Nutrition Periodization & The Best Nutrition for Athletes

Athlete eating an apple while marathon training

For athletes, it doesn’t just matter which foods are consumed, but also when they are consumed. There is a nutrition training concept called nutrition periodization that involves breaking a nutrition plan into discrete blocks to match the physical demands and physiological responses of the body. For example, distinguishing one’s nutritional needs in the pre-season, competitive season, and off-season, as well as trying different macronutrient ratios, can help athletes achieve optimal performance in their chosen sports.

Here is a discussion of nutrition periodization as an effective nutrition training strategy and how it can help athletes manage their iron intakes while training. The discussion will also extend to establishing a marathon training diet for maximum endurance and nutrient absorption.

What is Nutrition Periodization?

The main idea behind nutrition periodization is that the way an athlete eats throughout the year can affect how he or she performs during the competitive season. This is because nutritional deficiencies can develop if an inadequate amount of nutrients are stored in the body. Good year-around nutrition for athletes is important to maintain glycogen stores and a strong immune system that can bounce back from intense training sessions.

The ideal ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat should vary during different times of year. But athletes can also think of periodization on a more hourly, daily, and weekly basis too. When an athlete takes a rest day, the body’s energy demands are lower, which means that meals should look a bit different.

Ultimately, the goals of nutrition periodization are to align nutritional habits to support an athlete’s energy needs through various training cycles. If practiced effectively in the preparation, competition, and transition cycles, the outcomes will be a better body weight and competition, stronger immune system, faster recovery times, and metabolic efficiency.

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Iron and Nutrition Training

Based on sports nutrition studies, it is believed that periodizing one’s nutrition can also help manage an athlete’s iron when training. This is because the hardworking body of an athlete may require additional iron and nutrients than recommended as standard for sedentary individuals. As an essential part of hemoglobin, iron assists in the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide through the blood and to muscle cells. Iron supplements, such as Fergon, can help athletes meet their nutritional needs while ramping up their training regimens.

The Marathon Training Diet

It is also important to note that nutrition periodization is a key component of the marathon training diet. Marathon runners should eat at least six to eight servings of vegetables and fruit each day and focus on high fiber foods in the preparatory stage. During the intensity stage, energy bars, salt tablets, and four to six meals per day are recommended. For the peak stage, a lower fiber diet is recommended for marathon runners, as well as drinking at least 12 to 14 glasses of fluids each day. When it comes time for the race, many marathon runners carbo-load a couple nights before the race and consistently snack on high carb foods on the day before the race. During a marathoner’s active recovery period, this is a time to try new foods and reintroduce items from all food groups that may have be omitted while training intensely. Timing is everything when it comes to marathon training and nutrition for athletes, which is why nutritional periodization plans have become so popular among endurance athletes in recent years.

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