Just as training approach changes for each of these stages to produce desired race outcomes (i.e. peak performance), the type and amount of food/nutrients consumed should also change to effectively match the training effort put forth. Athletes have their macrocycle (primary nutrition goals to support peak competition goals) and these are achieved through specific nutritional adaptions for each of the mesocycles and microcycles. By adapting nutrition to match the physiological demands of each training cycle, maximal adaption occurs to elicit peak performance. This is the primary concept behind nutrition periodization.
This past weekend I had the fortune of attending the Richmond Endurance Athlete's Symposium. It's the second year the symposium has been held, and I was impressed by the overall presentation of the symposium as well as the professional line-up of quality speakers. One of those speakers was Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS of Fuel4mance. He's a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and also happens to be the personal Sports RD for the US Olympic Triathlon Team (cue Kristen sitting on the edge of her seat absorbing every word of this presentation). According to Bob, the benefits of nutrition periodization include the following:
Nutrition periodization sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be. In general, the athlete should eat to support (fuel) specific training sessions. "Eat to train, not train to eat," according to Bob Seebohar. Simply recognizing that our nutritional intake should change to match our current phase of training, specific macronutrient adjustments can be made to optimize nutrition for athletic performance year round.
"Eat to train, don't train to eat"
Pre-Competition or Build Phase
Main nutrition goals are to fuel sport-specific workouts effectively, reduce inflammation, simulate competition eating and optimize blood sugar response. Here many athletes strive to achieve calorie balance and consume a diet that is higher in carbohydrates and anti-inflammatory foods that will promote performance and recovery from hard efforts and races.
Main nutrition goals are typically to work towards ideal race weight, learn about iron stores, and consume a balanced diet that with the goals of building muscle, supporting immune health and decreasing inflammation.
As training volume decreases, overall caloric intake should also decrease while continuing to emphasize diet quality. The athlete fuels with the goal of preparing their body for peak race performance.
This phase begins after the last (typically peak or "A") race of the season. Calories and especially carbohydrates should decrease to account for lower levels of physical activity. Nutrition is focused on facilitating the process of the body resting and restoring itself down to a molecular level, while athletes should seek to increase their personal awareness of their emotional connection with food. While some weight gain is common, significant fluctuations in weight should not occur.
Right now, most endurance athletes are in the preparatory phase of their season, which equates to training that focuses on building endurance, strength and flexibility. Our choice of foods that build our daily diet now are an important factor in setting up the athlete for success once they reach the competition phase!
This weekend, I am excited be hosting my first nutrition seminar open to the general public to cover this topic of nutrition periodization (more specifically pre-season nutrition) in more detail. If you're local to the Roanoke area, I hope you'll consider joining me to learn more on how you can optimize your nutritional intakes now to produce the best training and racing outcomes later in the season!
Hope to see you there!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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