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Stop Eating the Same Amount Every Day

Whether you’re training for an Ironman or swimming a varying amount of daily sessions, how many calories you burn, plus the muscles and energy systems you rely on, change.

Yet it's not uncommon for an athlete to report that the amount of foods and fluids they consume remains stable throughout the week.

This is a problem.

Gwen Jorgenson at the start line.

Nutrition Periodization: What Is It?

Matching your food and fluid intake to your training schedule’s ever-changing volume and intensity can help benefit your performance.

That's nutrition periodization.

Like a car, you need to provide it with enough fuel to run smoothly. Driving across the country? Not on half tank of gas, you won't.

Think about it. If you go to a spin class in the morning, you burn calories and may eat a larger than normal breakfast. Let’s say that spin class plus your daily energy needs equal 2,500 calories. Now, say you added a swim session in the afternoon. Now you’re combining the calories burned during spinning and swimming, plus your daily energy needs. You may require 3,000 calories. For some, that's an extra meal per day that they should be eating.

Can I Play My Hunger By Ear?

Mmmmm, no.

When a training session is intense, research shows that female swimmers have a hard time matching their energy intake to how much they burn. Plus, since athletes already require more calories than the average human, it’s common for athletes to under-eat without even realizing.

Since your training schedule is likely set in stone (if not, write out your week now), highlight what training days are easy, hard, and those that have multiple sessions. Now, you can visually see where more food is required to cover your calorie-burning bases.

Gwen Jorgenson biking.

The Whiplash Effect: Overeating at Night

When athletes increase their training load and don’t adjust for more food, they typically end up hangry at night and eat everything in sight. Why? Their bodies are screaming at them for more fuel, ideally quick sugars. Hence the whiplash effect of healthful eating during the day countered by cookies and chocolate at night while watching The Bachelor. Sounds sad.

If this scenario doesn’t align with your goals, planning healthful additions throughout the day can help. For instance, adding a yogurt and banana on hard days may help reduce cravings for sugar and carbs at night.

Take-away Message: Match Your Training Schedule to Your Eating

Plan ahead and plan to fluctuate how many calories you consume.

Depending on what sport you’re training for and a session’s duration and intensity, adding an extra snack and/or increasing the calories consumed during each eating event may help. For more elite athletes, work with a registered dietitian to fine-tune your plan.


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