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Building a Performance Plate

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Dana Eshelman, MS, RDN


WHAT IS A PERFORMANCE PLATE?

As we know, those hours of training are important for performance. However, the fuel you put in your body is equally important as those training sessions. Nutrition plays a large role in the potential for your body to continue to adapt to training and for you to reach maximal potential. Your “performance plate” will vary based on your training intensity and/or duration of training and may also change during the phase of training you are in. It is important to pay attention to not only your hunger/fullness with your plate, but also your hydration, energy levels, and how you are recovering.




HARD VS. MODERATE VS. LIGHT TRAINING DAYS

It’s important to remember that your calorie and nutrient needs change depending on the duration and intensity of training. Your performance plate may look different in-season versus offseason, or on hard training days versus light training days.




COMPONENTS OF A PERFORMANCE PLATE


Whole Grains

  • These are what are going to provide energy

  • 100% whole grains breads/bagels/tortillas/crackers; brown rice; wild rice; quinoa; beans; bean pasta (Banza); potatoes (all varieties); whole grain breakfast cereals; oatmeal; yogurt

Lean Protein

  • There are our muscle building + recovery foods

  • Choose varieties that are grilled, baked, broiled, or roasted

  • Chicken, turkey, fish, pork, beef, eggs, low-fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese), tofu

Healthy Fats

  • Flavor boosting foods

  • Fatty fish (salmon and tuna); nuts and seeds; nut and seed butters; olives; olive oil; avocado; avocado oil; oil-based salad dressings

Fruits and Veggies

  • These are antioxidants, aka they fight off the bad guys in the body

  • Apples, oranges, tropical fruit, grapes, melons, leafy greens, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, bell pepper, etc

Hydration

  • Maintain body temperature, prevent infection, keep joints lubricated, deliver nutrients to cells

  • 100% fruit juices (in moderation), water, low-fat milk products, unsweetened milk alternatives, sports drinks (activity >60 minutes)


Hard Training Days or Pre- and In- Season

This is a day where there are 2 hard workouts or a competition. This plate will help you prepare for competition and you may use it to fuel in the 2 days leading into the event, the day of the event and the day after the event.

  • Increased fluid and electrolyte intake is needed for optimal hydration.

  • Increased carbohydrate and total calories for energy

  • Adequate protein and antioxidant-rich foods (fruits and veggies) for recovery and immune function.

  • ½ plate whole grains; ¼ plate vegetables; ½ lean protein


Sample Breakfast

  • American Breakfast: Two to three whole grain pancakes + 1 T peanut butter (drizzle on pancakes) + ¼ c syrup

  • 2 scrambled eggs

  • 1 c Low fat greek yogurt + ½ c blueberries

  • 16- 20 ounces of water

Sample Lunch

  • Grilled chicken wrap: Whole-wheat tortilla; 4 oz grilled chicken strips; spinach leaves + tomato; ¼ avocado + 2 T hummus

  • 1 c fresh fruit salad

  • 16 - 20 ounces of water and/or electrolyte sports drink

Sample Dinner

  • Pasta Dinner: Whole-grain or banza pasta + 3 oz meatballs (lean ground beef or ground turkey) + ¼ c tomato sauce (for pasta)

  • Side of steamed broccoli + vegetable salad with oil-based salad dressing

  • 16- to 20 ounces of water and/or 8 ounces of low-fat milk


Moderate Training Days

This is your baseline and you can adjust your calories up or down based on goals, workout duration/ intensity and training season. During these days, you may have 2 workouts in a day where one is a skills based workout and the other is endurance or strength based.

  • High fluid and electrolyte intake is needed for optimal hydration.

  • Adequate protein and antioxidant-rich foods (fruits and veggies) are essential for adequate recovery and immune function.

  • ⅔ whole grains; ⅔ lean protein ⅔ vegetables






Sample Breakfast

  • Egg Skillet: 2 eggs + 1 c sweet potato + ¼ c black beans + ½ c bell pepper/mushroom/onion

  • 12- 16 ounces water

Sample Lunch

  • Chicken Panini: 2 slices whole grain bread + 4 ounces chicken + 1 T basil pesto + 1 slice mozzarella cheese + lettuce/onion/tomato

  • 1 c mixed fruit

  • 12-16 ounces water

Sample Dinner

  • Salmon Tacos: 4 oz salmon + 3 corn tortillas + ¼ c black beans + greek yogurt coleslaw; side of 1 c roasted cauliflower/broccoli

  • 12- 16 ounces water and/or 8 ounces low-fat milk


Offseason or Lighter Training Days

This may be an easy workout day where there is no need to load up on energy for competition. This may also apply to athletes working on weight management or sports requiring less energy due to the nature of the sport.

  • Calorie needs are reduced as a result of decreased training and/or off season weight loss or body composition goals. Off season is the time to focus on weight management if needed.

  • Adequate fluid and electrolyte intake are needed to maintain hydration.

  • Adequate protein and antioxidant-rich foods for health, body composition, and recovery.

  • ½ plate fruits and vegetables; ¼ plate lean protein; ¼ plate whole grains






Sample Breakfast

  • Yogurt Parfait: 1 c plain greek yogurt + ½ c oats + ½ c berries + ¼ c walnuts

  • 12- 16 ounces water

Sample Lunch

  • Fall Salad: 2 c spinach leaves/ romaine lettuce; 4 oz lean turkey; ½ c roasted sweet potato; ½ c tomatoes, mushrooms, onion; ¼ c toasted chickpeas; 2 T oil-based salad dressing

  • 12-16 ounces water

Sample Dinner

  • Salmon Tacos: 4 oz salmon + 3 corn tortillas + ¼ c black beans + greek yogurt coleslaw; side of 1 c roasted cauliflower/broccoli

  • 12- 16 ounces water and/or 8 ounces low-fat milk

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