Plating Proper Portions

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Failing to fuel with proper portions can be problematic when working to maximize training and achieve body composition goals, since the latter is a direct result of the balance between calories consumed and calories expended through exercise. And when you're trying to build muscle, you need to fuel properly throughout the day. Otherwise, your body will break down muscle to perform daily functions.

Often times, athletes not only have a hard time remembering what they ate and when, but also how much they packed onto their plates. Eating a larger volume of one nutrient or food impacts the plate's total nutritional value. Take, for example, a serving of pasta. One cup of pasta is one serving, which is about 200 calories, 40 grams of carbs and seven grams of protein. But a typical serving of pasta at a restaurant is three cups, loading your plate with three times the aforementioned nutrients. If you're unaware of appropriate portion sizes, it's likely you'll eat more than one serving.

Filling up with triple the amount of a recommended serving size allows for less room to include a lean protein source, fruits, vegetables or a low fat dairy source, and throws off the overall balance of your total daily consumption.

Here are a few guidelines to gauge proper portion sizes. When a restaurant dishes more than the suggested portion, divvy up your meal and keep the leftovers for later.

• 4-5 oz protein source [meat, poultry or fish] = deck of cards
• 1C carb source [e.g., pasta, rice, dry cereal] = tennis ball
• 1 tbs butter = thumb-size
• 1 oz cheese = 4 dice
• 1/4C nuts = enough to fill the palm of your hand

A suitable daily nutrient breakdown for a 170-pound athlete is as follows: 3,000 to 3,500 calories 100 to 140 grams of protein [15-25% of each meal] 500 to 650 grams of carbohydrates [50-65% of each meal] 80 to 110 grams of fat [20-30% of each meal]

Ideally, you should consume this through three meals plus two to three snacks, with each meal consisting of 800 to 1,000 calories [see sample meal breakdown below] and each snack 200 to 400 calories. This breakdown will balance how you consume calories and nutrients throughout the day.

Food Amount Calories Carbs Fat Protein
Spaghetti [cooked] 1C 197 40 1 7
Chicken breast, [skinless] 5 oz 156 0 2 33
Broccoli [cooked] 1C 55 11 1 4
Olive oil ½ tbsp 60 0 7 0
Marinara sauce ¼ C 36 5 1 1
Part-skim mozzarella cheese 1 oz 72 1 5 7
French bread 1 med slice 175 33 2 6
Chocolate milk, low fat 8 fl oz 158 26 3 8
TOTALS 908 116 20 65

Erika Whitman, RD, CSSD, serves as the sports dietitian at the University of Notre Dame. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock