Athletes know the truth — size, at least portion size, truly does matter! When you’re an athlete — whether you’re training for a big event like a triathlon or simply trying to perfect your yoga form — you need more calories to get you through the day. That often means more significant portions, but not just in general. To reach optimal performance levels, it’s crucial to know when to increase portions and what kind of food to use.
Portions and Food Energy
We get our energy from food and use calories as a measure of total energy. The average man and woman need about 2,500 and 2,000 daily calories, respectively. As we go about our day, we continually burn calories by doing normal things like walking, doing the laundry, cooking, and even just breathing.
Athletes, however, require more food energy because they burn more calories than the average person. It’s common for athletes to use up to 3,000 calories each day. If you need more food, what do you do? Increase your portions.
Portion Size for Athletes
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to energy. It all relies on the type of macronutrients the food has — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. But even within each of those categories are healthy and non-healthy options. So when choosing portion size for athletes, it’s crucial to increase the portions of healthy sources of energy. Most nutrition shops will stock products that feature these healthy options.
For the most part, athletes tend to use carbs as the primary source of food energy. That’s because carbs offer long-lasting energy, so they’re great for endurance athletes. You get a fast and sustained power that can keep you going through the finish line with complex carbs. So, this doesn’t mean you should eat a giant plate of pasta for breakfast. Some excellent sources of healthy carbs that also contain fibre (to help sustain that energy) include:
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- Whole Grain Bread, Pasta, and Cereal
- Brown Rice
At Bindi Nutrition, our nutrition shop offers items with the right portion of carbohydrates when you need it. For example, during exercise you can use our Natural Sports Hydration with combined carbohydrates (for long lasting and even-release fuelling), and when refuelling electrolytes, it’s best to have a low-carb version such as Bindilyte, which is low-carb, low-sugar, and gluten-free, so you are merely focusing on rehydrating your body.
Protein is also a substantial energy source for athletes. Not only that, but protein is also crucial for rebuilding and maintaining muscles. Athletes that require muscle mass (like bodybuilders and particular sports athletes, like sprinters and boxers) should increase protein intake during training and before events. But again, don’t just pile on the steak. Here are some healthy options for protein portions:
- Lean Meats
- Dairy Products (Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt)
Bindi Nutrition Shop offers protein powders that are natural, clean, and plant-based.
More and more athletes are turning to fats for support, and fat has the highest energy content of the three macronutrients. Not only does fat keep energy levels high, but it also helps to balance hormones. When determining portion size for athletes, fats are a bit more complicated. If you’re eating protein, for example, you’re already receiving fat content. So by increasing your fats, you want to focus on the healthiest version, such as:
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
Our nutrition shop at Bindi offers healthy snack bars that are vegan and free from gluten, dairy, and soy. Therefore, we use only coconut oil and nuts a healthy fat. You can use these bars as a quick snack before or after training.
General Portion Sizes
Now that you know what kind of food to choose and where to increase portions, let’s look at general sizes for athletes. A lot depends on your sport — endurance athletes require more carbs, while muscle builders need more protein.
But generally speaking, concentrate your intake on fruits and vegetables (about half your plate) in the early stages of training. As you increase your exercise and endurance needs, slowly build your whole grains, especially as you get closer to game day or the big event. Lean protein and fat should stay about the same throughout training (about ¼ of your plate). By race day, you should be eating ¼ protein and fat, ¼ fruits and vegetables, and ½ whole grains.