PT on the Net Research

Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes


Many endurance athletes structure their physical training based on periodization principles in order to achieve peak performance during their competitive season. While many endurance athletes watch what they eat and sometimes maintain very strict or even superstitious eating habits, most do not employ the periodization principles of training to the nutrition aspect of their training. More often than not, athletes are physically and mentally prepared for competition but lack the ability to structure their eating throughout the year based on their physical training cycles.

Nutrition periodization is very important for any endurance athlete. By following the principles outlined below, the endurance athlete can use the food they eat to not only provide the energy needed to support their physical training and maintain adequate glycogen stores but also use food to maintain a healthy immune system and ward off illness, prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies, speed recovery from hard training sessions, lose or gain weight and positively alter body composition.

The following nutrition periodization principles are separated into the different general physical training cycles that endurance athletes - young or old, novice or elite - will encounter throughout a training year.

Some of the dietary recommendations listed in each cycle can be applied to other cycles, but they are categorized under their most applicable cycle below. And just as program design principles must ultimately be tailored to the individual, so must the below suggested nutrition guidelines be tested and adjusted to suit you and your clients’ individual needs.

Base (Preparatory) Stage

Do's

Don'ts

Intensity (Build)

Do's

Don'ts

Peak (Taper)

Do's

Don'ts

Race

Do's

Don'ts

Active Recovery (Transition)

Do's

Don'ts

Nutrition Principles that Apply Year-Round (Regardless of Training Cycle)

Do's

Don'ts

By combining the above nutrition periodization principles to an already periodized physical and mental training program, endurance athletes will undoubtedly be able to perform at the highest level of human performance possible for their bodies.

References

  1. Sports Nutrition: A Guide for the Professional Working with Athletes. 1999. Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, Editor. Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutritionists Dietetic Practice Group, The American Dietetic Association.
  2. Optimal Muscle Recovery: Your Guide to Achieving Peak Physical Performance. 1999. Edmund Burke, PhD. Avery Publishing.
  3. The Ultimate Sports Nutrition Handbook. 1996. Ellen Coleman, RD, MA, MPH, and Suzanne Nelson Steen, DSc, RD. Bull Publishing.
  4. Endurance Sports Nutrition. 2000. Suzanne Girard-Eberle, MS, RD. Human Kinetics.
  5. Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition . 1999. Monique Ryan, RD. Velo Press.