August 11, 2010

Period Problems… Not Just For Women

The minute you proclaim to the world (or even if you mutter to yourself) that you are signing up for a race, if you are like most folks you will pull together a training plan that will get you ready to roll. From the very start, a periodized nutrition plan should be devised right along with your training plan.

Your fueling plan during those big hairy, multi-week cycles is hugely important to peak performance and recovery. Yep, your post-race nutrition directly impacts your ability to quench free radicals, heal aching body parts and keep infections at bay. A bit of celebrating is fine by me, but day after day of beer and pizza following weeks of stressing the system can really mess you up.

On a daily basis, your intake should match the intensity of your effort and your day’s training routine. And if you are trying to drop some body fat, or are dealing with an illness or injury, your nutrition plan just got WAY more complicated.

So if you haven’t yet incorporated a specific nutrition component into your training plan, here are my 5 top-level recommendations regarding diet periodization, and what you can immediately do to stop the bleeding:

1)    Phases, Cycles and Balance.  Books have been written on this topic, so my puny paragraph can’t come close to giving you the complete picture.  You can start by getting a solid grip on:  a) the duration of your training (the longer the effort, the more food you need – duh); b) the intensity of your effort (this is where the carb/protein/fat balance needs to be tweaked to replenish glycogen stores); c) re-fuel during that magic window of time – within 20 minutes is ideal – after a hard training session, and; d) pay attention to how close you are to race day.  I will be providing much more detail on this in future newsletters, so stay tuned.

2)    Active Recovery.  OK, your race is over, and you’re likely thinking about cracking open a brew.  Hey, I don’t want to rain all over your parade, but keep in mind that your activity is ramping WAY down, your tissues are inflamed, your immune system is teetering on the edge, and your body is screaming for nourishment.  Give it what it wants!  Time to reduce (portion size AND number of meals), eat from the rainbow of veggies and fruits for optimal vitamin and mineral support, and stay hydrated.  Look over my weight control suggestions in the next paragraph for the ideal dietary program post-race.   Oh yeah, and put a lid on those beer pong parties, too.

3) Weight Control. My motto for racing is every ounce counts.  If you are shaving a few ounces off of your bike components so you can climb faster, just imagine what dropping 5 pounds from your butt will do.  My general rules here:

a. Limit high-fiber, starchy carbs during your base-building phase to 1 serving per meal
b. Consume fruits prior to dinnertime (and limit to 2 servings per day on low/no training days
c. Get in 5-10 servings per day of veggies
d. Eat lean animal-based protein at each meal for repair and recovery.  To get sufficient amino acids from the veggie world means consuming HUGE amounts of food, which will derail weight loss efforts, so don’t rely on the plant kingdom for your proteins
e. Enjoy 1-2 servings of healthy fats per meal.  A high-quality fatty acid supplement is a potent addition to your plan to fight inflammation and burn fat.

4) Supplementation. I have yet to meet any human being who consistently eats 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies, sufficient fatty acids, and the ideal blend of proteins, fats, carbs, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, etc. etc. ad nauseum, you get where I’m going here.  Unless you’re this person (and boy, I’d love to meet you!), be sure to incorporate high-quality supplements to support you as you tear it up in training and racing.  Remember, as athletes, you need more support than the average guy because your nutrient utilization is higher than that of a couch potato.  Start taking a high-quality multivitamin/mineral, essential fatty acids from fish or krill, extra nutrient support from Vitamins C and B to combat physical and emotional stress.  I highly recommend the products in our store because I can vouch for their sourcing, safety and efficacy – so look around and buy some.  Or buy some others.  But buy something and take it every day.

5) Overtraining. You know the signs:  fatigue, constant respiratory ailments, elevated morning heart rate, and poor performance are just a few.  When you stick to your training and periodized nutrition plan, overtraining is less likely.  Many athletes ignore the signs, and push ahead believing they can “work through it.”  Bad idea.  Playing catch-up on plans (you know the drill, doubling up on today’s training because you didn’t get it done yesterday) sets you up for disaster.  If you feel crummy, really crummy when facing the day ahead, take a break.  And, as always, match your nutrition to your activity level and take your supps that day.  Your body is oh so wise and is giving you an early warning sign to shut things down so it can do that hard work of recovery that it is desperately begging for.

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