Nutrition Periodization

Athletes will spend months preparing for their event(s). But what is often missed is the nutrition program that goes alongside their training. I am here to say don’t wait until the week or even day before your event to try and hone in on your nutrition. It is important to create an overall nutrition plan that begins the first day of training and continues well after completion of your last event. This concept is called Nutrition Periodization. The concept was first applied in the 1940s when Soviet sports scientists discovered that athletic performance was improved by varying the training stresses throughout the year rather than maintaining the same training focus all year round.

There are various terms used to break-up an annual training cycle, but for the sake of this article we are going to use: season, postseason/recovery, off season and pre-season.

  • Season- only two things matter- performance and recovery. Proper fuel available to compete at their highest levels and subsequent recovery to ensure that a maximal level of performance can be sustained throughout the season

  • Postseason/ Recovery: goal of this phase is physical restoration (GI health and/or hormone rebuilding). This is where there is more of an emphasis on food quality.

  • Off Season: focus is on balance. In the context of an entire year an athlete needs to find balance between athletic endeavors and personal life. Bring calories back down to maintenance and work on areas that need improvement in their training.

  • Pre-Season: goal is to shift athlete towards consuming an adequate amount of calories and macros relative to the upcoming demands on their season. This can come in the form of creating an increase in the direct fuel source associated with the activity or simply creating a more appropriate caloric load.

Using a nutrition periodization model helps athletes focus on their nutrition long before their event and brings balance to what can feel like a strenuous training program.

Erin Butler