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Nutrition for Performance vs Nutrition for Weight Loss

Jul 30, 2019

Author: Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD
[email protected]

The vast majority of people who exercise do so to be healthy and to reach, or maintain, a healthy weight. Some athletes are competitive at a local or regional level, and a few make their living as professional athletes. Nutrition should be individualized for each person, based on their goals. There are some differences in the nutrition recommendations for those who are looking to lose weight versus those who are looking to improve performance, but the overarching theme is to eat “clean”. 

Eating “clean” basically means eating healthy, nutritious, minimally processed foods MOST of the time. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a slice of pizza, a chocolate bar or a beer, but if you want to be successful with your goals, those treats should be infrequent. Many professionals use the word “moderation”, but then fail to define that word. One person’s definition of moderation might be once per day, while others define it as once per month. Depending on the individual’s goals, my usual recommendation for moderation is allowing for a treat about once per week. 

Eating clean and in moderation is never easy. If you are going to try to improve your diet, acknowledge the fact that you will likely run into barriers during the process. It’s best not to get frustrated, but to remind yourself of your goals & work through whatever it is that’s getting in your way. Having a plan and a support team around you (family, friends, professionals, etc.) can be extremely helpful, as well.


Disclaimer–this is appropriate for an average, healthy person who is not trying to gain or lose weight, manage a chronic disease or train for an athletic event):



Plain oatmeal with 1/4 cup walnuts & sweetened with 1/2 cup blueberries


Sandwich with lean turkey breast, avocado, sprouts and mustard on whole grain bread with a veggies-only salad with oil & vinegar


Apple with 1 ounce of cheese


Grilled chicken breast (marinated in olive oil & garlic) with 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup roasted carrots


Small piece of dark chocolate OR 4 ounces of wine

Here are some healthy high-calorie items that those who are training can include in their day. Those trying to lose weight should probably not include them too often.

Healthy high-calorie foods to include any time:
– Nuts of all kinds
– Nut butters of all kinds
– Smart Balance or other vegetable-based spreads
– Olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil
– Avocado
– Olives
– Granola

Moderately healthy high-calorie foods to include sometimes:
– Eggs
– Cheese
– Dark Chocolate



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