Active women should get between 55 and 60 percent of their total daily calories from complex carbs–including fruits and vegetables, not just the bready ones at the base of the food pyramid. In addition, Clark encourages eating protein-laden dairy products such as low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt. She also advises cutting carbohydrate portion sizes, meaning no more bagels the size of your head or supersize bowls of pasta.
To wean herself from her starch habit, Street drew a chart of the five food groups and checked off the ones she ate every day. She also tried to eat most of her carbs in the morning so that she could burn them off during her workout. In one month, she had the routine down and tossed the cheat sheet. Her improved diet is working. This winter, Street was back on the slopes as director of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah and hopes to compete in the 2001 season.
Shannon Clark, rhythmic gymnast
nutrition pitfall: under fueling
Rhythmic gymnast and Georgia Tech student Shannon Clark thought she was eating a healthy diet: Cream of Wheat and fruit for breakfast, lettuce and skinless chicken for lunch and dinner, more fruit and maybe some raisins for snacks. No fat of any kind.
THE PROBLEM “Many [active women] tend to eat only a small percentage of what their energy outputs require,” says Georgia State University’s Dan Benardot, Ph.D. “You see up to 40 percent inadequate energy intake in some cases.” Skimping on calories and nutrients can result in diminished energy levels, sore muscles, and slow recovery after workouts or even chronic injuries.
Clark was a poster girl for this problem. When Benardot began working with her, she had tendinitis in her hips, dangerously low body fat and almost no energy. “I had all the classic signs of someone in trouble,” she says. “I guess you could say l had an eating disorder, but my goal wasn’t to lose weight; I just thought so many foods were bad for me.”
Clark was living on a severe energy deficit. Her panicked body was starting to break down her own lean muscle mass for energy, which made her more prone to injury. “You can’t make up for energy deficits by eating a lot after a workout,” Benardot says. “That’s like trying to provide fuel for a car trip once you’ve arrived. I don’t know any car or body, that works that way.”
THE SOLUTION Many women forget this simple rule of supply and demand and then wonder why their energy levels plummet and they are plagued by workout injuries. Even though the human body is designed to adapt–at least temporarily–to underfunding by slowing down the metabolism, it’s not f going to get very far if it burns an additional 500 calories during a strenuous workout. “The more severe the energy deficit, the greater the potential for decreased athletic performance,” says Benardot, who instructed Clark to eat every three hours to boost her energy. Six months later, with her calorie and nutrient intake up to speed, Clark won the nationals in group rhythmic gymnastics.