Athletes- Solid Diet For Solid Performance

Nutrition has been one of the most overlooked aspects of performance sports for a long time. It’s unfortunate that most people only get into the nutrition aspect of the game when they want to change their physique or weight class. Even if someone isn’t trying to change their body composition it is still something that goes a long way towards performance. Why don’t more people focus on it? While someone might love training it’s likely they don’t really enjoy following a meal plan. I understand it because it’s definitely not easy, at least not in the beginning. But it pays off big come competition time.

You might think you’re dedicated to what you want to achieve but how dedicated can you possibly be if you are letting a huge hole in your plan go unchecked? You never miss training sessions and always give it 100% in the gym but how’s your diet? If it isn’t very good then I would say you aren’t nearly as dedicated as you think you are. Or like many people you just may not know how important it actually is. I competed for 4 years in powerlifting before I gave my diet a second thought. What I realized after getting my diet in check was that I could have hit all the same numbers 40lbs lighter and been more consistent performance wise in training. So for 5 years I had a massive hole in my game plan that went unchecked without a second thought. That sucks.

Sleep and food solidify everything you are trying to accomplish in training. Without proper recovery between sessions your end game is going to suffer whether you see it or not. I say this because for people who have never followed a meal plan for performance since they have no results for comparison. You may think you are feeding your body well enough but until you focus on specific nutrition you have no idea.

Having your food intake consistent and optimized takes a lot of variables out of the equation that you don’t need to be dealing with. The best thing you can do for your training is to remove as many variables as you can. This means fixing everything you have control over in a way that it becomes a constant. As far as food intake is concerned this means knowing what you are putting in your body for training and recovery. Having your food intake structured and constant means no training sessions are lost to poor performance due to being depleted and run down. If you aren’t giving your body what it needs, it won’t do what you want it to do. If you don’t know what your body needs then you will be shooting in the dark trying to fix the issue.

When one of my athletes tells me they had a bad training session or possibly a string of them we go over the variables that can cause that, apart from the training itself. The main things I check are sleep and food/water intake. One of these being off can cause training to take a hit. Without having a set intake to work from it’s impossible for you to figure out if your performance was suffering due to diet. So for example if an athlete says they are sleeping well and their food intake has been consistent, the variable left is workload in training. With this athlete we can more easily figure out what’s going on in training that’s affecting performance. They may need a deload, complete rest, a volume change, a frequency change, etc. Without the other variables in check you will have no idea as to what’s causing the problems in training. You can take a shot at changing up the training, but if that’s not the issue you will be back to the same problem again and again.

Having a set food intake also allows you to adjust the food with training adjustments. If the athlete is going into a more intense phase you know that food intake may need to be adjusted with it. It also allows for some more accurate food intake manipulation in and around training sessions as well as changing macro ratios based on the type of training for that session. Knowing an athletes typical food levels also makes for more efficient weight manipulation for weigh ins and competition day food planning. So to beat a dead horse, without the baseline intake to work from all of this becomes impossible to optimize.

Getting Started
So how do you go about getting on the right track? It’s hard for me to give specific macronutrient numbers because so many factors influence food intake. What I will try to do is give a breakdown for just a starting point which can be adjusted depending on how your body responds to it. There are plenty of bodyfat calculators or picture examples of what certain %’s look like visually. Get a rough idea of what your bodyfat may be. Lean body mass (LBM) is Weight – (weight X %). If you are 200lbs and 15% bodyfat | 200 – (200 x .15)= 170LBM.

Starting Point To Find Baseline
LBM x 1.5g carbs (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x 1.5g protein (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x .25g fat (170 x .3= 51) 9 cals/gram
2, 499 Cals
255g carbs, 255g protein, 51g fat

Let’s start at 5 meals.
Divide the carb and protein by 5. 255 / 5 = 51g. You are going to aim for 50g carbs and 50g protein (+/- 5g) for each meal.

Fats are going to come in through many foods in small amounts, and in some food larger amounts. For simplicity you can just track what I call direct fat sources. So any fatty sources like red meat, salmon, 93% ground chicken/turkey, whole eggs, nut butters, nuts, oils etc you track for your 51g (+/- 5g). The fats that come in through clean carbs and lean meats, don’t worry about for now.

Greens- try to get at least 2-3 cups a day of green beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc. Don’t worry about the macros coming in from these sources.

All clean, real food. In most cases, if it isn’t processed it isn’t off limits. Try to limit yourself to 1 protein shake a day. Whole food protein does work better than powder for most purposes.

After running your numbers for a week you can see how these macro amounts work for you. Check weight lost/gained, energy during the day and in training, strength and overall performance. If the food needs an adjustment up or down based on these factors, start with adding/subtracting some carbs.

If energy and strength improve and are consistent, without an uptrend in weight, you’re where you need to be for maintenance. If they improve but your weight goes up, dial the carbs back some. If energy and strength take a hit, you need more carbs and/or fats. Always adjust more heavily on carbs. Adjustments are done week to week. You run a plan for a week, evaluate, then adjust if needed. Repeat. If your goal is fat loss those macro ratios would change but that’s for another day and another post. This is to get someone not following any type of plan onto a plan for performance and recovery. If you do have a weight loss goal you should still find your baseline first so you have something to work from when programming for a cut.

So many competitive athletes let the diet go unchecked because they don’t have to look a certain way. For athletes with weight requirements or weight classes they just eat to maintain weight but the intake is all over the place and the macronutrient amounts aren’t consistent. Meaning if they need to lose a few pounds they just eat less overall or to gain they just eat more, of whatever. It might work as far as keeping your bodyweight where it needs to be but I guarantee your performance will suffer.

Again, the numbers above are just a rough guideline of how to get started but it’ll get you going on a better path if you aren’t following any type of meal plan currently.

If anyone has questions feel free to reach out and we can go over whatever you want.

Eddie Debus