I love Canada’s new Food Guide. However, while it’s great for the general population, the nutritional needs of athletes are unique because of training demands and will change day to day based on the level of training. For instance, a marathon runner is going to need to eat differently on their long-run day compared to a rest day. To explain these differences, let’s start by looking at Canada’s Food Guide.
The image below shows Canada’s Food Guide:
Canada’s Food Guide recommends making 1/2 plate fruits and vegetables, 1/4 plate protein foods, and 1/4 plate whole grains. Some examples of this type of meal include a tuna sandwich with vegetables sticks and an apple, or turkey and broccoli stir fry with rice. Please note that dairy products have not been removed, but are now included in the protein section.
Next, let’s move on to the athlete’s plate. The first is for easy days. As you can see can see, this is pretty much the same as Canada’s Food Guide. The only difference being guidance for added fats and dairy is included as a beverage, rather than in the protein section. This plate is appropriate for rest days or days with very light exercise.
The next plate is for moderate training days when athletes have hard training in their day. For this plate, the whole grain portion of the plate increases and the fruit and vegetable portion decreases. This is because as training increases, so do our energy requirements in the form of carbohydrates. Grain products are a great source of carbohydrates to help fuel training.
The final plate is for hard training days, such as endurance training days, competition day or when engaging in two hard exercise sessions in one day. At this point, half the plate should be carbohydrates with only ¼ vegetables. This allows athletes to get in more energy to meet the high energy demands of training. Without these extra carbohydrates, performance would likely be compromised as they are the fuel source for intense exercise.
Many athletes fail to adjust their diet to meet their levels of physical activity. As a result, they underfuel on some days, while overfueling on other days. Just like your training changes day to day, so will your nutrition. Use these plates as a flexible guide to meet your day to day nutrition needs.
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