How Much Should I Eat?
By Patricia Chuey, Senior Nutrition Consultant, SportMedBC
Climbing up to Sun Run victory, nutrition step five is portion awareness. Take some time this week to look at the quantities of food you eat. Is breakfast big enough to fuel the day ahead? Is your evening snack bigger than it needs to be? These two points may be related. Front-loading food intake early in the day and distributing it evenly all day can help reduce evening snacking.
It’s getting tougher to gauge what a reasonable quantity of food actually is. Out of whack portions are everywhere. Coffee, donuts, a burger or fries, servings from just about every drive-thru are bigger than needed. Yet when vegetables (exceptional carbohydrate energy for exercising muscles) are served, portions are often too small. As an athlete training for the Sun Run you may be starting to notice an increase in appetite. This occurs to help fuel the extra demands on your body from a dedicated training regimen. With increased appetite comes an opportunity to look at actual amounts of food needed. Although appetite increases, weight loss is still very achievable by fine-tuning the quality of food eaten and continued persistence with exercise.
For most foods, consider the size of a tennis ball to be one serving. If needed, keep a reference tennis ball handy on the kitchen counter. To ensure enough carbohydrates for brain and muscle energy are consumed without overdoing it, aim for five or more servings per day of vegetables and fruit (make about 2 of them fruit) and even if you need gluten-free, four or more grain servings. This includes foods such as bread, rice, quinoa, cereal, muffins and crackers. Keep choosing grain foods that are highest in fibre while being low in sugar, salt or added fats.
To get enough protein, aim for three to four daily servings of lean, quality meat or meat alternatives. Legumes like chickpeas, black beans, lentils and other dried beans, soy foods, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs, poultry and lean meats fall in this category. A serving is roughly three to four ounces, about the size of a deck of cards – or one squished tennis ball!
To meet calcium and vitamin D needs, have two or three daily servings, about one cup each of milk and milk products. Whether using milk, fortified soy or almond beverages, yogurt or cheese, calcium doesn’t only keep bones and teeth strong, it’s also needed for healthy bowel function, weight management and preventing muscle cramps.
The easiest way to meet your food quota for the day is to eat a balanced breakfast within two hours of waking up. In breakfast, lunch and dinner, ensure half the plate is vegetables accompanied with a quarter of the plate as protein and the remaining quarter as whole grains. Every three to four hours in between eat a balanced snack that includes foods you’re less likely to get in meals (fruit, nuts or yogurt) representing a mixture of protein and carbohydrate. A day put together this way provides roughly 50% of calories as carbs, 20-25% as protein and 25-30% as fat – the recommended fuel mix for runners.