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Before, during and after exercise are the times when your body needs the most energy, so your caloric intake at these times should remain optimal. Even if you’re not very hungry after a high-intensity or long-duration training, it’s important to still eat a meal or snack that contains enough carbohydrates and protein. It is best to reduce your caloric intake at other times of the day when you are less active.
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can be found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. In Canada, daily fiber requirements are set at 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, according to Statistics Canada, most Canadians consume only half of the recommended amount of fiber. Fiber promotes satiety and is therefore useful in helping to reduce caloric intake without feeling hungry. Several studies show that a high fiber intake is beneficial for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Indeed, in a 20-month study, each increase of 1 g of total fiber consumed per day was associated with a decrease in body weight of 0.25 kg. A literature review included the results of more than 50 intervention studies evaluating the relationship between caloric intake, body weight and fiber intake, and estimated that an increase in fiber of 14 g per day was associated with a 10% decrease in caloric intake and a weight loss of 2 kg over a period of about 4 months.
Inadequate caloric intake can have serious consequences on the health of athletes (for both men and women) including micronutrient deficiencies such as iron and calcium, an increased risk of injury and infection, a decrease in bone mineral density and therefore an increased risk of stress fractures, and a decrease in athletic performance. Thus, for athletes who have a high training volume and who want to lose weight, it is important to aim for slow weight loss with a small caloric deficit per day, and only during a short period of time. If you are hungry, it is important to listen to your body and eat. Depriving yourself of food will not help you lose weight in the long run, since your body will adapt and decrease its resting metabolism, causing you to burn fewer calories at rest. In the long term, this may negatively affect weight management.
During a weight loss process, protein requirements are higher in order to maintain muscle mass and promote satiety. However, many athletes consume enough protein and often even eat too much, but do not optimally distribute their intake throughout the day. It is important to divide your protein into a minimum of 4 to 5 meals and/or snacks per day. When you are in a calorie deficit, you should consume 0.3 to 0.4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight at each meal, which is equivalent to an average of 20 to 30g of protein per meal.
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