I’ve been reading Nancy Clark’s Sport’s Nutrition Guidebook for the past few weeks, and it’s a great book. Since I am now at my target weight, I wanted to learn the right way to continue to eat healthy. While the audience is mainly active people, I think much of the advice given applies to “normal” people, too. For the most part, atheletes just tend to need more calories, rather than huge changes in diet. Nancy Clark is a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition, which means her credentials are solid, as compared to most diet book authors. The book contains a lot of factual information, but there’s also many stories about her clients, too. Invariably, she was describing a client that had a similar problem or issue as I did, so I found these stories very interesting.

Part I is “Eating Strategies for High Energy” and describes the basic principles to a healthy diet. The main advice is a diet of 55% to 65% carbohydrates, 20% to 30% fat, and 10% to 15% protein. You’ll notice that carbs are the foundation of the diet, not something “evil” to be avoided. Active people do need more carbs than non-active, though, since muscles easily convert carbs to energy. There is a whole chapter on carbhoydrates, going over why the body needs them and dispelling many of the carb myths. There are chapters on breakfasts and snacks, and why you should incorporate both into your diet. The chapter on protein is interesting. You always see these power athletes, especially weight lifters, consuming protein supplements, and I was wondering if this was something I should consider. I learned that protein needs, even for body builders, is not that high, and that supplements are very rarely needed. Most non-vegetarian people easily consume enough protein just by eating a balanced diet. And if you need to boost your protein, usually an extra glass of milk or yogurt takes care of the defecit. So I get to cross off yet another myth from my list, which is good because those GNC supplements didn’t look very appealing, anyhow.

Part II is “Balancing Weight and Activity”. My favorite chapter is the weight loss chapter. It describes how to setup a diet plan by first calculating your daily caloric needs. This part is actually very useful, even if you do not plan on losing weight. For example, if you are targetting 60% of your calories from carbohydrates, you need to know how many calories you need first. One fact I found really interesting is that craving of high sugar foods often indicates that you are not eating enough. Lately, I’ve been finding I have huge cravings for snacks. I’ve also started to bike a lot more, and I think my cravings have to do with this extra activity. Plus, I don’t think I can lose much more weight, so my 1,800 calorie diet just isn’t cutting it anymore. I calculated how many calories my body needs, and it comes out to about 2,600 calories. By taking 20% off for dietting, I should be consuming 2,000 calories to lose weight, not 1,800. And let’s also assume that even 2,000 is not enough, since I don’t really need to be on my diet anymore. Now, I’m really eating much too little. Instead of my 530 calorie meals, plus one 200 calorie snack, I could theoretically eat four 650 calorie meals a day, and still not gain weight. That’s a lot more than what I was eating, and perhaps that’s why I’m feeling so hungry lately. In any case, I’m going to try eating more for my meals. Not only will this be healthier than eating snacks, I tend to overeat the snacks, which means I probably consume too many calories, blowing past 2,600 on the way.

Part III is recipies. So far, I’ve only made the oatmeal blueberry muffins, and those were tasty! There are a few others I’d like to try as well, but I can’t comment on most of them.

In conclusion, if you want to learn how and why to eat healthy, with a spin on active people, this book is great! I’ve learned a ton by reading it, and recommend it to any athlete. And I think that even non-active would learn a lot of practical information, too.