Glasgow welcomes the 20th Commonwealth Games

Emma Brown | 28 Jul, 2014

Last week marked the start of the 20th Commonwealth Games since the games started in 1930. The Commonwealth Games are one of the largest sporting events in the world and take place every four years - much like the Olympics! Here at Nutracheck we love it when there is a big sporting event occurring. It seems to create a buzz and also increases everyone's overall interest in sport in general - which can only be a good thing.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that my favourite event at any large multiple-sport competition is athletics. I was a bit of a sprinter back in my school days and often wish I'd carried it on. I love the excitement that comes with the 100m sprint - weeks and weeks of training leading up to this one very short duration event! The nerves and surge of adrenaline experienced at the start line are hard to manage, but they're also very important for creating the speed and power needed in this event.

Calorie burning potential

It's interesting when you think about the sprinting events - they require athletes to give everything they've got, but just for a matter of seconds. This got me thinking about how many calories would be burned doing the actual event. After doing some research with our fitness expert Kelly Marshall here's what we found:

Event Average duration Approx. calories burned

Event Average duration Approx. calories burned
100m 10-11 seconds 6.5
200m 21-23 seconds 13
400m 45-52 seconds 29
800m 106-120 seconds 54
100m hurdles 12-13 seconds 8.5
400m hurdles 48-55 seconds 34

Doesn't really seem fair when you think of the effort that's been put in does it? However the ongoing calorie burn from taking part in such an event will be very high, and will mean athletes continue burning calories for a few hours after the event.

When eating becomes a chore

Although the calories burned doing the actual event are not huge, it's the energy used in training that's the biggest battle for athletes. Most athletes will train on average 6 days a week and for several hours throughout the day, perfecting their endurance and technique. This can lead to a calorie burn upwards of 6,000 calories per day - three times the average intake for a female.

In fact Michael Phelps mentioned in the 2012 Olympics that his training regime saw him burning a massive 12,000 calories per day! As you can imagine, it must be hard for anyone to pack in that amount of energy every day, so this can be something athletes struggle with. Believe it or not, they can actually become bored of eating food! (I know it shocked me too). It's usually a case of eating regular meals throughout the day, as well as smaller snacks. Many athletes will get lots of their calories from high calorie drinks and snack bars - everything that the average population is encouraged to avoid. Eating for an athlete in training can become purely functional rather than pleasurable in any way - hard to imagine isn't it?

This does highlight though that if we do exercise regularly, it IS possible to eat more (not that I think I'll be training for 5 hours a day any time soon). So if you have got an special event coming up where you know you will be indulging on the eating front, just squeeze in an extra couple of gym sessions. Or extend your usual work out to increase that calorie burn. If they can do it, we can!

2 mistakes to avoid

But remember (yes there is always a but), not to fall into the trap of eating more during the day because you know you will be exercising later, or reward yourself with food after every exercise session.

Research shows that many people will eat up to 50% more just thinking about exercising! This can be caused by a fear of being hungry or not having enough energy for the workout.

Another common mistake is to have a treat after you've exercised because you think you've 'earned it'. Although it's okay to eat back calories now and again (after a very intensive workout for example), if you do it regularly, you can easily cancel out all your hard work.

Remember - we all overestimate how many calories we burn and underestimate how many we eat!

Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.