As you create a plan for your athletic endeavors, are you also considering how your diet needs to adjust as your training changes? You don't do the same workout day in and day out all year long and so you shouldn't be eating the same way all year either.
Most of us will have one or two 'big events' a year and a smattering of other fun, supportive events throughout the year. As your intensity and volume of training changes for each event, your diet should change too. These are three basic eating patterns to consider as you build your training base, increase the volume of your training, and then recover from events.
High-Protein, Muscle-Building Diet
As you build your base of training, you should follow a relatively high-protein diet. Your volume of training isn't high, but your intensity is, so stave off muscle fatigue and muscle soreness by making high-quality protein foods your dietary focus.
Consider though, that some protein rich foods are pro-inflammatory (red meat, cheese) and should be minimized while you emphasize anti-inflammatory protein rich foods (omega 3 rich eggs and wild salmon). For example:
- Choose whole omega 3 enriched eggs for breakfast
- Include grilled chicken or shrimp at lunch
- Eat wild salmon or organic tofu at dinner
- Snack on low-fat organic cottage cheese, plain organic yogurt or walnuts
Trying to gain muscle? The beginning of a new training cycle is the time to do it and you'll need to emphasize pre-workout and recovery nutrition. Gaining muscle requires a commitment to a vigorous strength training program, coupled with a small increase in calories to build muscle. Avoid exercising on an empty stomach and get a small but significant boost in calories by:
- Sipping on a carbohydrate-protein-creatine drink during the workout. Mix creatine monohydrate powder into a natural carbohydrate-protein drink, such as Xood.
- Recovering from the workout with a carbohydrate-protein-quercetin drink. Quercetin is an antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness associated with exercise. Mix whey protein with a quercetin-rich drink like tart cherry juice.
High-Quality Carbohydrate Diet
As your training volume increases, your need for carbohydrate are high and incredibly essential. Without adequate carbohydrate intake, your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) will decrease and your performance will suffer. You won't be able to reach your high-volume training goals (long rides, long runs, brick workouts, etc) and you will be at higher risk for overtraining syndrome.
Your antioxidant needs are also significant and when your diet isn't up to par, your immune system suffers. Antioxidants help repair damage in the body and prevent the body from 'rusting' from the inside out. Eat plenty of carbohydrate-antioxidant rich foods, such as: berries, plums, peaches, papaya, mango, prunes, dried apricots, black beans, kidney beans, red lentils, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and quinoa. Other high-quality carbohydrate rich foods to include regularly are oats, wheat berries, millet, barley, hummus and plain yogurt.