6 Steps to Improve Your Nutrition Plan

Hey There Internet!

Nutrition can be a confusing topic.  That’s why its best to keep it as SIMPLE as possible. Is that even possible? Yep. I’ve done it for you …


Here are six simple steps you can take to guide your thought process for designing a winning nutrition plan for yourself or your client/athlete.


Step 1 : Determine and Classify Training Goals


When creating a performance nutrition plan it is important to determine the scientific equivalent of your client’s training goal.  “I want to lose weight.”  That’s great- but it’s not as easy as calorie balance.  “Weight” usually means “body fat” in layman’s generalized terms…which means we have to oxidize more fat.  How do I train to oxidize fat? At what intensities? At what durations? And what is the goal beyond the weight loss… once they lose weight do they want to get stronger? Or do they want to run marathons? It matters.  And planning ahead is important to sensitize your client to the energetic demands of future goals as well.  Basically…don’t freaking crash their metabolism!


Step 2: Determine Substrate Utilization


Well guys, I got a little ahead of myself up there, but you get the idea.  We’ve got to determine what type of training (i.e. energy systems ) is going to accomplish our client’s goals, then we follow it up by recalling the relative amount of each substrate used in our intended energy system.  Here’s a cheat sheet.  Keep in mind this is a “theoretical” rubric and is therefore a generalization.  Each individual may be on the lower or higher ends of these continuums, and remember ALL energy pathways are always on…but because this is a “6 SIMPLE STEPS” article, we are going to examine the predominant substrate utilization under the following scenarios:

  • Anaerobic power <6 sec + Full Recovery(5:00-15:00 minutes) = phosphagen system = stored creatine phosphate = aint shit you can really do about this one.  Its largely genetically determined.
  • Anaerobic Glycolysis [10sec – 90sec] + [1:30-3:00 recovery] = glycolytic pathway = stored muscle glycogen
  • Aerobic Respiration [90sec to more than 4hours] + [30sec – 1:30 recovery] = aerobic or “cardio” or “endurance”  work = increased reliance on blood glucose (hence sipping protocol for endurance athletes) and increased reliance on plasma Free Fatty Acids (blood lipids).  There is some debate in the field as to whether a slightly higher fat diet may benefit endurance athletes for this reason.


Step 3: Assign Macros Based on Training Goals and Phases

Now that we have identified what substrates are being utilized during exercise, we can create a “balanced” nutrition plan for our client/athlete by ensuring they have adequate amounts of carbohydrate, fat, and protein to sustain the demands of training.  Post exercise repletion strategies suggest consuming >50g of carbohydrate every 2 hours for 6 hours post exercise to replenish significant carbohydrate loss from training.  The best and EASIEST way to assign macros to allot a specific amount per kilogram of body weight.  For example 6gCHO/kg/day.  This is a quick and simple conversion that in individual specific and can be listed in your mesocycle plan.  You can then easily undulate the allotment of CHO, PRO and FAT for any client as prescribed in your training plan.  Simple AND specific!  (You have a training plan right?)


Step 4: Dig Deeper into Nutrient Timing

Now that you know how much your client/athlete is eating per day, try to strategize the optimal time to consume particular foods.  Can your client handle eating carbohydrate 1hr before practice or training? If they can’t stomach it and eat 3 hours out, can they benefit from relying heavily on post exercise nutrition to recover?  This is going to be a little give and take between you and your client or athlete.  Some people are constrained by work and cannot eat regularly.  Some athletes are too sensitive to eat close to practice or are afraid of getting sick so they do not eat anything before.  Educating your clients and athletes can go a long way towards working on a nutrition plan that you both agree on.  Use what you know, and do the best you can with the circumstances. You’d be surprised how far the little changes will go!


Step 5: Assess & Re-assess 

Are you tracking performances? If so, how has performance changed since you’ve implemented the nutrition plan? Has it improved? Great! Then keep on doing what you’re doing!  But don’t get upset if performance has declined – throw that one on the “what not to do” pile and move on to the next solution.  Start at step 4 and tweak some nutrient timing aspects.  Nutrient timing is likely culprit in a performance decrement.  NBD. Ask them what they ate, how long ago, how they feel etc. and start problem solving.   Every client is different so you can’t get upset if these things take more than the first time to find what works.    If that still doesn’t work, scrap it and start over from step one.   That’s why you’re a performance coach (or maybe a really educated athlete) and not a “fitness” trainer.  You know that there’s not a one-size package.  It’s the name of the game.  Bodies are weird.


Step 6: Did it work!? Create New Goals

If you’ve found yourself frustrated at step 5 before, you have to ask yourself why…because whether you’re right and the nutrition plan improved performance, or whether something went wrong with the nutrition plan, you’re going to create a new goal regardless. You have to keep evolving your training to progress your client/athlete.  So regardless…make new goals!


These six simple steps for designing a winning performance nutrition plan will keep you lightyears ahead of other trainers simply because you worked up from the energetic demands of the training goal.    Synergetic training goals yield greater results than the hap hazard shit I see happening in most gyms.  It’s not magic.  It’s science.


If you’d like me to do this science-y, math-y stuff for you, contact me.  Together we’ll get it done!


Kate, MS, CSCS

BECAUSE THE WINS ARE EARNED, NOT GIVEN. #ENGPERFORMANCE Since 2008, Engard Athletics has provided quality, evidence-based training to hundreds of clients and athletes in the Valley. Now, utilizing advanced training techniques and challenging the fitness industry, I’m providing this elite level experience to you online. Our training programs include movement prep, periodized strength training, recovery therapy, performance nutrition plans and motivational strategies that optimize performance outcomes.

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