"MyPlate" for Athletes: How Much Food Do I Need to Eat?

Remember the “Food Pyramid”? It was the triangular guide from the USDA with levels or sections of food groups and suggested amounts of daily servings for each. For 19 years, health practitioners, teachers, parents and others used this as a guide to teach and ensure healthy eating. Even athletes were known to follow these guidelines.

 In 2011, the USDA rolled out their new nutrition guide, MyPlate. It is intended to make meeting recommend nutrition guidelines easier by removing the need to know how much broccoli counted as one vegetable serving, or how much rice counted as one grain serving. One simply has to look down at their plate to gauge if they are eating well. 

 For the general person, these updated eating guidelines work, especially since Americans tend to eat excessive amounts of carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta and cereal, and not enough fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to remember the phrase “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables”, and easier to follow than the old guidelines.

However, if you’re an athlete, especially an endurance athlete, this general guideline is likely not effective for you. Depending on the level of training you’re undergoing on any given day, the portions of the food groups shown above will change. For example, if you’re in intense training leading up to an event, like a marathon, you’ll need to be eating larger portions of carbohydrate foods at every meal to properly fuel your body.  Once the marathon is over, and you’re not training as hard, you simply won’t need the large carbohydrate portions your body required during intense training. 

This flux and constant change is challenging for many athletes to keep track of, especially those without ongoing professional nutritional guidance.  Luckily, the United States Olympic Committee created “The Athlete’s Plate” for three levels of training: light, moderate and hard. Each “plate” shows the appropriate amounts of grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, fats, and beverages an athlete should aim for at all levels of training. It even offers ideas for flavoring food.

Check out the plates below. Click the titles above each to download your FREE copy. These are not intended to replace the advice of a health and/or nutrition professional.

Easy:

 

 

Moderate: 

 

Hard:

 

Remember, even if you’re meeting these guidelines, it’s possible to be deficient in nutrients necessary for energy, oxygenation, muscle recovery and more. For example, electrolytes and iron losses during intense training and endurance events is a serious concern. EnduroPacks has products specifically tailored to address these and other issues, so consider adding them to your regimen for optimal performance.

Stay tuned for my weekly blog posts to learn more about sports nutrition and delicious recipes to fuel your body for all your events.

Eat Well, Live Well.

-Rebekah Langford, RD, CDN

langford.rebekah@gmail.com

RebekahLangford.com

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Rebekah is a Registered Dietitian/Culinary Nutritionist from the NYC area. She earned two culinary degrees at Johnson & Wales University, followed by a dietetic internship and fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. She has worked in hotels, restaurants, top hospitals and private homes in Washington, Rhode Island, Tennessee  New York City and more. She specializes in eating disorders, sports nutrition, food allergies, vegan/vegetarian nutrition, and culinary nutrition. Her favorite past-times are gardening, trying new restaurants and bars, television  and playing with her Frenchie, Penelope Tuesday.