Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Performance Plates allow us to base our meals off of the intensity of our exercise/training throughout the day. Building your plate with adequate amounts of wholesome foods that are energy-packed will help fuel your body to train harder and recover better.
What is just as important as your training regimen for the day? You guessed it - FOOD! This applies to everyone including recreational exercisers to the highest performing elite-level athletes. Building your plate with adequate amounts of wholesome foods that are energy-packed will help fuel your body to train harder and recover better. These components include carbohydrates, protein, healthy sources of fats, fruits and vegetables and fluids.
CARBOHYDRATES: Provide the main fuel source for the body’s energy needs. They are best utilized for high-intensity training sessions. Examples include: 100% whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, beans, rice, pasta and potatoes.
PROTEIN: Helps repair and build muscle, plays a role in metabolism and hormone function. Examples include: eggs, chicken, turkey, sirloin and lean ground beef, fish, cheese and tofu.
FATS: Helps with fullness and plays a role in immune function. Fats are best consumed for low-intensity, longer duration exercise. Examples include: nuts, nut butters, seeds, olives, avocados and oils.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: These offer a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and have antioxidant properties. Examples include: Berries, apples, oranges, bananas, melon, pineapple, grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, romaine lettuce, green beans, carrots and tomatoes.
FLUIDS: Drinking the proper amount of fluid prevents us from becoming dehydrated which can negatively impact performance and cause early fatigue. Examples include: water, milk (dairy & non-dairy) and 100% fruit juice.
It’s important to remember that your calorie and nutrient needs change depending on the intensity of your training. Your performance plate will look different in-season versus off season. Similarly, there will be differences in your plates on hard training days versus lighter training days.
A lighter training day, or rest day can include ½ of a plate with mostly vegetables and some fruits, about ¼ of the meal can be whole grains and roughly ¼ of the meal to be lean proteins. It may be beneficial to increase the fat servings for satiety purposes and ensure appropriate calorie needs are met since carbohydrate portions may be lower on these days. This plate is ideal for lower volume training in the off-season or when an athlete may be trying to lose weight.
During pre-season and in-season the athlete’s training volume and intensity may be higher. During these days, athletes should aim to make a plate that consists of roughly ¼ - ⅓ of a meal with vegetables and some fruits, roughly ¼ of the plate or meal to be lean proteins and ⅓ - ½ of the meal to be whole grains. Lower or higher portions of each component are dependent on the intensity of training for the day.
Make sure to look at how the composition and quantity of your plate change based on your performance needs. Planning ahead is important to ensure the body is receiving adequate amounts of each macronutrient to support training efforts.
Protein needs will generally be the same for each plate. A standard serving size of protein is 4-6 oz, but is widely varied based on individual needs. Research shows that evenly distributing high-quality protein throughout the day can help maximize muscle protein synthesis and muscle recovery following exercise.
Not only are portions of macronutrients going to vary based on training days, but also by individual. A 230 lb male is going to require different portions than a 130 lb female as caloric needs are different in addition to goals, training loads and intensities.
Questions on building a performance-enhancing plate to cater to your individual training regimen and needs? Contact a sports dietitian like me for guidance!
See original article written by dietitians Nina Escobedo and Alexa Eisenberg at