While calorie counting is pretty mundane and time intensive, calories still matter. It’s tempting to blame weight gain or performance issues on hormones, but while hormones can often be involved, energy availability affects hormones and their actions.
Energy intake is one of the most important things you can focus on to help improve your well-being, your health, and your training and performance. Too many calories over time, and you’ll end up carrying a bit more fat than you need; too few calories over time, and you'll experience the many downsides of low energy availability, eventually setting you up for potential long-term consequences.
Depending on your weight and body composition goals, I recommend maintaining something close to energy balance or a slight weekly deficit or overage.
Energy intake is pretty simple; we account for the food and drink we take in each day. Energy expenditure is made up of resting energy expenditure, thermic effect of activity (exercise and non-exercise activity), and the thermic effect of food (energy to process the food we eat). In general, men have higher resting energy expenditure than women, and younger athletes have higher resting energy expenditure than older athletes. The main factors that increase daily energy expenditure are the amount of lean body mass you have, your energy expenditure from training, and how active you are outside of your daily workout(s).
Do you think you're getting the right amount of energy for your output? We’ll go through energy needs estimation in detail when we kick off our Nutrition BootCamp in January. Some other things I recommend monitoring include: weekly body mass and body composition, RPE during your workouts, sleep quality, mood, and perceived energy and fatigue. You TrainingPeaks calendar is a great place to keep track of these notes and metrics!
About the Author
Dr. Namrita Brooke began her coaching practice while a doctoral student. Today she is a full time coach and nutritionist, and she runs an online group program called Fueling Fat Loss. She is also a cycling coach and the head nutritionist with Velocious Cycling Adventures. Her personal athletic experience ranges from endurance mountain biking to off-road triathlon, cross-country mountain bike racing, running, road cycling, duathlon, and cyclocross. Her research background includes hydration and sports drink research, and the interaction of nutrition, physical activity, and the brain.