Fuel Up On Food

Author: Brandan Fokken

Fuel Up on Food   

If a car or truck requires specialty fuel like premium or diesel, an owner wouldn’t fill it with regular gas. When thinking of the body as a special mode of transportation, the types of food put into it should become more important. Different types of food provide the body with the variety of nutrients and energy it needs to function. Because of this, it’s important to understand how to maximize the benefits of food.

Foods are typically made up of three categories: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Each macronutrient plays important roles in the body to help it function efficiently. Learning more about what these functions are can help determine how much of each macronutrient one should consume to enhance athletic performance.


Carbohydrates are found in several food sources including grains, vegetables, fruit, honey, beans, and some dairy sources. The goal of carbohydrates is to be broken down by the body and be converted into glucose. Glucose is the primary fuel source that the body uses for several internal activities. These include providing the brain and central nervous system with energy, the production of red blood cells, and gives energy to cells so they will perform correctly. Carbohydrates produce 4 calories per gram. If a food source has 30 grams of carbs, then it will yield 120 calories.

Athletes who engage in high to very high intensity workouts should be consuming 6-12g/kg of carbohydrates daily.

Athlete- 160lbs /2.2 = 72.7kg
72.7 kg x 6g= 436 grams of carbs
or up to 872.4 grams of carbs (72.7 kg x 12g)

Fat (Lipids)

Lipids are used as the body’s energy reserve. When the body uses fuel during exercise, it first recruits carbohydrates because they are more easily broken down into glucose. If carbohydrates are not available, then the body will utilize its lipid sources. It is essential for the body to have fat. Fat provides energy for the body at rest, insulation, protects vital organs, and transports the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat yields the most energy per gram. 1 gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. If a chosen piece of food has 10 grams of fat, it contains 90 calories. Fat is not an ideal food source before or during an athletic event. It can cause GI distress and could hinder performance. However, having fat make up between 15-30% of daily calories (<10% from trans/saturated fats) is essential for regular body functions.


Protein has an extremely important part in the body’s ability to recover and rebuild after exercise. It plays a role in the body’s thousands of chemical processes and structurally keeps the body together. When protein is digested it is broken down into amino acids. The body requires 20 amino acids to function properly; approximately half are required by consuming whole protein sources. Although it is important to consume protein, excess intake of protein will be flushed from the body or stored as fat. Like carbohydrates, protein also yields 4 calories per gram. According to ACSM, a strength trained athlete should consume 1.6-1.7g/kg daily to reach adequate protein goals.

Athlete: 160lbs/2.2=72.7kg
72.7kg x 1.7g= 126g of protein

Protein is most effective when evenly distributed between meals. Post-exercise protein intake is important for rebuilding and repairing muscles quickly. It is suggested that a fast, quick absorbing protein is best after exercise. A fast absorbing protein for example is Dymatize ISO-100 whey protein powder. To benefit most from a post-exercise meal, it should be consumed within 30 min – 1 hr after exercise has stopped.


Food is a natural tool for enhancing physical performance. It is important that an athlete is consuming enough food so they have the energy during performance and enough to repair muscles afterward. Nutrition should not be neglected especially while athletes are young and still growing. Before trying any new diets, it is advised to consult with a family physician beforehand. 


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