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  1. #1
    Yen
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    Reliable way to determine number of calories needed

    I am trying to figure out if I am taking in enough calories to support my current level of activity. I'm a 56-year-old woman and not overweight. I ride 4-5 days/week, sometimes with high intensity. Saturday rides are long (40, 50, 60) with a brunch/lunch stop in the middle. I always eat sometime immediately after the ride. If anything I might eat too little, but I strive to eat the right balance of carbs/protein.

    I watch what I eat and choose nutrient-dense foods for all my meals and snacks. I avoid sugar except during/after rides and on special occasions. I eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and rarely anything after dinner unless I feel hungry. Since I am not trying to lose weight (nor need to), I take hunger to mean that I need to eat, especially given the intensity/duration of some of my rides.

    I'm wondering if there's an accurate formula to determine how many calories I should consume each day. I found the standard BMR formula, then multiplied by .5 for my activity level; the result is 3619 calories per day! I know I don't consume anywhere near that.... probably between 2000-2400 on most days (more if we stop for brunch/lunch during long rides).

    After the most strenuous rides, I feel tired that evening but I'm like new the next morning; however, my quads take longer to recover and I'm wondering if I should take in more calories/day, add more protein/carbs all day, or what. I want a reliable method and perhaps a sample eating plan showing what that number of calories looks like spread throughout the day.

    Can anyone point me to a reliable resource (book, link, or other)?

    Thank you...
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  2. #2
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    If your weight isn't changing and you're happy where you are you are eating enough by definition. The most accurate way to determine how many calories you burn on a ride is with a powermeter. Maybe you could borrow one and use it on a few typical rides you do. The newer garmin devices Edge 500,800 provide reasonably accurate estimates as well based on HR. The older garmins are next to useless and often out by a factor of 2.

    I have one and record how much energy I expend after each ride. I don't use the information for eating though. I know if I go on a 4 or 5 hr ride I need to eat a lot to recover. My weight is stable so I don't bother counting calories.

    Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook has some good practical advice on eating for performance.

  3. #3
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    There's calculators (and maybe still some formulae) on the web. There's calorie estimators available on GPS and heart rate monitors. I didn't know about the power meter option (but I'm not surprised).

    Your body weight is the ultimate integrator. It might be fooled for a few days by fluid loss or gain, but if you're staying the same weight, you're eating enough over a week.

    Just a guess, but you might want to go for a pure carb snack in the half hour after you finish your long ride. The idea is to reload the glycogen in your muscles, and there's a "window" of about 30 minutes after you finish exercising when blood sugar will magically replenish depleted muscle sugar (glycogen). After that it may take a couple of days to reload. And go back to your eating well habit after you've enjoyed that snack!

  4. #4
    Yen
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    Thank you. I have a Garmin 800 but the data on calories expended seems unreasonably high; on the other hand, I seem to have a ravenous appetite for a 56-year-old woman!

    Even if my weight is stable, it seems that if I feel hungry then I should eat since I am not trying (nor need to) lose weight.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yen View Post
    it seems that if I feel hungry then I should eat since I am not trying (nor need to) lose weight.
    I agree. Hungry is a complete system, and it's great to feel. The whole attitude to food and exercise in the op sounds good.

    Trying to work it out mathematically would be a headache.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Closed Office View Post
    I agree. Hungry is a complete system, and it's great to feel. The whole attitude to food and exercise in the op sounds good.

    Trying to work it out mathematically would be a headache.
    I agree--if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you find yourself unexpectedly losing/gaining weight, or if your performance is suffering, you might need to take a closer look at things, but it sounds to me like you're doing it right. If you're experiencing a lot of soreness you could try increasing your protein, especially post-ride--add a scoop of whey protein and 2 tbsp. ground flax seeds to your recovery routine and see if that helps (I blend mine with 1 c. soy milk after a regular ride, and add a banana a bunch of frozen fruit too if it was especially long or tough).

    I've counted calories in the past, and even with a Powermeter, it sucks. Also, as a side note, I have a friend who happens to be getting her PhD in exercise physiology, and she did some metabolic testing on me as part of a study she was doing, and it turned out that my metabolism is just abnormally high, so even the kJ numbers I was getting from my PM were not accurate. There's no way to find that kind of stuff out outside of a lab. And you can go ahead and ignore the calories number from your Gamin.
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  7. #7
    Yen
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    Thank you. I don't count calories; I'd just like to know if I need to eat more in general e.g. portion size or more often. That is, if I feel hungry then eat, stop when I'm full, and eat again when I'm hungry. Unless I consume a lot of refined carbs all day (which I don't, and quickly leads to hunger), then if I'm hungry then it seems I should eat.
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  8. #8
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    You might trying using an app called my fitness pal, which allows you to monitor your caloric intake and calories burned based on aerobic activity. Many use the app as a weightloss tool, I use it to ensure that I'm consuming enough calories based on my activity level. For example, if I ride for 2 hours at a pace of 15 to 20 mph it is estimated that I burned 2000 calories, so I try to increase my food consumption to adjust for the burned calories. Like you, I'm happy with my weight and just want to ensure that i'm properly feeding the machine

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