Another guest blog for GGB from Rebecca Dent, The Endurance Coach, www.theendurancecoach.com
If you periodise your training to elicit certain responses or adaptations to get fitter, stronger and faster then surely it is common sense that you periodise your nutrition intake isn’t it? Do you adjust your nutrient intake to match your training demands?
What is periodisation of nutrition?
Quite simply nutrition periodisation is about matching your energy and macronutrient intake (carbohydrate, protein, fat) to the requirements of your training goals and demands on an annual, weekly and daily basis.
Goals of nutrition periodisation:
1) Optimise training adaptations (recovery)
2) Improve metabolic efficiency (fat burning)
3) Maintain/improve body composition
4) Optimise performance and health
5) Reduce the risk of injury
How do you periodise your nutrition intake?
Firstly you are adjusting the quantity of carbohydrate inline with your training demands. As mentioned in previous articles carbohydrate is a staple food for an endurance athlete and provides you with energy for your working muscles. But at the right times it is important you do not over rely on carbohydrates particularly sports products (drinks, bars, gels etc) in order to allow your body to become more metabolically efficient (better blood glucose control and a better fat burner).
As your training volume/load increases then your carbohydrate intake should increase and vice versa. It is important to get most of your carbohydrate intake in the form of wholegrain varieties, fruit and vegetables and keep refined carbohydrates for around training (e.g. before/during and immediately after). See below for examples of wholegrain and refined carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrate should only to be consumed around training; within 2hours before, during and immediately after. So if you are not training then you remove the intake of refined carbohydrate which will in turn reduce energy intake to match energy expenditure – it’s almost done for you.
It’s not just all about the carbohydrates either! Good quality proteins should be consumed with every meal and snack. When introducing strength training or increasing training load/volume then an increase in protein intake should follow. There is even some evidence out there to suggest protein combined with carbohydrate intake consumed DURING endurance exercise can enhance performance.
Fats are unsung heroes and together with protein are essential in the daily diet (carbohydrate is not essential by the way a matter to be discussed at a later date!). Fats are essential to health and performance and are involved in controlling blood glucose levels, satiety, immunity and reducing inflammation (more on inflammation and the role of fats at a later date).
So don’t be afraid to include them on a daily basis. Combined proteins and fats should be contributing to around 40-50% of your total dietary intake. See below for examples of good quality proteins and fats. .
The objective of your training will dictate the type, timing and quantity of nutrition.
The annual training cycle:
In the winter months this tends to be the more aerobic and strength training phase. During the longer slower training sessions you may want to enhance fat burning so you would need to be smart about your food intake to allow you to oxidise more fat as a fuel source during the session.
For example schedule your run to first thing and don’t eat breakfast until you get back or if you train in the evening after work don’t eat anything after 1pm (keeping your carbohydrate intake to mainly vegetables and fruit in the morning) and then eat after your evening session.
However for other training sessions during this phase you may also want to trial sports products around your training ready to use in the competition phase.
As already mentioned protein intakes will increase if strength training is added and a protein containing snack post work out will optimise muscle repair and growth.
Volume tends to decrease but intensity will increase meaning a greater reliance upon carbohydrate as an energy source. The use of refined carbohydrates within a 2 hour window around training (before and after) and during can be utilised in order to ensure a good quality session.
Carbohydrates will be key during this phase to optimise your performance. This is where your practised use of sports products will come into play from your build phase.
However whole-grains are the preferred source to consume with meals and snacks out with the 2 hour window. But during a taper where volume is reduced carbohydrate sources can be mainly provided via fruit / vegetables with a contribution of whole-grains.
Over do it on the carbohydrates during a taper and it is likely to lead to fat mass gain which won’t benefit your performance!
Don’t think however its just when you train that nutrition periodisation comes into play. The off season and rest days in the week all need to be planned out. On rest days, time off or during injury your carbohydrate intake at meals and snacks should be reduced relying more on vegetables, fruit and a small portion of whole-grains to keep to your requirements.
Protein intake should still be included with all meals and snacks to help preserve muscle mass and fats are still included daily. 3
The monthly and weekly training cycle:
Endurance athletes following a structured training schedule often train hard for 3 weeks followed by an easier recovery week. During the easier recovery week there is less need to carbohydrate intake and total calories so this should be taken into account.
Throughout a general training week there are harder and easier days and your dietary intake should reflect this. A high intensity training session may require carbohydrate intake beforehand to ensure quality whilst an easier recovery day / session may not require the same intake. The key things which you should consider are the quantity, type and timings of your food intake.
Periodising, planning and preparation are important to ensure you are eating appropriately achieving the maximum gains from your performance, whilst still looking after your health. Keeping a training and nutrition journal and writing a shopping list is a good place to start!
Image courtesy of Bicycle Images, Photographer: Farid