At the 2011 NSCA Coaches Conference [which STACK wrote about here], Josh Hingst, director of sports nutrition for the University of Nebraska, presented a session on "Complete Nutrition for College Football." Although his presentation was directed at collegiate programs, several lessons can be learned and applied to your nutrition routine—regardless of your age and sport.
Hingst breaks down nutrition into six pillars and arranges them in a pyramid [see image above] to rank how they affect your performance. Although each pillar is critical for athletic success, Hingst says, “There is nothing more fundamental or foundational to nutrition than meeting your calorie needs.”
Too often athletes hear about cutting down portion sizes and their meal intake, but calories are critical for supplying energy. Without sufficient calories to match energy demands, your performance will suffer and your body will meet its energy needs by breaking down muscle—a negative for any athlete. Various studies have found that failing to meet caloric requirements can cause endurance performance to suffer, decrease the ability to build muscle, increase fatigue and reduce immune system effectiveness.
To counter this, Hingst suggests first estimating your resting metabolic rate, which is the energy required for your body to perform critical functions—such as breathing—while at rest [see equation below]. You are then able to calculate how many calories you should consume in a day based on an estimate of your activity level [see chart below]. Although the number of calories may seem quite high, some of Hingst’s Nebraska football players must consume more than 4,000 calories a day to simply maintain their weight at their current activity level.
Hingst believes the best method for supplying your body with energy is with five to six smaller meals throughout the day. This has been proven to provide stable energy levels and improve muscle recovery and repair, while also encouraging better food choices for a healthy, well-rounded diet.
*Percent of body fat can be estimated by many bathroom scales or through a test at a local fitness facility.
Chart [Estimated Activity)
|Light Activity||1.3 – 1.5|
|Daily Training||1.6 – 2.0|
|Two-A-Days||2.0 – 3.0|
Resting Metabolic Rate x Estimated Activity = Calories Required Per Day