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Sports and Performance - Overfueling is Underfueling

2011-04-02 - Send Feedback
Related: health, nutrition, training
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This is an article by Dr. Clyde Wilson, used with permission.

Legal disclaimer: Since we are not doctors, never follow anything based on health-related topics on this or related sites without first consulting with your doctor or other trusted health professional.

Overfueling is Underfueling

Einstein once said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." This saying comes to mind when I hear an athlete suggest that as they train harder they just need to eat more calories, which ignores the fact that eating too much at once results in FEWER calories going to muscle.

Why too many calories in a meal backfires

Try to flood too much food into your mouth all at once and it will spill onto the floor. Muscle is similar: try to flood too much sugar into your body all at once and muscle is overwhelmed, the calories spilling over into body fat. An athlete will burn those calories later on, but generating less than half the amount of power since burning fats is slower than burning sugars. This is why it is ideal to have as many of the calories you eat go directly to muscle rather than fat first.

What to do about it in general

There are a few ways to keep calories from flooding your system. One is to eat many small meals throughout the day, although most people's schedule only allows for three meals plus snacks, not a half dozen equally-sized meals. Another way to avoid caloric flooding is to slow digestion with fats or protein. But the most powerful technique for slowing digestion is adding raw vegetables. When carbohydrate is in the stomach at the same time as raw vegetables, the stomach cannot empty the carbohydrate until the vegetables are broken down into sub-millimeter pieces. The result is that the bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, chips, cereal or any other carbs in the stomach will enter the intestine and then the bloodstream slower, giving muscle time to absorb it. It is raw vegetables that have this effect since cooking them makes vegetables soft and easier for the stomach to break down. Tomatoes are too soft to have an effect even when they are not cooked. Carrots are as high in calories as fruit, so they digest slowly enough to manage the calories in them, but not slow enough to slow down starches they are consumed with.

What to do about it specifically

Eat 1 cup of leafy greens or 1/2 cup raw vegetables (snap peas, celery, bell pepper pieces, cauliflower, broccoli) for every 100 Cal of starch (1 slice bread, 1/3-1/2 cup pasta, rice, potato, or cooked oats). For a meal with a couple pieces of bread or pizza, a serving of lasagna, a half dozen pieces of sushi, or a burrito light on the rice, you would need a 2-3 cup salad, which is a good-sized side salad. For larger amounts of carbohydrate, you would need a larger (4 or more cup) salad or half that volume of raw vegetables.

Your motivation

Once you see the impact on your body composition and performance you will see the sense of eating vegetable pieces even with breakfast and snacks. I have helped Olympic, professional, and collegiate athletes improve many aspects of their performance using this technique because of its impact on power-to-weight ratio from both sides of the equation. To read more see the blog, books or YouTube channel at

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