Nutrition for the Competition Cycle
For endurance contestants, the competition cycle typically consists of the build (pre-competition) and race (competition) constituents. The build element is habitually high-intensity and high-volume work intended for improving speed, power, and sport-specific strength. This adds stress to the body, and recovery is essential to the athlete’s ability to attain optimal performance. During the competition cycle, the training intensity and volume are also characteristically quite high. Consequently, athletes should not chase active weight loss during this cycle. Some athletes may want to curb calories in this cycle to try to lose those last few pounds or kilos; yet, this can be damaging to higher-intensity training. Caloric restriction inhibits the body from maintaining high levels of output and from recovering rapidly after intense training sessions.
The major blunders made during this time of the season are not eating regularly enough, making poor food selections, and having insufficient fluid intake. The worst thing an athlete can do during the competition season is to considerably change the nutrition plan.
Because of the higher concentration and frequency of glycogen-depleting events, daily carbohydrate intake should be increased from the preceding training cycle, and should range from 7 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight. For athletes participating in extreme training, daily carbohydrate intake may well need to be over and above 10 grams per kilogram of body weight so as to meet glycogen re-synthesis requirements. The recommended range for daily intake of protein remains reasonable at 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Athletes can use the larger end of this range if their training necessitates recurrent, intense speed training sessions and strength training sessions. The range for fat is comparable to the range during the preliminary cycle with the exception of athletes training for ultra-distance races; for these athletes, daily fat intake might be as high as 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.
The higher fat ingestion for these athletes is needed because of the higher levels of energy forfeiture from longer-duration events. Fat is more energy condensed and will help these athletes stay in energy balance. Regardless of the training cycle, proper hydration is a must!
In summary, athletes ought to consume a diet high in carbohydrate (8-10 grams per kilogram body mass per day), particularly during the days before competition. High dietary intake of carbohydrate alongside a brief drop in training volume can make the most of glycogen stores. Ingesting a carbohydrate meal of some kind (200 to 300 grams; could be solid or liquid) 2 to 4 hours before the race helps to optimise glycogen stores and performance. Though, one should be careful about ingesting too much food volume before the event and should restrict fructose due to the possibility for gastrointestinal discomfort with incorporation of large amounts of fructose.
- Bernadot, D. 2006. Advanced Sports Nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Gerard-Eberle, S. 2007. Endurance Sports Nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Ryan, M. 2002. Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. Boulder, CO: Velo Press.
- Seebohar, D. 2004. Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes: Taking Sports Nutrition to the Next Level. Boulder, CO: Bull Publishing.