Tuesday Tips: Change Your Plate to Change Your Game

Use your activity levels to guide what you eat.

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This article was written by Kristin Weyenberg, a soon-to-be Registered Dietitian, ultimate player, and founder of The Ultimate Plate. It was submitted as part of our Tuesday Tip Jar program.

Picture this…it’s January 1st, you just started to work towards your new year’s resolution: to be the best handler on your club ultimate team. For the next few months, you push yourself harder than ever before at your college team’s practices, you make sure to hit the gym at least twice a week, and you get hundreds of flick hucks in with your pod. Then…COVID-19 struck. No more practice, no more gyms, and no more throwing sessions with your pals. Despite being stuck in quarantine, you decide that nothing can stop you from reaching your new year’s resolution. You sign up for an online at-home training program, you make sure to get 500 flick reps per week with your old friend Mr. Soccer Goal, and you watch film for hours like it’s the most bingeable show on Netflix.

Ultimately, you are proud of your resilience and ability to get creative, but you start to wonder…is there something I’m missing? The answer is yes. The missing link to your performance is something that must be practiced over and over again like every other aspect of ultimate. And guess what? Quarantine is the perfect time to focus on this magical missing link. Now that you’re on the edge of your seat, I can finally tell you that the missing link to your game is NUTRITION!

Yep, that’s right. Nutrition — just like training, weight lifting, and throwing — needs to be practiced, and what better way to practice than when you have nothing else to do! As a soon-to-be Registered Dietitian with a dream of becoming a sport dietitian to ultimate players all around the world, I am excited to share with you the benefits of focusing on your nutrition. These benefits include:

  • Optimized performance and energy
  • Enhanced focus and concentration
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Faster recovery
  • Improved immune system

The first step that I recommend to anyone who wants to improve their performance with nutrition is to take a look at what’s on your plate. Do you have protein, carbs, and color (aka fruits and vegetables) on your plate at every meal? Does the ratio of carbohydrate on your plate align with your activity levels for the day? If the answer is yes, then awesome! You’re off to a great start. If the answer is no, then keep reading to learn more about this little tool called “Performance Plates.” Performance plates were developed by the United States Olympic Committee Sports Dietitians and the University of Colorado Sports Nutrition Graduate Program to help athletes adjust their food intake to the physical demands of their sport.

Components of the Ultimate Performance Plate

The components of the Ultimate Performance Plate include carbohydrates, protein, and color (fruits and vegetables).

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your brain and body! The more intense your training session is, the more carbohydrates that should be on your plate. Carbohydrate sources include pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, breads, and legumes.

Protein has many functions in our bodies including repairing muscle tissue, regulating hormones, and aiding in proper immune function. Protein should be a component on each one of your plates! Protein sources include poultry, fish, beef, eggs, dairy products, soy products, legumes, and nuts.

Fruits and vegetables, or “color” as I like to call them, provide antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, increase fiber intake, and play a huge role in metabolism! Color is an essential part of the ultimate athlete’s plate and should be present at each meal. Color sources include fresh, dried, and cooked fruits and vegetables.

What about fat? Fat is often found in foods naturally or is present due to the way we prepare our foods. That said, try to include healthy fats (found in fish, nuts, and seeds) on your plates when possible!

The “Easy Day” Plate

This plate is lower in carbohydrates, making it appropriate for light exercise that is <60 minutes:

  • Rest days
  • Yoga
  • Light jog
  • Easy hike
  • Light body weight training
  • Throwing session

An easy day plate should be composed of ½ color, ¼ carbohydrates, and ¼ protein, as shown in the picture. An example easy day plate might include a big salad with a four ounce chicken breast and a dinner roll.

The “Moderate Day” Plate

This plate has moderate amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and color, making it appropriate for moderate exercise lasting 1-2 hours:

  • Most practices
  • 1 hour lift
  • Pick up
  • Agility session
  • Moderate run

A moderate day plate should be composed of ⅓ color, ⅓ carbohydrates, and ⅓ protein. An example moderate day plate might include two slices of bread, 3-4 slices of turkey, and a handful of carrots.

The “Hard Day” Plate

This plate has significant amounts of carbohydrates, making it appropriate for hard intensity exercise lasting more than two hours or competition day:

  • Tournament day
  • Game day
  • >2 hour practice
  • Multiple training sessions in one day
  • Long distance run

A hard day plate should be composed of ¼ color, ½ carbohydrates, and ¼ protein. An example hard day plate might include 2-3 handfuls of pasta, 3-4 meatballs, and a handful of mushrooms.

Quarantine Call to Action

Use these uncertain times to take control over your nutrition! This upcoming week, try to make at least one plate per day a performance plate based on your activity level. If you would like to learn more, you can follow me @the.ultimate.plate on Instagram for more helpful nutrition tips!

This article was submitted as a part of our new Tuesday Tip Jar program! Submit your own Tuesday Tips to our Tip Jar to win a free subscription and even become an Ultiworld writer.

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