January typically kicks off the training season for many athletes preparing for spring and summer events. Training can vary from day to day in duration and intensity, and as your training changes you should be adjusting your eating as well.
A great resource provided by the United State Olympic Committee sports dietitians (Go Team USA!) is the following plate guidelines designed specifically for athletes and their training. These are fantastic visual tools for you to use when designing your meal and training plans.
Easy Training Day
This plate plan is designed very similar to the MyPlate guidelines as easy training days don’t require a huge adjustment in nutrition. Notice that there is a dotted line between the protein and whole grains section indicating to increase protein portions and decrease carbohydrates slightly for weight management. Athletes looking to lose weight and keep the lean can benefit from this extra bit of protein. Protein can help aid in satiety (feeling of fullness), and assist in maintaining lean muscle while you are working to decrease your calorie intake and lose excess weight.
Moderate Training Day
As training intensity and duration increases, so do your needs for carbohydrates. You’ll notice that the fruit has been moved to the side of the plate to make room for the extra grains needed at mealtime. Vegetables, dairy and protein are still the same as an easy training day. Note, that fat recommendations have tripled from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.
Hard Training/Race Day
On a hard training or race day, it’s crucial that you are replenishing energy stores to help your body recover faster and more efficiently so that you can bounce back and can continue with your training. You’ll notice that this plate has increased the grains portion to half of the plate! Most people love their carb foods (myself included) so it should be pretty easy to adjust this meal. Just remember that fats, protein, veggies, fruit and dairy will also provide you with key nutrition for the day, so don’t forget about them!