What is fueling you?

It is a commonly agreed upon fact that calories are what allow the human body to function. What is somewhat uncommonly known, and widely disputed, is the amount of calories needed to be consumed to perform these functions.

According to Iowa State University, "calories reflect energy or fuel available to support any physical performance," making them a vital tool for athletes to be successful. Without the proper energy, athletes across all levels are at risk of fatigue or poor performance.

In most cases, collegiate athlete’s, nutrition is a last minute thought, with trying to juggle classes, practice and games, and having a social life. For most, going to college is the first time they’ve been away from home, living on their own, and making their own decisions, which include what they eat and drink. Not only does newly gained independence play a major role in caloric intake for these athletes, but also the fact that the intensity from high school to college has increased approximately ten-fold for their sport. Many times, when first year athletes start their collegiate sports career, they have no idea how to properly eat for the increased activity their bodies are going through and it can cause many issues. Some of these issues include fatigue, both muscularly and physically, blood sugar depletion, low blood pressure, anemia, and possibly even passing out, or becoming unconscious. This is why it is of upmost importance for collegiate athletes to understand the importance of eating properly and being aware of their bodies’ need for the correct amount of calories.

There are many ways to calculate an athlete’s estimated caloric needs and it is relatively simple, based on Total Energy Expenditure (TEE). There are 2 common methods to estimating, one is a hand calculated method and the other is an online calculator. In the hand calculated method there are 2 formulas to use, the first is when you take the total weight multiplied by % body fat which equals the fat weight, and then you take the total weight minus the fat weight which equals the lean mass. Lastly, the lean mass is then multiplied by 16 which gives the athlete’s minimum caloric needs. The second is finding caloric needs for finding Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) using the formula: Males: REE calories = 66.47 + 13.75(weight in kg) + 5(height in cm) – 6.76(age) and Females REE Calories= 655.1 + 9.65 (weight, kg) + 1.84 (height, cm) – 4.68 (age). The other method is an online calculator and all that is needed is to plug the numbers in and it spits out a number. There are many reliable online calculators that can be used. First is the Mifflin Equation which takes into account the athlete’s age, gender, height in feet, weight in pounds, and exercise level including 3 times a week to 2 times a day. Another option is the "Calories per Pound Rule of Thumb" that needs weight in pounds, gender, and activity level from a list of sedentary to very active. Lastly, the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes uses current weight in pounds, height in inches, age, physical activity from sedentary to active, and gender. Out of these options, the best way to estimate the caloric needs of a collegiate athlete is to select one of the options that takes into account the activity level of the individual.

When it comes to working with collegiate athletes it is important to make sure they are getting the right nutrition so that they can perform to their highest potential. If that means that they keep a food journal for a couple weeks to record the number of calories they are consuming or estimating the calories needed for their lifestyle, then it is a very easy way to keep collegiate athletes educated and healthy.

Calorie Calculators

Iowa State University Extension > Eat to Compete > Training Diet

Sports Medicine – Nutrition and Health Information – Daily Caloric Intake



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