An Elite Athlete's Guide to Meal timings and Weight Loss
What to eat, when to eat and how much to eat has an impact on performance in athletes. So, how does an athlete struggling with weight try to give his / her best?Well, the theory of the total intake of calories that an individual consumes does have a role in weight loss. However, this works in normal individuals – not athletes as they have longer training hours, extra need for macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins, specific timing when they need to be consumed, need for complete recovery, etc. Any nutritional compromises can hamper their performance. A sports nutritionist or a sports dietitian can help an athlete struggling with weight issues and at the same time help maintain peak performance.
For elite athletes struggling with weight loss, preserving lean tissue becomes important. So, energy restriction cannot be too high. Some strategies that an athlete can work on are:
Avoiding severe restriction of calories
Adopt a clean eating program
Timing and intake of protein and carbohydrates
Timing of food intake – around the training schedule
Spreading the meals and snacks through the day
For athletes meal timings are important – through the day including the training sessions. Skipping meals or severe energy restriction to achieve weight loss can have a negative impact on performance. It also leads to loss of lean muscle tissue and fatigue thus impacting performance. An adequate breakfast and a mid-morning snack are important as they help replenish the glycogen after an overnight fast and also provide the fuel for exercise. In case the athlete has an early morning training session, a light snack before the session and a good breakfast after the session will provide the necessary nutrients – mainly carbohydrates and protein. These strategies help in staying away from unhealthy options too. Also, the timing of food intake around the training session will ensure the body has sufficient fuel and nutrients to exercise and thereafter help in building and repairing of lean muscle mass. Refueling after exercise is just as important during weight loss, which includes fluids for rehydration, good carbs to replenish the glycogen and good quality protein for building and repair of lean tissue.
Weight management can be a challenge in an athlete with the numerous food options around and the lack of knowledge of the right foods. Losing weight with a fitness nutrition specialist or a qualified sports nutritionist can ensure success. He / She can help with meal plans, address the weight and other health issues, provide the right supplements and also ensure that the athlete is fuelled well. Realistic weight management programs or weight loss programs keeping in mind the sport and other lifestyle habits is the key to any success with weight loss and ensuring sporting performance.