, be thoughtful about how they approach health, question everything and everyone (especially your physicians), and do your own research. Obviously, I am biased and think the following is a good place to start with that research, but then again, you should question me, as well!!

Note (7/22/13) – here are a few links to more recent blog posts on the diet/exercise intersection:

Food + Performance

My “meal plan”

Feeding young players

Sports drinks are evil

Calories in/calories out


To perform at his/her best, the athlete needs to figure out how to best fuel his/her body. Note that every athlete is different – every body is different – learning what works for YOU is the most important thing. The goal should be to achieve high energy, lean mass (low body fat %), and high performance, within a dietary construct that is sustainable for one’s ENTIRE LIFE. Below I share a number of links/articles that helped me on my personal search for wellness. As a trained scientist, I like to think that I performed a personal experiment. Today, with my age on the upper side of 40, the result of that experiment is me maintaining my high school wrestling weight, maintaining energy that is more than sufficient to run around with the kids at training sessions, and goalkeeping performance that is at a level far beyond what it was 10 years ago.

So, the information below IS NOT dietary advice. It IS NOT a prescription for how to eat. However, IT IS a collection of works that perhaps skirt the mainstream dietary advice. Getting out of the mainstream was EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED to make positive changes in my own diet. A great deal of the information below runs somewhat contrary to the typical “athlete’s diet” that is carb heavy, and it all runs contrary to the government’s prescriptions for good health. These links are provided for your information only – do with them what you will.

Item 1 – are we really eating correctly? One of the first things I became interested in was obesity in America and what triggered our current epidemic. Gary Taubes turned out to be an excellent resource for opinions that ran contrary to the “eat less, exercise more” conventional wisdom that clearly does not work particularly well (so, why is it “wisdom”?).

What if it’s all been a big fat lie?

Is sugar toxic?

The soft science of dietary fat (pdf)

Salt, we misjudged you

What really makes us fat?

Also, take a look at this video series from Dr. Robert Lustig and UCTV on sugar and diet.

[UPDATE 6/6/13 – check out this recent article that questions the conventional wisdom on dietary fats]

Item 2 – so, how should we eat? If you plowed through the links above, they suggest that the government’s diet suggestions might not be so good for us. What then should we do? A few folks that I enjoy reading are:

Zoe Harcombe – a strong proponent for “real” food – ditch the processed stuff.

Mark Sisson – ok, so now we are getting into paleo/primal eating territory. Again, ditch the processed food, and don’t be afraid of meat and fat. Mark also has some interesting perspectives on how to maintain peak performance on a low-carb diet.

Dr. Peter Attia|The Eating Academy – totally in-depth analyses of the interplay between diet, body, and (in some places) athletic performance.

Item 3 – who is critically analyzing this stuff? If you are (rightly) skeptical, you should be calling for detailed discussions of macronutrients and their influence on our bodies. The folks below have taken on the carbs vs. protein vs. fat debate, and have also helped me understand how our bodies actually work. Many of these pages point you towards other resources – these should only serve as starting points in your research. These are not the final words on any of this, but they do provide counterbalancing points to the conventional wisdom.

Peter Attia has authored an outstanding series on cholesterol

Zoe Harcombe has also chimed in on the subject

Denise Minger provides outstanding commentary on observational epidemiology and why we should question such studies.

Gary Taubes on observational epidemiology.

Ok, thanks for reading this far – please let me know if you are interested in learning more. Remember, this is all a personal decision – each athlete needs to find his/her own way.

2 thoughts on “eating for athletes

  1. Pingback: a bit off topic « Lyon Group

  2. Of course most diets work, whether Atkins, Paleo, anti-this and that. The connections between sugar, insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome and inflammation are pretty compelling. However, I think you hit on the major problem right away in your blog post: sustainability. I’ve always struggled because I love food and I just can’t handle most of the extreme diet plans. Recently, this approach has worked for me and has been sustainable(warning: diet advice below, take it or leave it):

    1) Calculate you calorie needs given your level of activity.

    For me I need ~2700 for sustaining my weight, ~2200 for weight loss (I exercise a lot).

    2) Divide that number by 5. This number gives you the calorie total for five meals that you’ll eat throughout the day. For me (wanting to lose body fat) this means I get to eat five meals at ~400-500 calories.

    3) Plan out meals that are at the calorie amount needed. Importantly, make them tasty, filling, and consisting of low glycemic index foods.

    Yep, you’ll need a big lunchbox to hold all this stuff throughout the day (it’s a lot of food).

    Eating more often, together with eating foods that help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, should reduce hunger pains. For me, eating like this has decreased my cravings for junkfood and has helped me lose body fat. The calorie total per meal can be increased after weight loss for a long-term, sustainable diet.

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