Your Preseason Nutrition Plan

The weather is changing and slowly warming up for spring. That means the warm-weather athlete is gearing up for race season. Diet, just like training, should change with the season. Time and time again, racers tend to stick to the same old, familiar foods and supplements that they know and trust to fuel their bodies quickly and efficiently. Athletes are encouraged to maintain year-round fitness and nutritional habits. That way when they arrive at preseason they are more likely to be competitive earlier.

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The typical sports year is comprised of three parts: preseason, competition, and offseason. Nutrition can make or break performance. Preseason can last anywhere from four weeks to four months. Nutrition for preseason training should vary based on the athlete's goals. Typical preseason goals include, weight gain or loss, muscle building, developing endurance and speed, and perfecting skill.

More: 13 Ways to Maintain Your Weight Loss

Perfect your diet to thrive during the preseason.

Timing

During preseason as well as peak season athletes should fuel often, eating at least every four hours. Keeping a regular meal schedule is important because long, intense workouts paired with changes in calories may lead to fatigue and possible injury. If weight loss is an athlete's goal, quality nutrition should not be compromised. Carbohydrates, for example, are the foundation in every athlete's diet. Decreased carbohydrate consumption paired with decreased calorie consumption can be dangerous. Carbohydrate intake should never drop less than 300 grams per day for an average sized athlete. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for all activities in the body. Having adequate carbohydrate stores allows for greater blood sugar regulation which can prevent early fatigue. Fatigue surfaces quickly when athletes follow low carbohydrate diets (<5 percent carb intake). Therefore, the type of training should determine the macronutrient percentage and calorie intake daily.

More: Balance Carbohydrates for Better Performance

Hydration

Preseason nutrition should include adequate hydration at every workout. When entering a workout fully hydrated, chances are athletes will be able to train harder and perform better. Fluid requirements vary from person to person, so the best way to stay adequately hydrated is to stick to a schedule. Most "weekend warriors" or recreation athletes require approximately 11 to 15 cups of water daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. Several factors influence the need for water, including climate, muscle mass, physical activity, and diet. The goal of athletes is to consume enough water during training sessions to maintain 100 percent fluids lost through perspiration. Sports science research concluded that when competitions were held in hot weather, sweat losses (as little as 2 percent) may decrease performance by as much as 10 percent.

More: 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes

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