As discussed in How To Plan Your Triathlon or Endurance Sport Season, triathlon training should follow a periodized approach where workouts get more race-like as your endurance event gets closer. Just as training is periodized in endurance athletes, nutrition should be periodized as well.
HOW TO PERIODIZE YOUR NUTRITION
A proper periodized diet should parallel an endurance training season, as it literally fuels the goals of a specific phase in training. For example when you are in your base phase, workouts tend to be mostly aerobic relying predominantly on fat as fuel. Therefore your diet should rely more on health fats. Whereas when you’re in a build phase of training workouts are intense and rely more on carbohydrates as fuel. Therefore you should include good quality carbohydrates to fuel your performance. The ratio of macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that you consume should be specific to works best for you. However, I do recommend that the amount of protein you consume stay the same year round. Carbohydrates should increase while fat decreases as your race gets closer. See the diagram below for example macro-nutrient ratios in each phase of endurance training.
BENEFITS OF A PERIODIZED DIET
One of the awesome benefits of Periodization is, if done correctly, you can literally turn yourself into a fat burning machine! By fueling your body with healthy fats (like avocados, coconut oil, eggs, olives, etc.) in the off-season you can teach your body to tap into it’s fat stores (which are virtually endless compared to amount of carbohydrate storage) to fuel your endurance performance. Come race season your body will be so used to burning fat, the extra carbohydrates you consume will provide even more or a performance boost. Beyond the performance benefits of a periodized diet, there are other benefits such as overall health and weight management as you’re not repeatedly spiking your blood sugar with carbohydrates year-round.
THE CLIFF-NOTES ON A PERIODIZED DIET
- Eat more fat and less carbohydrates in the off-season.
- Eat more carbohydrates and less fat in the race-season.
- Keep protein the same year round.
- Experiment with macro-nutrient ratios to see what works best for you.