Friday, May 8, 2009

How Much Carbohydrate and Protein Best for Exercise?

Hi Laurie,
I am a 52yr, 5'7", 115 lb, 15%body fat, female. My training schedule includes running 5 - 6 days a week, strength training 3-4 days a week and I also do olympic lifting once a week. I do take 1 - 2 days off each week, which means most days I am doubling up on lifting and running. I follow a very strict diet, 25-30% Protein, 45 - 50% Carbs, and 20-25%Fat. I eat only lean meat, vege/fruit, nuts, very little grain (1/day) and no dairy (I supplement calcium). I am finding that I am not recovering very quickly and frequently have heavy legs while running. I am assuming that I am not eating enough carbs, but I have read that 45% should be enough. I burn anywhere from 1800 cal on a sedentary day to 2800 cal on a long run day. What are your thoughts. Should I increase my carbs? -- Thanks, Sheila R.

Dear Sheila,

Kudos to you for such a strong exercise program...and I hesitate to say this, but... at your age! You set a fine example for everyone who complains how they can't do it anymore because they're over 40 :)

The calorie levels you figure you are burning daily sound reasonable. It does make sense at first to see how you are dividing your calories, but let's take a closer look:

For someone as active as you are 45% is a pretty low end for carbs and I would go as high as 60-65% for a week or so and see how you feel. Fat intake tends to slow people down when they exercise so you might experiment and see how having a lower fat meal prior to activity affects that heavy and tired feeling. I think you'll see a difference.
Having your carbs at 60% and your fat at 20% would still give you 40 grams of fat in your daily diet, even on a low (1800) calorie day, and that is certainly enough to meet your nutritional needs for essential fatty acids.

Your current dietary protein level has you taking in 175-210 grams of protein on a workout day and that is an extremely high amount--more than 4 grams per kilogram--and even body builders rarely suggest more than 3 grams per kilogram. Unless you are competing for Miss Universe and trying to add a pound or two of muscle each week, this is quite an excessive amount. I would recommend a maximum of 130 grams per day (It must be difficult to get in the amount you've been eating without protein powder supplements, especially since you don't eat dairy, isn't it?)
It's important to know that when you don't use all the protein you eat for muscle building, the extra protein is converted to another form to be used as energy, wasting the nitrogen. The kidneys must then excrete all the wasted nitrogen and that puts a stress on them.

You did not mention whether you are happy with your current weight, but especially considering your low body fat percentage, you are quite lean for your height. I'm sure gaining weight would make running a bit more difficult but consider how you would feel, energywise, to put on five or six pounds. It may just make you feel better in general.

I don't profess to be a sports nutrition expert, but I do know that carbs are what's going to give you the energy you need to work out and feel good. Extra fat will not help you in your work out and is limiting your food choices and probably the volume of food you can eat. And large amounts of protein, which cannot all be used for building body tissue, are wasted and stress the kidneys over time.

My advice: Enjoy some carbs! Whole grain breads, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals will give you the energy your body needs, a volume of food to keep you satisfied, and much-needed fiber, not to mention B vitamins to use all that energy efficiently.
Let me know how you feel as you try tweaking your diet to get in more energy, and fewer components that may be hindering your performance.

No comments:

Post a Comment