March 13, 2024

Nutrition study.... Athlete A - Female, 40 years old.

Jon Bateman
Founder, Performance Nutritionist and Endurance Coach

Athlete A - A case study …..

Already in shape, but feels losing more mass will aid their performance.

Female 55kg 160cm 40 years old. 8000 steps per day. 600kcals exercise expenditure  Daily need - 2300 cals

Let’s take Athlete A, very common and one we see a lot. Often their need is driven by peer pressure, part social media, part club mates, part over thinking their performance.

If we think about the weekly training load of a competitive endurance athlete, this could be around 4000-6000 kcals per week, which equates to 600-900 kcals per day.  So quite a lot of calories per day, in addition to that of your steps and your general daily need as a human.  Athlete A specifically burns 2298 kcals per day on average per week. To ensure they are not in energy deficit, they should be ingesting 2300kcals every day for arguments sake. If you take out their exercise and steps, we’d be looking at 1380kcals per day.

To ensure this athlete is recovering well, not experiencing fatigue through the day, sleeping well and is ready and refreshed for her sessions, she would be ingesting the 2300kcals we mention above. We can take things further and look at her energy availability, which would increase her intake, but that is more complex and for another day.

Athlete A tells us she is eating well, on further inspections via a dietary recall over 6 days, we see that she is eating well, but her in take is only 1800kcals per day. Again very common, people think eating well is enough. I refer you to a previous blog post on the Nutrition Pyramid. The athlete is really surprised, she hasn’t been losing weight but is around 500kcals per day down on where she should be. She wanted to lose weight but wasn’t, wasn’t intentionally creating a deficit, more just trying to eat well and hoping to lose body fat.

Why wasn’t this athlete losing weight? Certainly we can say the athlete wasn’t recovering from sessions; feeling tired in sessions and through the day. There wasn’t enough energy available for recovery and general daily function, so weight loss isn’t going to happen. We might be heading toward RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport) where we see constant niggly injuries, bone mineral density issues and menstruation issues.  This can be relatively quick too, dependent on how low the daily intake is, the intake above may only give us 4-8 weeks dependent on the individual before we see issues arising above that of general fatigue.

Times are getting quicker? Yes, I’m sure for a period of time they will, maybe a few weeks, but then I’d expect to see a plateau. Then the niggles, tiredness and feeling a little grumpy. The decline has begun. Without a quick intervention, then we’d have problems that may take months or more to correct.

The intervention we’d use would be to target the athletes daily energy expenditure totals, ensure the macronutrient distribution was correct for her and once we are happy after a few weeks of nutritionist led diet, we’d then look at where we go next, look at training targeted intake with timing and type around sessions. I always ensure health in the first instance and use that as a platform in which to build and use as a structure for the athlete.  Referring back to the Nutrition Pyramid blog, you can see why.

Do you recognise any of the above in yourself? Why not get in contact to find out how we can help you.

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