It can be a tricky balancing act to get the intake of energy and energy expenditure equation right. Just how do you go about working it out? Is it trial and error? Is there a mathematical formula? Surely it's not as simple as putting fuel in and then burning it up?
If we look around us we see that what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. How much food and what kind of food do you put on your plate? It could be quite different from the person sitting with you at the same table. Are you one of the lucky ones that can pile it high on the plate and stay trim and healthy or are you forever reminding yourself to take small portions and healthy options? We may also differ in the time of day that we consume our fuel. Do you graze all day long, keep to regular meal times or forget to eat all day and then eat a big meal at night?
Sometimes the difference can be noticable between men and women. This could back up the theory that, from a biological perspective humans have not changed for several thousand years. Men, who were out for extended periods to hunt, ate large amounts of food when they got the chance. Women, who stayed at home and looked after the children, ate smaller amounts of food more frequently. So perhaps there is a historical basis for men and women’s different eating habits. Women may find it difficult to eat as much as men.
I have been reading about a study that was carried out where a number of men and women were given breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for one week. On the sixth day dinner was taken away, and they were not given any breakfast on the seventh day. The following lunchtime the men ate enough food to “fill the gap” from the missed dinner and breakfast. However, the women only ate as much as they had eaten at previous lunchtimes.
It is probable that we have a genetically inherited mechanism from the Stone Age that controls this behaviour. With this in mind we can say that the traditional pattern of three larger meals per day may not be ideal for women. It is probably better to eat “little but often”, for example “breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner-supper”.
The there is the question of how many calories we need to consume within those meals and snacks. Hal Higdon, author of 'Marathon - The Ultimate Training Guide' recommends that the average runner training for a half marathon and running 20 to 25 miles a week probably needs a daily caloric intake near 2,500 to maintain muscle glycogen stores. As your mileage climbs beyond that, you need to eat more and more food, not less.
This, however, sometimes goes against the motivation of a runner who has taken up the sport, in the first place to lose weight! It may be that person still needs to restrict intake of calories but should beware of cutting down too much on carbohydrates as these are vital for providing the energy we require for that long training run we have planned for tomorrow morning.
Mmmm...food for thought.....what does your training programme have down for tomorrow and will your energy stores suffice?