An athlete’s diet plays a crucial role in impacting performance. The following overview provides a brief guide on how to balance your meals in order to help you get the most from your training.
When considering how to balance your diet, we like to take an approach that varies the ratio of grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and fats in your diet based on training intensity. This allows an athlete to consume the correct amount of fats, carbohydrates, and protein based on how hard he or she is training.
First up, the easy training, or weight management, athlete’s plate. If you imagine a plate of food consumed by an athlete undergoing an easy training schedule, this plate would consist of one-quarter whole grains, one-quarter lean protein, and one-half vegetables and fruit. But if this athlete is working on weight management, the ratio of carbohydrates decreases by consuming fewer grains and more lean protein. In this instance, one-third of the plate is lean protein while only one-sixth of the plate consists of whole grains.
What constitutes as each of these food groups? Here are some ideas:
|Whole Grains||Lean Protein||Vegetables and Fruit|
|Potatoes||Fish||Vegetable Soup or Stew|
|Soy (i.e. Tofu)|
Additionally, each meal should consist of 1 tablespoon of fats in the form of avocado, oils, nuts, seeds, cheese, or butter. For hydration, water, dairy/nondairy beverages, diluted juice (minimizes sugar intake), flavored beverages, coffee, or tea contribute to a well-balanced meal that will keep you feeling fueled during an easy training schedule or during times of weight management.
As the intensity of your training increases, your dietary needs change as well. During a training schedule of moderate training intensity, your body requires a greater amount of carbohydrate intake. As such, you should eat meals in which your plate consists of one-quarter lean protein while the remainder of the plate is split evenly between grains and vegetables. A couple pieces of fresh, stewed, or dried fruit in addition to your plate of food helps maintain the proper ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins during moderate intensity training. The fat intake during moderate training does not change; we still recommend one tablespoon of fat per meal.
And finally, for those undergoing a high intensity training schedule, your diet requires even more whole grains. For these athletes, one-quarter of the plate is lean protein, one-quarter is vegetables, and the remaining half of the plate is all grains with several pieces of fruit on the side. This increase in grain consumption provides your body with the extra energy it needs when undergoing more intense physical activity. Additionally, fat intake increases to two tablespoons. Athletes wondering how they should divide up their plate on race day should eat the same carb/protein/fat ratio that we described for an athlete undergoing a hard intensity training schedule.
And that’s it! With these simple athlete’s diet tips you balance the fats, grains, protein, and vegetables in your meals you can better fuel for your next training session.