Blog contribution by the wonderful Olivia Napoleon MS, RDN, LDN. You can find her at Nourish and Liv.
Our society has us convinced that the purpose of exercising is to lose weight and feel more confident in ourselves. Although this can be a way to build up our confidence, the focus on weight loss can be detrimental to you and your performance.
I have worked with a number of runners that expressed how much their body composition was scrutinized by their coaches. The smaller the body the faster they run. This thought process can lead runners down a dangerous path of disordered eating.
We are not airplanes! We do not need to be more aerodynamic, we need to build a good foundation in our bodies to perform better.
First, let’s take look at your intention with exercise:
What is your motivation? Is it to lose weight or was it to work on your health? It is important to understand that your weight is a small fraction of your overall health. Running, or exercise in general can be beneficial to our mental health, cardiovascular health, pulmonary function, and much much more. All of these determinants of health are independent of your weight.
So let me ask again, what is your intention behind your exercise routine?
If your sole reason for exercising is to manage the size of your body, I understand entirely. We are wired in our society to see it that way. Diet culture plays a huge role in that.
Diet Culture is a system of beliefs that praises thinness and weight loss, equating it to health and status. It tells us what we should eat and how we should look in order to be accepted by society. This damages our own relationship with our bodies, while also oppressing people who don’t fit the “Picture of Health.”
For those of you that may identify with viewing exercise as a way to change your appearance to fit in, that’s OKAY. I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect and possibly even work with an Intuitive Eating Dietitian to explore your relationship with exercise and body image.
For others that find joy in exercise, love to challenge themselves, and do not see movement as a way to change their bodies, I have another question! ⬇️
Are you properly fueling your workouts?
How to identify if you may be underfed for your workouts:
You feel fatigued during workouts
You struggle with recovering between exercise
You’re tired all the time and sleep is not as restful
You plateau with your performance; It's harder to meet new PRs
You notice unintentional weight loss
For females: you may even stop menstruating.
So how do we fix this?
Take a moment to observe how you are eating. Did you skip snacks? Have a pre and post-workout snack? Are you eating when your body sends you hunger signals?
General Nutrition Guidelines:
All meals should consist of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Athletes should aim for 55-65% of their intake to be carbohydrates.
Pre-workout snacks should be easy on the stomach and carbohydrate-heavy
Post-workout snacks should consist of both protein and carbohydrates.
If you are exercising for long stretches of time (over 90 min of moderate or intense activity) you need to have a game plan to have carbohydrates during the activity to restore your blood sugars and help maintain your glycogen stores.
This will help delay fatigue and improve your performance!
If you are interested in more individualized interventions, I would suggest talking with a certified sports dietitian or an Intuitive eating dietitian.
Thanks for the information, Olivia! Visit her website at Nourish and Liv.
To read more about the importance of adequate nutrition intake, read Brianne's past blog post "Running On Empty" Take the stereotypes out of disordered eating and realize that under-fueling can happen to anyone, any size, any age, any gender...intentional or not.
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