An Athlete’s Guide to Preparing Food

Nutrition composition and quality of food is essential to athletic performance. For athletes who prepare their own food, knowledge of how to make quick, good tasting, easy and nutritious meals can make the difference between fueling for high performance or a flop performance.

Are you cooking for performance?
Check out the following guidelines to make sure your cooking skills are high performance: 

Cooking Up Vegetables
Best cooking methods: raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, sautéed
To keep important vitamins and minerals in:

  • Vegetables should remain slightly crunchy
  • Use cooking spray or a tsp of vegetable oil to sauté.
  • Heat oil fully before adding vegetables.
  • Soups and stews are a great option for obtaining a variety of vitamins and minerals

Cooking Up Grains & Starches:
Rice & Pasta: For best results:

  • Add a pinch of salt to the water to boil faster and enhance the flavor.
  • Add a tsp of olive oil to the water to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  • For a cold pasta dish; rinse the cooked pasta with cold water so that it doesn't stick.

Brown Rice: 45-50 minutes, White Rice: 20-30 minutes, Instant Rice: 5-10 minutes
Best cooking methods:

  • The rice to water ratio is 1:2. Don't use too much water, as you want the rice to absorb all the water in the pot in order to retain the nutrients.
  • Rice cookers are an inexpensive option and are very easy to use.
  • Brown rice contains more nutrients than white rice, so choose brown rice whenever possible.
  • Cook extra rice so that it can be stored in the freezer and taken out at any time to prepare a quick meal.
  • For more flavors try cooking rice in broth or soup instead of water.

Best cooking methods: boiled, mashed, baked, roasted
Cooking time for a medium potato:
Baking: 40-50 minutes @ 400 F
Microwave: 6-7 minutes

  • A potato is done when you can stick a fork all the way into it. It should be tender, yet firm.
  • Red potatoes, new potatoes and russet potatoes have similar nutritional content and add variety to the traditional potato. Keep the skin on for more nutrients and fibre.

Cooking Up Meat:
Best cooking methods: grilled, baked, braised, pan fried
Cooking Time: Poultry is fully cooked when you cut into it and the juices are clear, not pink.

  • If cooking an entire bird, cook it breast-down in the pan. This will make the breast more moist and enhance the flavor without greatly increasing the fat content.
  • Remember to buy skinless or remove the skin

Beef and Pork:
Best cooking methods: grilled, broiled, roasted, stir fried
Best cuts to choose: look for cuts that contain the words “loin” or “round” such as tenderloin or top round.
Cooking time: beef and pork are fully cooked when you cut into it and the juices run clear, not pink.

  • Grilling is a great way to reduce the fat content as some of the fat is able to drain off the pan.
  • Roasting and broiling meats in an oven pan is very easy. Avoid using excess fat in the pan for gravy as it is high in saturated fat.
  • Drain the fat when pan-frying meats after cooked. Do not pour down the sink.
  • Unless for stew or soup, do not boil meat as it loses its taste and significantly decreases the nutritional value.

Best choices: Lighter colored fish like halibut and sole are lower in fat, while more brightly colored fish such as salmon or tuna fillets are slightly higher in healthy fats.
Cooking Time: about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

  • Buy firm and odorless with no strong fishy smells.
  • If buying frozen, thaw in refrigerator and do not refreeze in order to avoid the risk of food-borne illness. 

Portion Sizes for an Athlete:


Training Period Cooked Pasta Cooked Rice Potatoes
Base Building
2-2.5 cups
2.5-3.5 cups
3-4 cups
2 cups
1 cup
1-1.5 cups
1.5-2 cups
1 cup
1 medium
1 medium
1 large
1 medium


Standard Size Portions:

Vegetables Pasta Rice Potatoes Meat/Fish/Poultry

1/2 cup cooked or raw

45 Calories

1 Cup cooked

210 Calories

1/2 cup cooked

115 Calories

1/2 medium

100 Calories

4 – 6 ounces

130 Calories

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