When athletes travel for competition or training camps there is often food provided for them in a buffet-style setting. The quality and amount of food at a buffet can vary significantly and there is often a selection of a lot more food than you might usually have at home or at any one meal.
This new setting at meal times can cause some confusion about what to eat and may lead to over-eating due to the amount of choices available. When approaching a buffet it all comes down to choice, and making a choice that aligns with health and performance goals as well as eating in a style that meets your needs and training demands.
To avoid ‘buffet belly’ here are nine things to think about to maintain your nutrition needs and body composition:
1. Stay focused to your goals
And eat to meet your goals. Check in whether that food will help you meet that goal and what impact that might have on your training before thinking about taste and curiosity.
2. Preplan your meal
Go into the meal with an idea of what your meal might look like so you know what to choose rather than being guided by what is there.
3. Consider a plate model
When filling your plate to have 1/3 vegetables + 1/3 protein + 1/3 carbs so meals remain balanced. If you are on a lower energy budget opt for ½ plate vegetables and salad (out this on first to fill) then ¼ plate protein + ¼ plate carbs.
4. Limit multiples of each macronutrient group
Don’t have a full serve of four different types of meat or rice, potatos and bread… pick one, or two smaller half serves.
5. Manage portion sizes
If the choices are fatty or unfavourable then manage through reducing portion size and not eating a meal as big as you normally might of a lower kilojoule option.
6. Make choices as you normally would
If you don’t usually have cakes, dessert or full hot breakfasts, don’t eat it just because it’s there.
7. Have a plan
Where possible, get an idea of what food will be provided so when you go in you know what to look for and what your meal will be
8. Don’t experiment
It might be nice to try different foods at different times but if you are away to compete its not the time to be eating too differently just to try what is available
9. Maintain ownership
Maintain ownership over your food choices rather than letting the food choices available dictate how you eat and how you feel