I like to say that all athletes are "nutritional triathletes" because of the dietary transitions necessary to support the seasonal stages of energetic output. Moving from the racing to the recovery season requires sensible adjustments to one's nutritional plan along with those naturally made to training. It's a rhythmic and dynamic progression for each individual. It's a time to understand your own needs from incorporating food availability to macronutrient intake and your training cycle.
You can't have an "on season" without having an offseason. The nutritional transition between them can be very challenging.
Moving from one training season to the next, athletes should feel as though they are continually recovering from, building upon, and advancing their performance. Starting over from the beginning, or worse, from a deficient place at each season is not a sustainable approach to athletic success. This is something that gets even more challenging with age, and especially when moving from racing to recovery.
Making this transition all starts with understanding the base foundation to the aerobic diet and its distribution of macronutrients: 50 to 55 percent carbs; 20 to 25 percent protein; and 10 to 15 percent fat. The adjustment of these needs to reflect and support the varying levels of energy requirements. During the racing season, one's carb intake can reach up to 70 percent and during the recovery season can go down 40 to 45 percent. At this recovery time of the year, one should also increase their protein intake (up to 25 percent) for repair and rebuilding of muscles as well as for strength training along with an increase of healthy fat intake (up to 35 percent). Remember, at and below 55 percent of VO2 max, fat becomes the primary fuel.
Mentally this can be hard to process from the numbers to the plate. By following and using the seasonal progression of local, available foods will help guide you through. Not only will this support your nutritional requirements, it will help save you time by not having to think about what to eat, provide you with fresh, dense nutrients and flavors, and require simple preparation. For those living in colder climates with less availability to local food, one can use techniques such as sprouting, freezing, dehydrating and fermenting, to enhance and make available hard to find nutrients.
However, even the colder climates will provide the right food for the season. During the winter there are more proteins available, along with leafy greens like kale for its high content of calcium and folic acids to support bone and muscle recovery. When the spring comes around and it's time to begin the nutritional transition again, the earth has what you need. Healthy fats from grass-fed herds in the form of cheese and dairy, asparagus and strawberries for its vitamin C / antioxidant content to help flush out the free radicals from training, and new greens for B-vitamins, red blood cells and oxygenation to support an increased training regime.
Going from one season to the next sounds easy, but most have experienced the challenges of excess eating as a result of training habits, increased downtime and societal functions. A solution that I have found to work well is cleansing the body. The Athlete's Cleanse by Organic Performance is specifically designed to help folks re-align themselves to their own body as well as the seasons by taking the conscious effort to readjusting ones dietary intake. Doing so provides the body with an opportunity to lose some weight, clean out any processed, convenient and foods used for fueling along with a subsequent shift in training intensity and volume. A cleanse will also provide the body to focus on repairing muscles as the elimination of solid foods and carbohydrates from the diet will increase ones HGH production and subsequently their ability to heal.
You can't race if you can't recover and each of those stages requires its individual nutritional support. Making those adjustments is a steady progression of seasonal food availability coinciding by readjusting one's macronutrient intake. In the Northeast they like to say 'you can't get there from here.' You can, it's just a matter of knowing how.
Visit www.organicperformance.com for more information, recovery recipes, performance cleanses and retreats.
Adam Kelinson is the creator of Organic Performance, an innovator in helping athletes eat for a competitive edge by providing personalized guidance for shopping, food preparation and maintaining health. A lifelong athlete himself, Adam is a three-time Ironman finisher and has competed in many backcountry endurance events. Recognizing that people with active lifestyles were calling for help and guidance with their nutrition, Adam has written The Athlete's Plate: Real Food for High Performance, published by Velo Press in December 2009.