Periodized Nutrition: Methods to Improve Athletic Performance

Emily Perry, a dietetic student will be posting a series of articles on periodized nutrition. Each article has been reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RDN, LDN, CPT

When we think of the term athletic training several things come to mind including a training regime that involves improving cardio or strength, progressively adding reps or distance so the individual can get stronger, and then eating a fresh, whole, unprocessed diet. In order to perform at your best, it’s important to pay attention to not just what you eat but the ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fat and the timing of consumption. Suddenly the concept of nutrition during training becomes more complicated. The term experts use for this type of training is called periodized nutrition. In this series, we will be walking through several methods explored and researched by dietitians to improve athletic performance for every individual.

           What is periodized nutrition exactly? A different set of ratios of macronutrient intake is needed for specific seasons of training. If you are a runner in the off season, more than likely your intake of carbohydrates is going to be less in comparison to when you are gearing up for a race. Periodized nutrition is a plan for athletic individuals to ingest a certain amount of carbs, proteins, and fats at specific times paired with a workout routine that matches the intensity of the energy intake. The interesting fact is that there are several different methods that can apply to specific sports or exercise goals. Some of the more researched methods include: training low (the intake of few carbohydrates coupled with intensive workouts), training high (strenuous training with high amounts of available carbohydrates), training the gut (the improvement of the gut’s ability to absorb nutrients), and training with supplements.           

           The beauty of this type of nutritional technique is that it is tailored to improve your personal goals. Carbohydrates provide energy to your body and can be used to withstand more intensive workouts for longer periods of time. Training your gut to absorb more nutrients is beneficial for endurance-based activities. Working out in a fasted state has the potential to boost overall performance, according to some studies. In the next couple of blogs, we will dive deeper into the specifics of each method and learn how to improve athletic performance.