I’ve been eating pasta every day for almost a year while living in Italy. Sometimes twice a day. And I’m loving it.
My love for carbohydrates probably goes back to my 1980’s College days when I was a big fan of the Robert Haas’ Eat To Win: The Sports Nutrition Bible diet. This diet is also known as the Martina Navratilova diet, and it followed the same guidelines as the 1970’s Pritkin diet, which recommended 70% carbohydrate, 20% protein and 10% fat.
The short reason why carbohydrates are better for fuel is the “clean burning” fuel which leaves no byproducts other than water. Protein and fat has byproducts (for example, ketone bodies).
I know what you are thinking… 70% Carbs for a sprinter? Are you nuts? After all, I was training up to 3 hours a day (while taking a full course load!) However, all you have to do is eat out at a fast food restaurant, and you’ll never get to those numbers as the fat content (as well as sodium) will throw those numbers out of range. And you wonder why there is an obesity problem in North America.
Today, the cardinal rule is sprinters should limit (not eliminate nor excessive) their carbohydrates and focus on getting high quality protein from all sources including animal products.
Then there’s the extreme.
The article on Usain Bolt’s diet claimed he ate six daily meals containing 30% carbohydrates, 60% protein, and 10% fats, with most of the protein coming from chicken fillet (and Chicken McNuggets!).
American Dietetic Association Recommendations
This is from the American Dietetic Association (2006). Click here to download the Track & Field Nutrition handout (PDF)
A few surprises… here’s a snippet:
- You should get most of your calories from carbohydrates, followed by protein and fat. Carbohydrate is the only fuel that your body can use without oxygen. It is especially important for power and speed athletes.
- If you compete in very-high-intensity, brief events (races between 100 and 400 meters), eat 2.7 to 3.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day (6 to 8 g/kg/day).
- If you compete in high-intensity, short-duration events (runs between 800 and 10,000 meters), eat 2.3 to 3.2 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day (5 to 7 g/kg/day).
- Track and field athletes need 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (1.2–1.7 g/kg/day). Good sources of protein include fish, chicken, turkey, beef, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and soy foods (tofu, soy nuts, soy burgers).
- You need at least 0.45 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day (1 g/kg/day). Choose heart-healthy fats, such as canola oil, olive oil, and nuts.
From above, the recommended ratios for the sprint and power events are between 73-15-12 and 75-16-9! So the American Dietetic Association numbers are not too far off from the Robert Haas Eat to Win Diet!
Again, my first reaction to these ratios is good luck achieving this if you eat out at fast food restaurants. Even a healthy Subway sandwich on whole wheat is impossible once you add the mayo and olives.
The bottom line is make smart decisions on food choices.