Demystifying Sports Nutrition

Strive For Lean, Not Thin

“Weight is the wrong metric—look at lean muscle mass and body fat percentages,” advises Dan Benardot, Ph.D., RD, professor of nutrition and kinesiology and health, and codirector of the Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance at Georgia State University.

In charge of the nutritional health and hydration strategies for the 1996 Olympic gold-medal wining U.S. gymnastics team and the U.S. marathoners at the 2004 Olympics, Benardot recently analyzed the consumption habits of elite figure skaters. Dieters take notice: His research reveals that functioning in calorie-deficit mode in an effort to trim down is counterproductive. The skaters who were restrained eaters, creating an 800 to 1,000 calorie daily deficit, tended to have higher body fat levels compared to the skaters who were less restrictive.

“When you have inadequate caloric consumption, the body will take from the tissues—the lean body mass—and this will lead to higher body fat.”

“If you provide a small amount of fuel all the time to dynamically match expenditure, then you’ll feel and perform better,” says Benardot.

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