A good friend recently sent me a few links about nutrition for sport. He's all fired up on this idea of counting "blocks" of carbs, protein and fat. I wrote the following back to him, then thought it was kinda interesting so here it is...
Don't worry too much about what you eat, but eat simple foods when given a choice. Train hard. Drink water like a drunkard. Drink alcohol in moderation. Direct your mental energy toward performance, not worrying about how many blocks of whatever you eat. I think one of all-time classic training errors is to worry about things that you don't need to, especially food. Your body will respond to hard training and sports as it needs to. When I run a lot I get skinny. When I paddle my kayak or fly a lot I get relatively heavy. I travel a lot and don't always have "perfect" food available, but if I make the "best" choice on the menu it's OK in the long run.
During competition food intake needs to be a slightly more organized as the stress of competing or performing can result in low energy levels, but the rest of the time simply eating good solid food and training hard will produce the body type you need for the sport you do. I would wager that the most successful athletes in the world spend far more time and energy thinking about how to perform and compete than how many scoops of cereal they eat for breakfast, especially in the sports we do. I have trained with some of the best climbers, kayakers and distance athletes on the planet. They did not measure their food. I've also trained with some of the most ripped, fit looking individuals on the planet, yet these same individuals don't win, and don't perform at the highest levels in their sports. The best athletes I've ever trained with worry first and foremost about getting their training done so that it leads to success, and how to organize their lives so they have the best possible chance at success. Food is an important but ultimately relatively minor part of that equation.
Sharma is not counting how many fucking corn flakes he eats. Sharma is kicking ass. Tiger Woods is not counting how many caviar crackers he eats. Tiger Woods is kicking ass. My sport climbing results improved dramatically when I stopped worrying so much about what I ate and started focusing more on how to be a better climber. It's always tempting to focus on things that are relatively easy to control such as food intake, rather than the more complicated but more important "real" goal: performance. Form follows function, focus on the function and kick ass. Eat when hungry. Don't eat when not hungry. Get up from the table feeling slightly less than full and you'll get skinnier. Get up from the table feeling stuffed and you'll likely get fatter. Your body is a finely tuned machine for doing what you want. Don't fuck with it or it will get confused.
When the emphasis on food goes from "I need fuel and enough of it train hard" to, "What does the diet plan say I need?" then things are going to go wrong. If you bonk on a long ski tour and then get back to the car and chow down an entire pizza you've blown it. You should have eaten the pizza before and during the long ski tour, no matter what the current diet rage says.
If you're truly fat and that fat is hindering your performance I'd argue that you're not training well and that you're using food as something other than fuel. Focus on how to change that equation...
This is aimed at outdoor sports athletes.