January 22, 2018

Periodizing Your Nutrition

Successful triathletes know that periodizing their training is the key to getting the best results possible. Periodization is defined as the “progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.” When an athlete periodizes their training, they basically break down their training year into smaller cycles. Each cycle’s goal is different and works on a different aspect of a triathlete’s performance. One cycle may be to focus on longer and slower distances to increase endurance, while another cycle may focus on higher intensity efforts to raise an athlete’s lactate threshold and enable them to go faster while fatiguing less.

When an athlete changes up their training like this, their nutritional requirements also change. In order to get the most out of training, the foods you eat should change along with your training. How does this work?

Once we start thinking about food as fuel, it becomes clearer. When you are in your highest volume of training, your body needs extra fuel to give your body the energy it needs to get through your workouts. When in the offseason or a lower volume cycle, the goal should be eating clean foods and managing or losing any extra weight.

Nutrition tips for triathletesMany athletes make the mistake of trying to lose a few extra pounds before a race, but this is when you need to be keeping your body adequately fueled by eating more. The time to lose weight is not in the cycle leading up to the race, but much earlier during offseason or a low intensity cycle far out from your race.

Here are a few guidelines to help you periodize your nutrition along with your training:

- If you need to lose extra weight, stick with a high lean protein diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Keep carbohydrate intake to a minimum. This should only be done far out from a race when training volume is low.

- When your training starts to increase during a build phase, begin to incorporate more whole grains and complex carbohydrates into your diet. Stick with whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. Try to stay away from processed carbs, sugars, and fatty foods. Make sure to indulge every once in a while, but don’t overdo it.

- During your race phase, make sure you are taking in plenty of complex carbs to fuel your intense workouts. This is not the time to go on a diet and limit your calories.

- Just listen to your body and increase caloric intake slowly to discourage rapid weight gain. If you are not hitting your goal times and have trouble completing longer distance workouts, you might not be eating enough. If you start gaining weight rapidly, you may be eating too much.

A certified dietitian can help you create a custom nutrition plan. If you need some help creating a periodized training plan, consult a certified triathlon coach. Get your nutrition plan on pace with your training plan and you will be surprised at what you can do.

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