Does your nutrition change based on your activity levels or based on your training days? I recently learned about The Athlete’s Plates, created by the dietitians at The U.S. Olympic Committee. The plates are meant as guidelines and can be modified for athlete’s nutrition choices. As an athlete, I like that the plates encourage different nutrition depending on activity levels. Athlete’s nutrition is a key factor in performance.
You might be thinking, “I’m not an athlete.” Well, if you exercise consistently, participate in sport, train consistently, are working towards physical goals, you should call yourself an athlete. Sports psychologist and associate professor of athletic coaching at West Virginia University, Kristen Dieffenbach, suggests everyone should consider themselves as athletes. Everyone should recognize that this status is not reserved for individuals who get a paycheck from it. Calling yourself an “athlete” can impact how you perform, how you train, and how you fuel your body.
What is the Athlete’s Plate?
Physical demands of your practices, exercise sessions, races, etc. differ day to day. And your diet should reflect these differences. One way to modify your plate and to maintain performance levels is to listen to your body. This takes practice and can be tricky, especially if exercise decreases hunger cues and appetite levels; which is one of the reasons I like the Athlete’s Plates. It consists of an easy training plate, moderate training plate, and hard training/game day plate. With the moderate training plate designed to be your baseline plate you can add more or less food to your plate depending on your training levels.
Easy Training Plate – Athlete’s Nutrition for an Easy Day
An easy day may contain a short workout or low-intensity workout. This plate can also be used for those athletes who want to maximize the nutrition on their plate. An athlete’s nutrition is highly enhanced with this plate since half the it is covered with fruits and vegetables. Easy day plates can also be a guideline for those athletes who are engaged in sports that do not require as much energy.
Moderate Training Plate – Athlete’s Nutrition Baseline
The moderate plate may a plate you use for days that have higher intensity workouts or if you participate in more than one training session. The moderate plate is designed to be your baseline. Take notice of the amount of food on the moderate plate and you can use this to adjust up or down, depending on how much energy (calories) you need for the day.
Hard Training Plate – Athlete’s Nutrition for Game Day
A hard day contains an endurance workout, dual practices, or a competition. If your competition requires extra fuel from carbohydrates, the hard training plate is a good one to use. This plate dedicates half of it to grains. This plate supplies you with the energy you need to get through a hard training day and perform at the your best level.
Athlete’s Plate + Intuitive Eating
My nutrition philosophy is if we are in-tune with our hunger and fullness signals, our bodies will help guide us to making food decisions. And these plates give you flexibility and guidance, just like the principles of intuitive eating. So combining intuitive eating principles with the Athlete’s Plates can really help athlete’s understand what to put on their plate.
Have you found The Athlete’s Plates helpful to you? Do you adjust your food intake based on your training days and rest days?
For more information from the The U.S. Olympic Committee on the Athlete’s Plate, click here.