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Nutrition for the Power Athlete: Part 1. Energy Requirements

energy requirements

Kevin Kuhn, MS, CSCS

“He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of the physician”  – Chinese Proverb

As a sport performance and nutrition professional, I am often asked which supplements are best for a specific outcome.  For example, just the other day I was asked by a high school baseball player what supplements he should take to improve his athletic performance.  I could have rattled off a list of specific supplements that have been studied and proved to be beneficial, but I don’t think that would have been the best way to answer his question.  I responded to his question with one of my own:  “What is your diet like?”.  His response left me cringing.  Both what he ate as well as when he ate were not exactly in line with a performance-enhancing diet.

In regard to the opening quotation, taking medicine, or supplements, without active pursuit of a “complete” and “healthy” diet is a waste of money, time, and effort. So, before I go into any detail about supplements that have been shown to improve athletic performance for the Power Athlete, I’d first like to lay a bit of a nutritional foundation.

Before you continue reading, I’d like you to think about a few things:

How many calories do you think you need every day?

How many calories, if you had to guess, do you actually get every day?

Is it really that important to get a specific number of calories every day?

Okay, here we go.

The first place to start is to figure out how many calories you need. This is done by first finding out how many calories are needed to just sustain life (BMR:  basal metabolic rate). Since finding the actual BMR is a very long and complicated process, equations have been formulated to estimate the resting metabolic rate. A simple equation to figure out how many calories are needed before exercise/training is involved is the Harris-Benedict equation (keep in mind these are estimates and individual differences may vary…but generally this is a legitimate way to find caloric requirements).

For men: Predicted BMR (calories/day) = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kilograms) + (5.003 x height in cm) – (6.775 x age in years)

ex:  I am 25 years old, weigh 160 lbs, and am 6 feet tall.

To find weight in kilograms:  weight in lbs / 2.2           160 lbs / 2.2  = 72.7 kg   

To find height in cm:  height in inches x  2.54              72 inches x 2.54 = 182.88

So my predicted BMR is:  66.5 + (999.625) + (914.948) – (169.375)  = 1812 calories / day

For women: Predicted BMR (calories/day) = 655.1 + (9.5663 x weight in kilograms) + (1.85 x height in cm) – (4.676 x age in years)

The next step is to multiply your predicted BMR by an activity factor.

Sedentary or light activity corresponds with a 1.53 activity factor. Active or moderate activity corresponds with a 1.76 activity factor. Vigorous activity corresponds with a 2.25 activity factor. (If you are reading this…you are probably in this category)

I train at least 5 times a week at a relatively high intensity, so I multiply my predicted BMR by an activity factor of 2.25

My predicted daily energy requirement is therefore 4077 calories. Okay.  Now what?  Is this really that important? Well, yes.  Ingesting the appropriate number of calories daily is necessary to maximize the adaptations to training, promote healing and recovery, and fuel training and performance.

Now that you’ve done the calculation for yourself, take some time to reflect on your daily energy requirement. Is your calculation close to what you guessed it would be?

Try tracking your caloric intake for a week.  A food log may seem like a somewhat tedious job, but it provides very important information relative to athletic performance. If your daily intake is pretty close (either slightly under or over…on average) to your estimated daily requirement, then you’re ready for next week’s blog.

Alluding back to the beginning, before supplements can be significantly beneficial, energy requirements must be met. The next step is to figure how much of each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) is needed daily, and the specific role they play in fueling performance.

Stay tuned for part 2!

-Kevin Kuhn

Sources Stoppani, J., Scheett, T.P., & McGuigan M.R.  (2008).  Nutritional Needs of the Strength/Power Athletes.  In J. Antion, D. Kalman, J.R. Stout, M. Greenwood, D.S. Willoughby, and G.G. Haff (Eds.), Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements (pp. 349-370).  Totowa, New Jersey:  Humana Press


Kevin Kuhn, M.S.Ed., is the head strength and conditioning coach for the Indiana Invaders professional running club in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He is also the sole proprietor of Kuhnesiology by Kevin Kuhn LLC, where he contracts out of Fitness Garage, located in Zionsville, Indiana.  He specializes in athletic performance with great interest and experience in running-specific strength and conditioning, corrective exercise, exercise and sport nutrition, as well as general fitness and weight-loss. In 2009 he earned his B.S. in Exercise Science from Cedarville University and in 2011 he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis in Strength and Conditioning from Baylor University.  He plans to begin his Ph.D. in Sport Physiology at East Tennessee State University in the Fall of 2012.  Kevin has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and by the International Society of Sports Nutrition as a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN).  While in college, he competed in both Cross Country and Track and Field, specializing in 800 meters, 1500 meters, and 3k Steeplechase.  Follow Kevin’s blog at:  kuhnesiology.blogspot.com

One comment

  1. So question…. 4337 calories per day?!?!?! There’s no way. I’m eating 2200 right now, performing just fine, and trimming down just slightly. I’d have a hard time getting much more than 2500 in without eating a stick of butter each day. I know this is just an estimate (I like BW*15 as a good baseline, which is a much more realistic 2,700 for me), but over 4,000 is ridiculous and near impossible if you’re eating real food.

    I’m not hating on this method… I just want your thoughts 🙂 Thanks!

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