How to Build an Athlete's Training Plate

Deciding what level of intensity your training was that day and how to eat after it can get confusing. I worked kind of hard… I guess. We didn’t run quite as many sprints as usual, but we had a lot more scrimmage and live situational time. Should I eat like a hard training day or a moderate one?


You’re not alone on this, many of our athletes at PP have struggled with these same questions, so let’s go through and try to answer them for you.


What’s the difference? If you remember our last post, What is an Athlete’s Training Plate?, you’ll notice that each one has a different proportion of macronutrients. Now, let’s look at each one and figure out how to build a few options, what’s best for individuals, and how to make adjustments.  



*Image from the CPSDA -   Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association


The biggest thing to change were the grains and vegetables/fruits. As the intensity and duration of the workout increases, so does the need for more high-quality grains. Let’s look at some options for each and why they will vary.


  • Are you deficient in anything?

One of the most important goals of any coach, nutrition, sports, life, etc. is to help you realize where you are lacking. For those of us in nutrition coaching, our biggest concern is when an athlete is deficient in a specific macro or micronutrient.


These both play major roles in not only the individual’s performance, but even more importantly in their overall health. Making sure that someone is getting all their basic needs met and helping them do so is incredibly important. We will look for deficiencies in your diet and also ask you as many questions as possible about your performance and feelings to help us understand where you may be lacking. The first step in any diet is what habit changes should be to make sure that these are addressed first.


  • What is your goal?

Are you losing, gaining, or maintaining weight? Are you trying to change your body composition? These are all questions our staff at PP can help you with and show you the best ways to achieve your goals. This will greatly change the way in which you approach ALL of your meals, so it is important we do the same for pre- and post- workouts too.


Gaining weight – The portions on the plate will typically lean more towards grains and the healthy fats. Even on lower intensity training days we are trying to eat in a caloric surplus, so it is valuable for you to get in a good mix of simple and complex carbohydrate sources. This can include rice, bread, bagels, quinoa, etc. The rest of the plate will still be the same for protein and then the remaining plate size will be filled with vegetables. This is something that many athletes will negate during times where they are trying to add weight quickly. They will get away from vegetables completely because they tend to be lower in calories. This is a short-sighted fix to a problem. Vegetables will help with so many components of not only health and performance but also with weight gain.


  • How hard did you train?

Knowing how hard you went is important. For some of you that wear some form of technology (Oura ring, WHOOP band, HR monitors, etc.), this will be much easier for you to gauge. You can use this technology to help track and then see your appropriate food after. Should you be using technology? Find out by reading this article.


If you are NOT wearing any fitness technology, you can use something called the RPE scale. We are going to use a modified version of this that allows us to figure out what kind of athlete training plate and how many calories we need after each training session or competition. This can be learned about more in our article on the “RPE and What it Means my Food Intake”.


  • Are you in season?

The importance of this question is that there will be multiple games, matches, or competitions and we need to account for that. During the off-season it is easier, and with less on the line, that we can manipulate and play with the amount and type of food to eat before and after a training session. When we are in-season and the pressure is higher with less recovery time between practice and competition it becomes more important to truly hone in on things that work and also to make sure we are not in an unnecessary deficit.


During the season it becomes much more about recovery and performance than anything else. Maintaining or reaching optimal body composition or weight is important year-round, but during the season it can become slightly less important compared to being able to fuel for and recover from competition and training. This does NOT mean that all nutrition goals and planning should be ignored, but that it may be a time where we some athletes who are playing or competing more than others are eating more. People who are not competing consistently will often need to adjust calories down as their overall training volume (minutes played or practiced) has decreased. These are all things that the coaching staff here at PP can help you with to avoid unnecessary weight gain. Regardless of your goal, we still recommend you follow the basic tenants of good nutrition and also follow the basic guidelines of pre- and post- workout nutrition. These will help move any athlete in the right direction.



  • Are you, or will you be, using supplements?

This is important because it will definitely help you understand which parts of the athlete’s plates are not being met. From there you may be able to use safe and appropriate supplements to help you fix any deficiencies and to reach your goals. We recommend you look at our articles on supplements before making any decisions and understand exactly what you want to accomplish with them. We always recommend whole foods before adding supplements and knowing exactly why you are going to take them is important. These need to be specific and realistic goals and uses for you.


Once these questions have been answered, we can start to make a plate to reach your goals. If you trained hard that day, we need ½ of our plate to come from grains and quality carb sources (bread, oats, rice, potato).


Then, ¼ of the plate will be a protein source (lean meat, beans, lentils, tofu).


Then ¼ veggies and fruits and veggies (mix of colors and types).


Along with our plate, we want to meet hydration needs by replacing the weight we lost during practice. We also recommend salting our foods to help with hydration and then adding a small amount of healthy fat while cooking.


Extra virgin olive oil in the pan you used to cook your protein source is an example. If you want your performance or healthy fat to come from a side dish, we can do a handful of, or top with, nuts or seeds.


Add these components up to makes perfect plate.


E.g –



Protein - 2 palms for turkey OR 2 palms of black beans

Protein – 1 palm of chicken OR 1 palm of tofu

Carb – 2 cupped hands of rice OR 2 cupped hands of quinoa

Carb – 1 cupped hand of chickpeas OR 2 slices of bread (no hand measure necessary)

Veggies – 2 fist sized portions of asparagus OR 2 fist sized portions of red cabbage

Veggies - 1 fist sized portions of broccoli OR 1 fist sized portions of peppers

Fat - 2 thumb sized portions of walnut oil OR 2 thumb sized portions of avocado

Fat – 1 thumb sized portion of almonds OR

1 thumb sized portion extra virgin coconut oil


*Note – the food differences between men and women are ONLY TO SHOW MORE EXAMPLES, either gender can eat any of the food options listed as examples.


There are thousands of ways to make a good plate for each person, and you need to figure out what you are working toward and how to reach your goals. Working with one of our coaches can help you to improve habits and create daily actions to reach your goals.


With some of our advanced athletes, as we improve their eating skills, we find that we need to fine tune even more. No matter what level of athlete or competitor you are, making sure you do the basics really well is the most important place to start. From there, our staff can help you reach new goals with more in-depth skills, education, and approaches.


Want to expand your knowledge and grow even more? Click Here to reach out to our coaching staff and to expand your knowledge while being guided by someone who has been there before!  

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published