Balancing Meals and Building a Performance Plate

By: Registered Dietitian Claire Haft


Think back to a practice or showcase when you felt great and on top of your game.  Now think of the last time you felt... "off."  What caused this?  Why do we have "off" days?  While there may be multiple reasons, one possibility that is often overlooked is diet.  What you eat has a major impact on your performance.  Check out how a proper fueling strategy can help you more consistently feel, and play, your best.



Let’s start with this simple fact: the harder you train, the more fuel your body needs! Having a plan in place for how to properly fuel your body during different levels of training is key.

I have broken down a meal plan in to three simple plates: Easy, Moderate, and Hard. These Performance Plates can help give your body the proper fuel and energy it needs to peak your game and have less “off” days.

Easy Athlete's Training Plate


What's an Easy Day?

This plate most closely resembles the plate recommended for the general population for a healthy eating pattern. It is best for easy training or weight management.


From the USOC & UCCS for an Easy Day: “An easy day may contain just an easy workout or tapering without the need to load up for competition with energy and nutrients. Easy day meals may also apply to athletes trying to lose weight and athletes in sports requiring less energy (calories) due to the nature of their sport.”


What do I eat on an Easy Day?

· ½ plate mix of vegetables and fresh fruit

· ¼ plate quality protein

· ¼ plate whole grains or starchy vegetables

· 1 teaspoon of healthy fats

· Water and/or unsweetened beverage

· Flavorings as desired


Moderate Athlete's Training Plate


What's a Moderate Day?

From the USOC & UCCS for a Moderate Day: “A moderate day may be one where you train twice but focus on technical skill in one workout and on endurance or strength in the other. The moderate day should be your baseline from where you adjust your plate down (easy) or up (hard/race).”


What do I eat on a Moderate Day?

· 1/3 plate of mixed vegetables and fresh fruit

· Additional fruit added to your plate

· ¼ plate quality protein

· 1/3 plate grains (at least 1/2 whole) or starchy vegetables

· 1 Tablespoon of healthy fats


Hard Athlete's Training Plate


What's a Hard Day?

This plate is a great guide for pre-competition meals for endurance sports. Even though your plate is the same size, the food choices that you are filling your plate with should have a higher energy density, which means they have more calories to fuel your exercise. This is why you see the increase in grains/starchy vegetables and fats – they are naturally higher in energy.


From the USOC & UCCS for a Hard Day: “A hard day contains at least 2 workouts that are relatively hard or competition. If your competition requires extra fuel from carbohydrates, use this plate to load up in the days before, throughout, and after the event day.”


What do I eat on a Hard Day?

· ¼ plate mix of vegetables and fresh fruit

· Additional fruit added to your plate

· ¼ plate quality protein

· ½ plate whole grains or starchy vegetables

· 2 Tablespoons of healthy fats

· Water and/or unsweetened beverages

· Herbs, spices, salt, and pepper


For more details on specific food examples, game-day nutrition, healthy snacks, and more, see Claire’s recent post on the Nutrigility website HERE


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