Phil Holmes BA (Hons), PGCE, Adv Dip.Nut MRSPH

Let’s play a numbers game. Think of two numbers that you know are linked to nutrition. We’ll come to those a little further on. For now, let’s consider our current situation during Lockdown.

Most of us have removed our walk to the bus stop, from car to office, from one department to another. It’s wonderful to reduce our commute time but the payoff being that we risk becoming even more sedentary whilst at home; plus we have a fridge very close by!

Many of you have taken the opportunity to use the regular commute time for some exercise. This may be following online fitness classes or could just be a run or bike ride as you get up in the morning. However let’s look at the energy burn from such classes. Data is varied but using research figures from Harvard Medical School, in a 30 minute high impact circuit or aerobics class, the following three individuals will use up 300 calories (9 stone person), 372 calories (11 stone) and 444 calories (13 stone). This sounds promising until we consider that a cheese & pickle sandwich is 430 calories.

Running for an hour (10 minute mile pace) will burn 600, 744 or 888 calories for the 3 individuals mentioned above. This is more encouraging but only to those people who actually run for a full hour.

Returning to the 2 figures from earlier. Did you think of 2000 (as in calories) and 5 (a day)?

These are AVERAGE numbers. 2000 calories per day is for the average adult female and, even then, it is extremely difficult to quantify somebody as average just by sight.

There are a set requirement of calories we need simply to allow our bodies to function whilst at rest. This is known as our Basal Metabolic Rate. A few examples to help guide you:

Both people here are 70kg (11 stone).

A 20 year old male has a BMR of almost 1750 calories.

A 20 year old female is just over 1500.   

On a day with no exercise and being relatively inactive at work the daily requirements would be around 2450 for the male and 2100 for the female.

With a day featuring movement at work and exercise through part of the day, these figures rise to 2970 and over 2400 respectively. Clearly we increase or decrease these numbers in relation to your weight and age compared with these two examples.  Full time athletes have energy requirements which may surpass 3000 calories on most days.

Those who read the previous blog re protein requirements can now start to link the need for recovery and repair of muscles to the calorific requirement and start to see that just gaining calories regardless of food source is misdirected.  Or, in other words, taking in sufficient calories isn’t enough; we need to have those calories coming from the correct sources in the correct amounts.

And, yes you’ve guessed it, one size does not fit all. In order to understand what your personal, individual nutrition plan should look like, please consider the following:

Your weight, age, fitness level, training frequency, training type, training programme, sleep patterns, working requirements and weekday/end drinking habits.

What are your fitness goals? Not everybody wants to lose weight. Building mass and power requires a calorie surplus but what this power base looks like must be specific to the type of sport you are playing. For some people just building a beach body (for next year’s summer vacation) is the target.  But managing how you achieve a smart surplus requires guidance and as much care as losing weight and having a planned calorie deficit.

The second number, relating to 5-a-day, should not be overlooked either. How many people can genuinely say they hit this mark every day? The reason for being encouraged to eat fruit and veg is to boost our micronutrient supply. These will feature in a future blog but, for now, please understand that the vitamins and minerals we gain from foods are vital to the efficiency with which our bodies will operate. And from my own personal philosophy they maintain good health. I will argue here that this is more important than being solely focused on your protein intake if you wish to gain strength and size. My reasoning being that if you are healthy you are able to train thus you can improve.

The alternative is to look fit but be forced to miss sessions, take longer to recover from injury or train with a compromised approach by not being fully healthy. This therefore hinders your progress.

5-a-day is another figure which is a guide. Ideally you would hit nearer 10-a-day if you are serious about protecting your body and how it functions. The Government wouldn’t gain a huge buy in if they advertised a 10-a-day approach. The psychology of this means most people wouldn’t bother with any as 10 is perceived to be too high a number plus, in line with affluence, it would cost a lot of money. But athletes who are serious about being on good form as often as possible must challenge themselves to eat as smart as possible.  An extra note here – please don’t think that taking vitamin tablets will cover these cracks. Yes, you can hit the Dietary Reference Value (DRV) for many areas with the tablet form but gaining the correct value from genuine food sources helps to increase your fibre intake and also enables certain micronutrients to work together more efficiently. Food sources may also have phytochemicals which can help protect against various health conditions.

I’ve started with a frequently asked question. Maybe now you may see why my role is so wonderfully engaging as every single person I work with is unique.  Apologies if you haven’t gained the specific answer you wanted in relation to the number of calories that you personally require. The only way to glean this information is to seek expert advice as every person is different and has their circumstances which must be considered before setting off on a plan to hit their targets and improve their performances.

To conclude, we have to consider the type of goals you have and how they serve your chosen sport. Runners are shaped by the distance they compete over and would lean towards a higher percentage intake from carbohydrate sources whereas a hockey player would require slightly less carbs but more protein. A rugby player would shift towards a higher protein intake. Netballers, in fact all games players, have nutrition plans shaped by the position they play; all other things being equal, a Centre is likely to move more and at higher intensity than a Goalkeeper. I could go on.

Any questions, please get in touch via and this includes any areas you would like covered in future posts.

Stay safe.