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High Performance Nutrition

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 05/25/2012
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Consistent high-level performance requires that nutrition be a daily priority.  You can never out train a bad diet.  High Performance Nutrition can be the difference between average and outstanding.  High Performance nutrition is not about consuming pasta and sport drinks. It is about eating to maximize health and energy production, minimize illness, accelerate recovery, and achieve a healthy body composition.  A true edge is gained by eating for health and performance.  Not just on game day, but every day!

The following section will provide information to create dietary habits that will help to maintain a high level of energy and have a positive influence on physical performance. 

During training, the chemical and structural changes in the body are associated with diet.  The body must recuperate between workouts to reach higher levels of fitness.  Often, the lack of progress or "staleness" during training can be related to poor nutritional lifestyle and not the training program. 

A balanced diet should consist of approximately 50% protein, 25% carbohydrate and 25% fat, keep in mind the ratios may change depending on your needs. The following are guidelines to achieve this combination.  After each guideline there is an explanation of why it is important.  Also there are meals available with a shopping list that meets these standards. 


Dietary Guidelines


Eat 3-4 main meals per day with calories evenly distributed throughout the day. Add snacks between meals when extra caloric intake is needed. It is not ideal to consume only one macronutrient in a snack. Combine all three (protein, carbohydrate, fat.) 


Text Box: Physical Factors:1.	Helps maintain muscle tissue.2.	Promotes body fat reduction3.	Reduces sluggishness and the onset of fatigue





It is important to keep food intake at a constant level throughout the day.  Skipping meals will not allow for the replenishment of energy stores in the muscle.  At the same time it will not allow for proper muscle recovery and growth.  Eat breakfast DAILY!  If you skip breakfast your body will have gone without nutrition for 18 hours.  This is not conducive to hard training. 

Secondly, an evenly distributed caloric intake through the day keeps the body's ability to burn calories elevated.  Practice, strength training and conditioning sessions usually take place before dinnertime.  This means that two thirds of your caloric intake should be consumed by this time to keep your energy levels high and allow for proper recovery.  Skipping meals to lose weight is counter- productive and will not allow for progress in the training program.

Macronutrient Intake


Protein along with vitamins, minerals, and essential fats are building materials essential for growth and repair.  Athletes' protein needs vary with the type and intensity of training, but are higher than the needs of non-athletes.  It is important to consume quality sources throughout the day.  Endurance athletes who are training regularly require an average protein intake of 1.2 - 1.6 grams/kg of body weight/day.  Strength and power athletes, especially those concerned with lean muscle growth may need 1.6 - 1.8 grams/kgBW/day.  It is important to understand that protein intake does not dictate muscle growth.  High protein intake produces an increase in water loss due to the removal of excess waste products when dietary protein is broken down.  This can cause a water imbalance and can promote dehydration and muscle cramping.  Therefore, an increase in water intake is necessary.  Daily water requirements are discussed later.


The following are good sources of lean protein:

         Chicken Breast                               Turkey Breast (not lunchmeat)



         Beef, lean                                       Lamb, lean

         Canadian Bacon                              Pork, lean

         Ham, lean                                       Veal


         Catfish                                           Pollock

         Cod                                                Salmon

         Flounder                                         Scallops

         Haddock                                         Shrimp

         Halibut                                           Sole

         Lobster                                           Snapper

         Orange Roughy                               Tuna 



         Milk                                                Yogurt (preferably Greek)



When it comes to performance, your body functions best when it is deriving as much energy as possible from glycogen and glucose - byproducts of carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates are the highest energy fuel you can get, yielding twice the energy of fat.  They are also the only fuel used during anaerobic activity. 

There are two types of carbohydrates - simple or 'fast acting' and complex or 'slow acting'.  Complex carbohydrates are best for sustained energy and should be the largest component of an athlete's diet.  Simple carbohydrates are beneficial during and immediately following exercise.  It is at these times that the body benefits from foods/drinks that can provide quick energy.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables provide an athlete with the best vitamins and minerals that are needed for optimal performance and recovery.  Vitamin and minerals have antioxidant properties as well as important roles in red blood cell (RBC) production, tissue repair and maintenance, etc.  In addition, fruits and vegetables help in hydration and also energy.


Text Box: Summary:1.	High in vitamins and minerals that aid in recovery2.	High in water content3.	GREAT source of carbohydrates



Starchy Carbohydrates



  • Yams
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Root Tubers
  • Squash


  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal




Text Box: Dietary Factor:1.	Foods that are high in refined sugar have lower vitamin and mineral content.2.	Many sweets are also high in fat (candies, pies, cakes, etc.)






Fat is an essential component of a healthy diet and is necessary for optimal performance.  How much fat and what kind(s) of fat we should eat are the questions.  There are three types of fat - saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated.  Saturated fat is found in animal products.  When eating meat, try to get trimmed and lean meat.  Monounsaturated fat is found in certain plant oils such as olive, canola and even coconut oils.  Polyunsaturated fat is found in plant based oils such as safflower, sunflower, soy, and corn oil.  It is also found in the following foods: avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and fish.  Your total daily fat intake should range between 20-25% of your total daily caloric intake.  Saturated fat should be limited to ~ 7% of your daily total caloric intake.

Healthy Fats

  • Avocados
  • Coconut (flakes, milk, oil, etc.)
  • Olives (whole and oil)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia, etc.)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)

Limit Saturated Fat Intake by:

  • Trimming visible fat off red meat
  • Buy leaner cuts of meat
  • Rotate your protein sources red meat, fish and poultry, etc.
  • Bake, broil, poach, grill, or steam foods.
  • Avoiding creamy salad dressings


Thirst is not a reliable guide for the need of water.  This is even more so during competition because of tension, anxiety, and large sweat losses.  Dehydration leads to premature fatigue, increased risk of illness, impaired performance, and delayed recovery.  A 1% weight loss leads to impaired performance; a 5% loss can result in some signs of heat exhaustion; a 7% loss may produce hallucinations and put the individual at risk for heat stroke and death.

Most athletes do not drink enough water before, during, and after exercise.  How much water is enough?  It depends on a few things; body size, exercise intensity and duration, temperature and humidity levels, and equipment.  The best indicator of hydration status is urine color and output, not thirst.  Urine output should be high and urine color should be light yellow.

Athletes are encouraged to weight themselves before and after training to determine the amount of fluid that needs to be replaced.  Fluid intake before and during the event will not fully replace fluid losses but partial replacement reduces the risk of overheating.  After the event, the athlete should continue to drink at frequent intervals until the weight has been regained.  Two cups of fluid is recommended for every one pound lost during exercise.  You should also be within two pounds of your body weight from the day before.

Text Box: Effects of Dehydration:1.	Fatigue2.	Deterioration in performance3.	An increase in body temperature4.	Muscle cramps and pulls  

Fluid Facts

You can lose body fluids without realizing you are sweating.

      During a session of exercise, you may notice next to nothing in the way of sweat on your clothing.  But do not let this appearance lead you to believe you are not losing body fluids.  When the outside air is hot and dry, sweat can evaporate quickly and you lose plenty of body fluids.  Also, during low intensity exercise sessions such as a long walk, your body sweats small amounts, but over the long run this adds up to a substantial loss of body fluids.

Men and women sweat equally

      There are no gender differences when it comes to sweating.  Both men and women sweat as a means of getting rid of heat generated during exercise.  And the more physically fit you are, the more you sweat since the body adapts with training by improving its means of losing excess heat.

Virtually all weight loss during an exercise session is due to body fluid loss

      Even though your body uses energy stores of carbohydrate and fat for fuel, this represents very little weight loss.  Instead, during an hour of exercise, large amounts of water equaling 1 to more than 4 pounds can be lost as sweat. It's your body's effort to keep you cool.

For optimal performance

Your body can only handle 32 ounces of fluid in an hour.  Sweat loss may be more than this, so to avoid dehydration begin fluid replacement before you start to exercise.

Always drink cool fluid if available because it empties from the stomach faster than warm fluid.  It is also tastier which will help you drink more.

Chose a sports drink over water only if you plan to exercise for an extended period of time (1.5+ hours), at a high level of intensity and/or multiple times a day.  Sports drinks can be beneficial in replacing fluids rapidly and provide carbohydrate energy for exercising muscles. 

Before you exercise

      Start 1-2 hours before practice or competition, drink 10-20 ounces of fluid.  Fifteen minutes before competition drink 8-16 ounces

During exercise

      Drink 4-8 ounces of cool fluid every 10-20 minutes.

After exercise

      Keep drinking fluids beyond the "thirsty" feeling to ensure proper hydration.  Sports drinks will help to replenish energy stores quickly after exercise. 


Determining Your Daily Caloric Needs

In order to begin a successful weight gain, maintenance, or fat loss program, daily caloric needs must be determined.  Daily caloric expenditure is the sum of a person's Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), average caloric needs of daily workouts (strength training, running and practice), and requirements for normal daily activities (walking, driving, running errands, etc.).  REE = 1 X body weight (in kg.) X 24 (see chart for individual REE).  Once REE is determined, the caloric needs of daily workouts must be determined.  Our workout plan will require about 1000 Kcal/day.  The requirement for normal daily activity is approximately 500 Kcal/day. 

      For a 200 lb. Athlete

      -REE                                =       2181 Kcal.

      -Daily workouts                =       1000 Kcal.

      -Daily activity                   =       500 Kcal.

      -Total Daily Requirements         =       3681 Kcal./day

Resting Energy Expenditure Conversion Chart

Body Weight (lbs.)       REE in Kilocalories             Kcal. Per day                                                                                       to maintain BW

115                               1255                             2755

120                               1309                             2809

125                               1364                             2864

130                               1418                             2918

135                               1473                             2973                            

140                               1527                             3027

145                               1582                             3082

150                               1636                             3136

155                               1690                             3190

160                               1754                             3254

165                               1800                             3300

170                               1855                             3355

175                               1909                             3409

180                               1964                             3464

185                               2018                             3518

190                               2072                             3572

195                               2127                             3627

200                               2181                             3681

205                               2236                             3736

210                               2290                             3790

215                               2345                             3845

220                               2400                             3900

225                               2454                             3954

230                               2509                             4009

235                               2563                             4063

240                               2618                             4118

245                               2672                             4172

250                               2727                             4227

255                               2781                             4281

260                               2836                             4336

265                               2890                             4390

270                               2945                             4445

275                               3000                             4500

280                               3054                             4554

285                               3109                             4609

290                               3163                             4663

295                               3218                             4718

300                               3272                             4772

305                               3327                             4827

Weight Gain

The type of weight an athlete needs to gain is lean body mass (muscle mass).  This can only be done through a proper strength training regimen and sound nutritional habits.  As a general rule, in order to gain weight you must consume more calories per day than your body expends.  The addition of 300-500 cal. per day above your daily requirement (REE, daily activities, practice and workouts) would add about one pound per week.  The key is to ensure that the weight gained is mostly lean muscle mass and as little fat as possible.  Gaining more than a pound per week results in increases in body fat, assuming that you are properly hydrated.  One pound a week is not a hard set rule.  For athletes that are more advanced in strength training, one pound may be hard to gain in a week.  Genetics is another important factor when it comes to gaining weight.  Proper strength training along with a sound diet will allow your body to make the biggest gains possible.  In some athletes, adding weight may never happen, but that does not mean they will not become stronger.

Weight Gain Tips:

  • If you get full with anything more than a small meal, try to add a little bit more food to each meal.
  • Try to eat at least 1.6 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. Simply put, if you weigh 220 pounds, you need to intake 160 grams of protein each day. This is not difficult; you can find that in a single 16-ounce steak, meats, dairy products, and nuts are all great sources of protein.
  • Start the day off right. Breakfast is extremely important if you are looking to gain weight. It helps you by building a solid caloric base, and it will give you more energy throughout the day so your training is more productive.
  • Try to eat something every couple of hours. Get into a routine where you know that if 2 hours have gone by, it is time to eat again. Not every meal needs to be as big as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but consider three modest snacks a day of 250 calories add up to an additional 750 calories/day. Over a 7 day period that is an additional 5250 calories or 1.5 pounds. This also means that you will have more energy ready for use and your training will benefit.
  • Choose quality "snacks" as your in-between meals. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk, or a bagel with low fat cream cheese and a yogurt are wise choices. Foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, trail mix, and bagels are great ways to increase calories and they are great sources of protein.
  • Try to eat at least once after dinner. Do not go to bed hungry. Your body needs energy when it sleeps. Again eat every 2-3 hours. If you eat dinner at 7pm and you're still up studying at 2am, you must fill those gaps. It is important however to realize that you will not be particularly active during this time of day, so it is better to plan your snacks for these instances. Having healthy snacks available will help you avoid the 1am pizza binge.
  • Get on the scale once every week. Weight changes that occur on a day to day, or hour to hour, basis will not reflect gains in lean body mass. Other variables such as water retention, time of day, level of activity, and how much you have eaten can be misleading. Chart your progress once a week and you will have a more reliable gauge of how your diet is working.

Fat Loss

Excess body fat restricts speed of movement by adding useless weight that must be moved at high speeds.  In order for many to perform at their optimal level, a shift in body composition (fat loss) is sometimes necessary. 

Loss in body fat is a tricky situation.  Many over-fat people have developed a lifestyle around eating, and in order to lose fat, there has to be a lifestyle change.  The method for fat loss is similar to that for weight gain.  First, the amount of calories needed to maintain a specific body composition needs to be calculated.  The typical suggestion is to reduce food intake by 500 Kcal/day, as this should yield a 1 lb. fat loss per week.  It rarely works out that nicely.  This explains why losses of more than 1-1.5lbs. of fat per week are unrealistic.  To lose 2 lbs. of fat in a week requires a 7,000 Kcal deficit.  To do that you either have to reduce calories by 1000 per day (which is a lot of food not to eat) or increase activity by 1000 calories per day which will lead to over training. 

The body does not like large-scale changes in caloric intake or activity expenditure.  Some might find anything more than 500 cal/day deficit is the most they can handle.  Any more and metabolism may shut down and fat loss grinds to a halt.  This explains why starvation diets of 800-1000 cal/day or less just do not work.  Metabolism slows; your body starts breaking down muscle and fat loss stops.  If activity is added this is even more pronounced.  The goal then is for a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories.  This should be achieved by an increase of activity and reduction of calories consumed to total 500-1000 cal/day, not a1000 calorie increase in activity and reduction of 1000 calories consumed.  Most athletes would do well with a 500-700 total deficit per day, which should yield about 1-1.5 lbs. of fat per week.  Coupled with strength training, running, and practice this should yield close to 100% fat loss (you will always lose a bit of muscle during weight loss) without slowing down your metabolic rate. 

Fat Loss Tips:

  • Stay hydrated. Loss of water weight will only be detrimental to your future productivity.
  • Increase your protein intake to about 1.6 grams of protein for each 2.2 pounds of body weight. This will help maintain lean muscle mass. Remember that this is still easily done with proper diet. Protein supplements are not necessary and are extremely expensive.
  • Train hard. Strength training along with cardiovascular training will help decrease body fat faster than cardiovascular training alone.
  • Eat evenly throughout the day. This will give you the energy you need during the day for your training.

Can you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?

The general answer is no.  It has been seen in total beginners and those few genetic freaks.  However, the body is either in a systemically anabolic (tissue building, fat and muscle) or systemically catabolic (tissue breaking down, fat and muscle) condition. 





Alcohol causes the body to burn less fat.  Additionally, alcohol inhibits the absorption of vitamins and minerals from our food and actually promotes their excretion.  When consumed post-exercise, alcohol also interferes with glycogen repletion and delays recovery.


Text Box: Negative Effects:1.	Alcohol consumption can lead to body fat increases2.	Reduction in reaction time, hand-eye coordination, accuracy and balance 3.	Impaired body temperature regulation4.	Decreased, strength, power, local muscular endurance, speed and cardiovascular endurance5.	Dehydration- Electrolyte Loss6.	Stunts muscle growth7.	Impairs blood sugar regulation


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