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A Nutrition Plan for Athletes: What Foods To Eat

 

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In part 2 of this blog post series, you will learn how to create an individualized nutrition plan.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty by determining the number of servings per day you should consume from each food group. This is based on the calorie needs you calculated in part 1. You did that right? If not click here.

 

How Many Servings Do I Need?

Without question this is the most difficult step when developing a nutrition plan for athletes. Think about what we are doing…attempting to translate your estimated calorie needs to a plate! This is the step that frustrates so many athletes. But it doesn’t have to.

One simple method for creating a daily food plan is to use food patterns established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). I understand this might make some of you nervous…relying on the government to model our eating patterns but stick with me here.

 

USDA food patterns identify the daily amounts of foods to eat from the five major food groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein Foods
  • Dairy
  • + Oils, which based on the USDA should be used sparingly.

 

The USDA developed different food patterns at 12 calorie levels from 1000 up to 3200. The table below reflects a few of these patterns. If your needs differ, click here to see the entire table.

 

 

 Daily Amount of Food From Each Group

Calorie Level 1600 2000 2400 2800 3200
Fruits 1.5 c 2 c 2 c 2.5 c 2.5 c
Vegetables 2 c 2.5 c 3 c 3.5 c 4 c
Protein Foods 5 oz 6 oz 8 oz 10 oz 10 oz
Grains 5 oz 5.5 oz 6.5 oz 7 oz 7 oz
Dairy 2.5 c 3 c 3 c 3 c 3 c

c = cups, oz = ounces

How to Use the Food Pattern Chart

The numbers in each column reflect the amount of food you need from each group. For instance, if you require 2000 calories to maintain your weight then you should consume:

2 c of fruit
2.5 c of vegetables
6 ounces of protein
5.5 oz of grains
3 c of dairy

 

Here is an example of what 2000 calories would look like. Take a minute to notice how this menu fits into the food pattern for each group.  In the next post, we will talk about tracking your foods and implementing your pattern.

2000 calorie menu

****One challenge many athletes face is understanding serving sizes. If you need help with this, here is a great resource.

 

One Final Word

Congratulations, you have taken the next step in putting together your nutrition plan! Using the USDA food patterns as a guide is a great way to get started.

Also, realize, the calorie level you established is to MAINTAIN your weight. If you need to lose then you should eat less.

As always, I hope you got value out of this post and contact me with questions.

 

Train hard and eat well,

 

JJ Mayo

Fuel for Endurance

 

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2 Comments
  1. Natalie Akin says:

    Hi JJ,
    2 quick questions:
    I have started using MyFitnessPal. Do you think I can trust what they give me for calories for the most part?

    Also, do I eat back some of what I burn From a long run (13+)or keep that deficit?

    Thank you for all your posts. I love reading and learning from them.

  2. jjmayo says:

    Hey Natalie,
    Thanks for the kind words, it really means a lot. Now to answer your Qs.
    MyFitnessPal is a good option. What is great about MFP is that you can add your own foods. The challenge is not the software but human error in entering how much you eat. The second question really depends on your goals and time of the year. If you are only a few weeks out from an event you need to replace those calories. You should be fueling you training sessions. If however you are looking to lose weight and are months out from race day then you can afford to cut back a little. It will be hard to do because after a long run you will mostly likely be starving. Try a long term approach and cut back a little each day, this makes it more manageable (300-500 calories). Hope this helps and let me know if you have more questions.

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Learn the exact steps I used to become a 9x Ironman finisher, ultramarathoner, and Boston Qualifier. Take the guesswork out of race-day nutrition.

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