Helen's Food Diary Analysis (sub-4:30)

Discover what nutrition recommendations a professional dietitian had for Helen after analysing her typical seven-day diet


Posted: 21 January 2009
by Wendy Martinson

Age: 33
Job activity level: Lecturer and mother of two small children; active during the day, with little time spent sitting down.

Marathon history: One marathon (2008)
Goal: sub-4:30
Current PB: 5:08:28

Height: 1.73m
Current Weight: 75.3kg

Helen's Profile | Helen's Training Schedule | View Helen's Training Thread

An Example Training Week

Day 1 n/a Rest
Day 2 9.30am 75 minutes running (moderate intensity)
Day 3 n/a Rest
Day 4 n/a Rest
Day 5 n/a Rest
Day 6 n/a Rest
Day 7 9am 50 minutes moderate-intensity running (hard during the last 10 minutes)

Seven-day Food Diary Analysis Summary

Nutrient

Average daily intake
(g/kg)

Recommended amount per kg/ day or per day

Carbohydrate

258g
(3.4g/kg)

4-5g/kg/day (300 - 376g) to accommodate weight-loss goal but still provide energy for training. This
would need to be increased to 5-7g/kg/day if training increased

Protein

82g
1.1g/kg)

1.2-1.6g/kg/day
(90 - 120g)

Fat

56g (28.2% energy intake)

Approx 25% energy intake or 1g/kg

TOTAL ENERGY

1813kcal

Approx 2200kcal when not training increasing up to 3450kcal per day when running for 100 minutes. Average energy requirement over the week would be approx 2600kcal per day.

Comments & Recommendations

Energy intake

Helen is keen to lose weight and she is currently 4.5kg lighter than when she ran her first marathon in April 2008. If she were to achieve a weight of 70kg that would put her well within the healthy BMI range and be a sensible long-term goal.

Helen's current energy intake of 1800kcal is less than her estimated requirement (2220kcal when not training or 2600kcal average taking into account the training she does each week). This is fine on her non-training days - an energy deficit of 400kcal will still allow weight-loss to occur over time. On days when she is training she would benefit from increasing her intake by 300 - 400kcal to provide more energy for training while still accommodating her weight loss goal. This could be achieved by adding in a small snack prior to training (such as a cereal bar and banana) and drinking 500ml sports drink during any run longer than 60 minutes.

Carbohydrate intake

Helen does include carbohydrate-rich foods in each meal and often makes good choices by choosing lower glycaemic index foods (GI, foods which release energy more slowly) for example muesli, basmati rice, pasta and multigrain bread. She could also try sweet potato and porridge as other lower GI options. She could also increase her portion sizes slightly on the days she is training to boost her carbohydrate intake and/or include a snack prior to training as previously mentioned. If her training volume increases then her carbohydrate intake should also be further increased to accommodate this.

Fat intake

Helen's fat intake was not too high although it appears higher as a percentage as her overall energy intake was low. Her saturated fat intake was just below 10% of her overall energy intake which is good. There is no need for Helen to decrease her fat intake further.

Protein intake

Helen's protein intake was slightly lower than required but only in one instance, so this is not a real concern. Helen did choose good protein sources such as lean red meat, soya, dairy foods, fish and chicken. As her training volume increases, she may find it useful to combine protein and carbohydrate in a recovery drink after training. This could be a milkshake, fruit smoothie, yoghurt or just a glass of milk - Helen often does this already if she isn't planning to eat immediately after training.

Vitamins and minerals

Helen's intake of iron, copper, selenium and potassium was lower than the recommended values. Potassium consumption can beeasily increased by including a glass of fruit juice at breakfast and eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Copper can be found in seeds, nuts, wholegrains and seafood as is selenium - both these nutrients are important for the immune system. Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium. Here are some tips for increasing your iron intake:

  • Eat lean red meat approximately three to four times per week (in chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese or stir-fry pork for example)
  • Eat a fortified breakfast cereal in the morning or as a snack
  • Use lean meat, poultry or seafood in sandwiches
  • Include green leafy vegetables, pulses, dried fruits, nuts and seeds in your diet
  • Have a glass of orange or grapefruit juice with breakfast to maximise the iron absorption from your breakfast cereal
  • Add raisins, dried apricots and nuts to porridge to increase its iron content
  • Choose some of the dark meat on poultry which contains more iron than the light meat
Fish such as sardines, whitebait, winkles, cockles, mussels and clams are also good sources of iron for fish eaters.

Fluid and hydration

Helen drinks more than 2500ml fluid per day (water, sugar-free squash and herbal tea) as well as three cups of regular tea. This just meets the estimated requirement of 35ml/kg/day. She has acquired the habit of drinking during running which is good and has started using sports drinks when running for 10 miles or more. It is useful to use sports drinks for any run over 60 minutes to provide the body with necessary carbohydrate and sodium. Helen has noticed she is a salty sweater and so a lower-carbohydrate, higher-sodium drink may be beneficial for her. Wearing a dark t-shirt during training can help to identify a salty sweater as white patches of salt will be left on the shirt when it dries out!

Recovery

Helen usually eats immediately after training and will therefore be getting adequate protein and carbohydrate for recovery in her meal. Otherwise she has a glass of milk until her meal is ready - another good habit! Adding a banana and other fruit to this will also boost the carbohydrate content of her snack.


Example Meal Plan

Breakfast Porridge made with oats with added seeds, nuts (including two to three brazil nuts) and dried fruit, muesli or other wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fresh fruit; a glass of fruit juice.

Run Sports drink if longer than 60 minutes.

Post-run Homemade smoothie with milk, yoghurt, banana, mango, strawberries and honey.

Lunch Multigrain sandwich with chicken, tuna, ham or egg plus salad with homemade soup or pasta/rice salad with salad and cold meat; yoghurt with fresh fruit..

Mid-afternoon  Fruit, yoghurt, a cereal bar or rice cakes (if hungry).

Evening Fish, lean red meat or chicken plus pasta, noodles, sweet potato or basmati rice (or risotto, lasagne or fish pie) with vegetables or salad; low-fat custard or rice pudding with stewed or fresh fruit and yoghurt.


Wendy Martinson is an Accredited Sports Dietitian, Registered Dietitian with the Health Professions Council and qualified group exercise and BTS instructor. She has experience of working with world-class athletes from a wide variety of sports and is currently the Sports Nutrition Consultant for the British Olympic Association, British Gymnastics and GB Rowing. She also works as a Consultant Sports Dietician for Lucozade Sport providing evidence based information on sports nutrition.

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