Kitchen MacGyver: How Much Do You Need to Eat?

Self-preservation rather than instant gratification is necessary to maintain good health.

Written by: Sabrina Grotewold

Do you know how much you eat—not an approximation, but an honest quantity of everything you put in your mouth each day? I bet you don’t. I don’t. There’s a misconception that, during training, runners and other endurance athletes can consume whatever foods and beverages and quantities they want without consequences. To ensure vitality, good health and longevity, an approach based on self-preservation rather than instant gratification is necessary. Of course, this is easier said (or written) than done. I struggle with these principles, too.

Bigger, better, faster is an American philosophy that’s inspired numerous great inventions, businesses and ideas; however, this mentality has mushroomed into every aspect of our culture, including how we view food. We’re surrounded by an abundance of relatively cheap food—and not necessarily high-quality food—and just as many clever marketing ploys designed to remind us how easy and pleasurable overconsumption can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Weight control for those without health conditions (like thyroid problems) remains a simple mathematical equation (an overall balance of calories consumed with calories burned), but what does all of this mean for athletes who require more nutrients and calories than the sedentary?

It means that active people should be even more aware of what, why and how much they consume. Education and awareness are the best tools. Learn: what proper portion size is and how to read and interpret food labels. Eat out less and prepare more meals at home. Consider employing a nutritionist—like a coach, an RD can help you become a better athlete. Many online training plans and tools offer food logs; fill this out diligently and honestly for at least two weeks to get an eye-opening picture of your habits.

One of the most helpful tricks I use daily is head-slappingly simple: Eat, cook and plate a larger proportion of vegetables to other foods. A study published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that substituting low-density (low-calorie) vegetables for proteins or grains on a plate resulted in greater consumption of vegetables and fewer overall calories consumed.


Sabrina Grotewold is a senior editor for Competitor. Christened the Kitchen MacGyver by her husband, she’s determined to persuade people to eat their veggies.

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