As an athlete, it’s a good place to be when you’re training well, eating to support training demands and feeling good.
Then you start to feel a bit off. Tired or flat. Which is strange as you haven’t changed anything in you diet, right?
Maybe that’s the issue. Not changing your diet whilst change is happening all around you.
Athlete training times, phases and intensities are constantly evolving as part of a periodised plan. Being aware of the body and listening to cues around changes in appetite and fatigue help you know if you’re on top of your intake. Using your periodised plan to anticipate changes and guide a weekly routine is where nutrition practice can really get next level.
There are some key times when diet will need to be modified to suit your training. Speaking with your coach to know when these changes are coming is important so you can have a nutrition plan in place as they start.
If you aren’t sure what you should change in your diet, the first step is being able to identify key shifts in your periodised program, and a dietitian can help you with this.
Some examples of when you might need to change your diet as an athlete are below.
1. Change in strength and conditioning program
Not only does the load change, the focus may also change as well. If you move from a hypertrophy program to a power program it may seem the same as you are still going to the training centre, but the body will be working differently and need different fuelling to recover and repair.
2. Taper for a competition
There are two important nutrition areas to consider here, both preparation for competition and managing the change in load you are undergoing before you compete.
3. Altitude training
Having blocks of altitude training may not always be common but they do change appetite, nutrient and energy usage in training and rest, so its imperative that you are on top of eating habits as you start that block rather than realise how tired you are half way through.
4. Training or competing in the heat
Even doing the same training load you are used to in the heat can be more taxing. So while you think you are on top of intake it can drain you and make it hard to back up for the next session like you normally might. Heat will also impact hydration levels and potentially gut health so its important to head into this well prepared.
5. Camps or increased training
If you’re eating out of home and training has increased it can pose more challenges around simply not having enough time or food to eat in the day or eat when you normally might have access to food. In a new environment you will need new strategies to maintain energy rather than compare to what you normally might do.
6. Rest and recovery periods
While it’s important to have a mental and physical break there may be some health areas to look at to maintain some consistency over the break so that returning is a smoother process.
7. Reduced training due to injury
Not only do you need to consider the change in training load there is also nutrition strategies that may help speed up recovery.
Don’t wait for nutrition to be something that happens to you around your training. Make how you train work for you by planning head and supporting what you get out of training with how you eat.