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Your Pre-Season Fuel Plan

By Brooke Schohl | March 21, 2017, 4:04 p.m. (ET)

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The triathlon season is fast approaching and it’s time to get a pulse on your fuel plan. Hopefully offseason has been an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate the body and mind to prepare for another season. Now it’s time to make some fueling adjustments so your body can meet the demands of the increased training load. Try these pre-season fuel plan tips.

Stay on Track During the Offseason
The offseason is a time to gorge yourself and eat everything in sight, right? Heck no! Don’t let Day 1 of your training also equate to the need for a complete diet overhaul. It’s much simpler to maintain weight and body composition by eating well year-round. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. It just means that most the time, you are eating real food — minimal ingredients with a focus on fruit, vegetables, fat and proteins.

Ensure Your Training Schedule Matches Up with Your Fuel Plan
Dietary requirements vary dependent on where you are in the training cycle. This concept is called nutrition periodization and includes the following cycles: the preparation cycle, the build cycle, the competition cycle and the transition (recovery) cycle. Pre-season most closely matches up with the preparation and build cycles. But there are major differences between the two when it comes to training and fueling. The preparation cycle is really the only recommended time for athletes to attempt weight loss/body fat loss, as workouts are generally not as intense. By the time athletes enter the build cycle, workouts are really ramping up and the opportune time to trim body weight has passed. The athlete cannot afford an energy deficit at this point, and risks injury and illness by skimping on nutrients.

Choose the Right Types of Carbs
In offseason and pre-season, most athletes can move away from grain carbohydrate choices and focus on the very best carb sources: fruit, vegetables and legumes. These sources are the most natural (minimally processed) and have tons of vitamins. Because so many of our food choices do contain carbohydrate, there really isn’t any danger in under-consuming this nutrient when the above categories of food are included. Grains are not an unhealthy choice, they are just one that I reserve for clients in the higher phases of training.

Get a Handle on Hydration Before the Heat Hits
It’s cool now, but the summer heat and humidity will be here before you can blink twice. Start focusing on fluid intake now, and ensure that you are assessing urine color daily to ensure you are staying hydrated. Urine should be pale yellow in color, except after vitamins, when it may be a brighter yellow. 

Make a Plan for the Season
Maybe this means recruiting the help of a sports dietitian or establishing an accountability check and balance system with your training partner, but whatever your strategy is make sure that you have one. All too often, athletes spend their timing focusing on the training, and let the nutrition plan fall to chance. Your season is too important to wing it. Make a plan: set nutrition goals for yourself and determine (before season starts) how you will check those goals off.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a solid fuel plan throughout your entire season. Pre-season is a great time to get this year’s goals down on paper and make a plan for yourself. Happy training.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS Level II is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including multiple IRONMAN races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at fueltothefinish.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.