<< To USA Triathlon Performance Coaching Newsletter Home



For the month of June, the newsletter will focus on nutrition. Just like strength training last month, nutrition is a broad topic with many varying opinions and preferences. For optimal performance, nutrition is arguably as important as training itself. Without the correct nutrition, your athletes could be wasting hours of workouts. As everyone is different, each athlete will react differently to different foods. There are some general guidelines that are a good starting point to help your athlete, but in the end, through practice, each athlete will learn what works best for them. It is important that you, as a coach, are familiar with the guidelines and recommendations so that you can best assist your athlete in finding what works for them.

USA Triathlon Coaching Education

Coaching Education Updates

2019 Coaching Education Staff Update

Tim Yount (Tim.Yount@usatriathlon.org) - Chief Sport Development Officer

Kaley Espindola (
Kaley.Espindola@usatriathlon.org) - Director of Sports Programs 

Hope Graham (Hope.Graham@usatriathlon.org) – Recertification, Webinars, USAT CEUs, NON-USAT CEUs, Performance Coaching Newsletters and Find a Coach

Harley Nunan (Harley.Nunan@usatriathlon.org) – Recertification, Coach Costumer Service and Logistics for Arts and Science

SafeSport - safesport@usatriathlon.org

2018 Coach of the Year

Development Coach - Christy Lausch

• Helped Fielding Fischer to National Championship, Worlds Qualification

• Coached at FISU – did a great job

• Led Skills Camp and HPT (10 athletes on the Jr Elite circuit)

• Worked with Meg (Youth Program) to revamp the Athlete Development Model

• Professional, reliable, thoughtful coach

National Coach - Ian O’Brien

• Guided a range of athletes – Junior to Elite

• Eli Hemming – top ranked elite male, AOY (2 CAMTRI Wins, 2 World Cup podiums, 11th place finish in WTS race, 16th in Grand Final, 1 Mixed Relay win)

• Consistent production of DTE

• Kyleigh Spearing – U23 (4th ranked U23, FISU qual)

• Gillian Cridge – top ranked junior female, AOY

• Kevin Bishop – FISU squad

Paralympic Coach - Derick Williamson 

• Launched our first COS resident program in 2018

• Head Resident coach & coached the following 2018 performers

  • Allysa Seely – 6 gold medals in 2018 out of 6 race starts
  • Hailey Danz – 1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze out of 5 race starts
  • Mohamed Lahna - 2 bronze out of 5 race starts
  • Howie Sanborn – 1 silver and 2 bronze out of 7 race starts

Coaching Education Note

Coaches, I hope this finds you well and energized for the racing season ahead.  As another season of multisport racing is upon us, I want to take a moment to share with you all a few of the things we're working on here in the Coaching Education department at USA Triathlon.  Among the new technology rollouts and industry collaborations, we're also looking at the flow and scope of all of our educational content in an effort to create more opportunities for ALL levels of coaches to develop and refine their knowledge and craft.

Over the coming months you will see a fresh take on our digital content for those of you looking to pick up Continuing Education (CEU's), and some new approaches to the certification process overall.  This is all designed to provide value to all of our coaches wherever you may be in your career.

As you look over the calendar of upcoming certification clinics I encourage you to look for opportunities to expand your coaching skills and scope by pursuing a Youth & Junior, PARA or advanced certification (LII or LIII).  We are listening to your feedback and are fully committed to creating a Coaching Development Pathway that supports your growth as coaches that directly improves your ability to serve your athletes. As our sport evolves, we must all look for opportunities to innovate or risk being left behind. 

Your Coaching Education team is committed to pursuing the best resources and making the best content available in your pursuit of coaching excellence.

Bryant Howard
USAT Coaching Education Manager

2019 Coaching Certification Clinic Applications

Applications are now being accepted for several USA Triathlon Coaching Clinics. Dates and locations are below.

Level I Coaching Certification Clinics
June 21-11, Staten Island, N.Y.
June 28-29, Tempe, Ariz.
July 19-20, Charlotte, N.C.
August 23-24, Colorado Springs, Colo.
November 8-9, Orlando, Fla.

Level II Endurance Coaching Certification Clinic
October 21-24, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Level III Coaching Certification Clinic
November 3-4, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Youth & Junior Coaching Certification Clinics
August 23-24, Colorado Springs, Colo.
November 8-9, Orlando, Fla.

Paratriathlon Coaching Certification Clinic
September 2-6, Colorado Springs, Colo.

 For more information, please click here.

Upcoming In-Person USAT CEU Opportunities

11th Annual BBMC Ironman Camp - 10 USAT CEUs
Aug. 02 - 04, 2019, Madison, Wis.

The Art of Triathlon Clinics: Grow your business, increase athlete performance & more! – 2 USAT CEUs
June 21, 2019, Staten Island, N.Y.

Training and Racing with a Power Meter with Hunter Allen – 2 USAT CEUs
July 25, 2019, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Updates to SafeSport

We all have a role to play in creating a healthy setting for sport. SafeSport helps raise awareness about misconduct in sport, promote open dialogue, and provide training and resources. When we work as a team, we can build a game plan to make sport safe ― for everyone. USA Triathlon has implemented an Education and Training Policy to strengthen its athlete safety program and to ensure the environments in its athletic programs are as safe as possible at every level.  The Center for SafeSport has recently made updates to their policy which USA Triathlon has implemented to improve the SafeSport program:
  • The initial SafeSport training has been converted from three 30 minutes modules to one 90 minute modular. Anyone who began SafeSport training after April 15, 2019 will complete one 90 minute module. The content has not changed and you can still save and come back to the module.
  • SafeSport refresher course now required annual. All coaches must complete the 20-25 minute SafeSport refresher course every 12 months.   

For questions regarding SafeSport compliance please contact Chelsea Earl, USA Triathlon SafeSport Compliance Coordinator - Email: Chelsea.earl@usatriathlon.org Phone: (719)955-2805 


If you have not received your LearnUpon invite, please email coaching@usatriathlon.org

USA Triathlon Certified Coach Logo 

Any coach who would like to use the designated USAT logo needs to fill out a Logo Use Application and send it to Kelsey Couts Kelsey.Couts@usatriathlon.org.

Find A Coach


1) Go to www.usatriathlon.org

2) Login using your membership number + password

3) Click on "Welcome NAME" to reveal a drop-down menu

4) Click on "My Account" - this will redirect you to the membership.usatriathlon.org database where you will login again using your membership number and PW

5) Click on "COACH" to reveal options to: Update Directory, Download Your Coaching Certificate, etc.

6) Select "DIRECTORY" to view/update your profile.

TIP: You will have the option to upload a photo - we recommend a high quality headshot to rather than a candid or race photo.  Research indicates that coaches with a high quality professional looking photo produce a higher response rate from prospective athletes.

NCAA Recruitment Combines

USA Triathlon’s NCAA program is thriving. With 30 current programs, institutions are finding triathlon is a great addition to their varsity sport’s menus. In an effort to support recruitment needs, USAT has established junior high/high school combines. Our focus is to expose young women to the sport and help our institutions with recruitment.  

What is a combine? These are short time trials in swim (100 meters in a pool) and run (1600 meters on a track). They will either take place on a college campus, a community center with a track or a high school where access to a facility can be granted. We are going to hold 10 combines this season, in areas of the country where we believe athlete interest might be greatest. We are pushing for August or September for most of these to occur. Date will be driven more by venue accessibility.

Currently we are looking for those interested in supporting our program in three areas:

1. Leading one of our combines which includes securing a location and date (modest stipend to be paid)

2. Volunteering for a combine to help track athletes during their time trials

3. Identifying junior high and high school female athletes who might want to partake in a combine if one is in their respective location.  We will support a stipend payment to any school that recruits ten or more athletes to attend the combine.

If any of these three apply, please reach back to Tim.yount@usatriathlon.org for more information.

Coaches – We Want to Hear From You!

It is extremely important to USA Triathlon that we are supporting our coaches to highest level possible. With that being said, we want to hear from you on where we can further assist you on reaching your goals. Where are we doing great? How can we improve? All comments and suggestions are valued. Please email Hope.Graham@usatriathlon.org with all notes.

Virtual Race Director Certification

USA Triathlon is putting on a Virtual Race Director Certification course on June 26-27. The course will be live so you’ll have the opportunity to interact with others in the class as well as ask questions about race directing. This is perfect for coaches that are looking to put on quality events for their athletes or for clubs that they work with. The certification course is also a great way to pick up 5 USAT Continued Education Units for Coaching Recertification. Registration is now open, please email todd.brewer@usatriathlon.org for more information.

8,000 Youth Memberships to Giveaway 

We are pleased to share the success of our May membership Buy One Give One promotion. For all USA Triathlon adult annual memberships renewed or purchased in the month of May, the Foundation is donating one youth digital membership to a child in need. With the support of the triathlon community, we are now able to donate over 8,000 youth digital memberships! If you are interested or know anyone who would be please share the following link to access the youth scholarship form to be considered for one of these free memberships https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfiFBV3flMR0ml9dj9BNzxs6MWMj7_dPJrioPm__rg81_qkPA/viewform?usp=sf_link 

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact youth@usatriathlon.org


Basic Nutrition
By Harley Nunan – BSc Nutrition & Health, MSc Sports Science & Health, USAT LI, USATF LI, USAW LI, USASwim 202, USAC LIII, Personal Trainer Certified

Nutrition is an essential part of training and racing. Your athlete will never reach their full potential without optimal nutrition. It is important that you, as a coach, make sure that your athlete has a good understanding of how to fuel their body correctly. This will in turn contribute to a better quality of training, better performances and less injuries and illnesses. Nutrition affects many factors of our athletes training and performance. This article will focus on the necessity of energy balance and distribution of calories.

Energy balance
Energy balance is a simple, but often misunderstood concept. We intake energy in the form of food and drink and we expend energy in the form of heat, through movement. Energy is measured in calories. To maintain body weight, our intake must match our expenditure. A positive energy balance is when we intake more calories than we burn — this results in weight gain. A negative energy balance is when we intake less calories than we burn, which results in weight loss. There are no exceptions to this. Our athletes often express the desire to lose fat and build muscle. It isn’t possible to do both at the same time. It requires a positive energy balance to build muscle mass and a negative energy balance to lose fat.
This often leads to the question of, ‘How many calories do I need to eat per day?’  There is no ‘one-fits-all’ answer to this. Everyone is different and there are many variables that affect the answer. In fact, there is no way to accurately measure this in practice. The simplest way to help our athletes manage their energy balance is by teaching them to pay attention to their body. If they often feel tired and sluggish and their performance isn’t improving, they get injured and sick a lot, then there is a chance that they aren’t consuming enough calories. If they are putting on weight, they are consuming more calories than they are burning.

How should their calories be distributed?  
Consuming the right amount of calories is the first step. To optimize performance, we must ensure that our athletes are consuming the right amount of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fat). Athletes do not need to consume a diet much different than the recommended dietary guidelines for Americans. Every athlete and situation is different, so it is important to find out what works individually for different situations.

Carbohydrates are recommended to make up about 45%-65% of our daily energy intake. This will be about 5 to 12 g of carbohydrates per kg body weight (lbs / 2.2 + kg). Carbohydrates maintain blood glucose levels during exercise and replace muscle glycogen. The amount required depends on the athlete's total daily energy expenditure, type of sport, sex, and environmental conditions.
It is important to understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits and milk products, but also commonly in processed and refined sugars, such as sweets and sodas. Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, beans and whole grains. Simple and complex carbohydrate both yield the same about of energy (4kcal per gram), but simple carbohydrates often lack nutritional value, where complex carbohydrates often come along with vitamins, minerals and fibers. Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seeds and dairy products.

Carbohydrate recommendations for training



1-4 hours before event

1-4g pr kg bodyweight

endurance athletes

6-7g pr kg bodyweight pr day

For endurance training and competition

7-10 pr kg bodyweight pr day

During endurance events lasting > (more than) 60 min


High intensity events

5-8g pr kg bodyweight pr day

Recovery after hard training lasting longer than 90mins

1.5g pr kg bodyweight after and 2 hours after

Recreational activities

5-6g pr kg bodyweight pr day

Protein should contribute to about 10%-35% of daily energy intake. Recommendations for endurance and strength-trained athletes range from 1.2 to 1.8 g of protein per kg body weight.
Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein cannot build muscle by itself. It is necessary to be in a positive energy balance and to consume adequate carbohydrates to build muscle.
The recommended amount of protein can usually be met through a regular diet without needing to supplement with protein products. Excessive protein intake can make it difficult to meet other dietary recommendations due to its satiety effect. It also increases urine production, which can lead to dehydration.
Good sources of protein include lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans and nuts.

Protein recommendations for training



For endurance training and competition

1.2-1.6g pr kg bodyweight pr day

During endurance events lasting > 60 min

4:1 Carbohydrate:Protein

Recovery after hard training lasting longer than 90mins

20g together with 1.5g pr kg bodyweight carbohydrates

Fat, like carbohydrates, is an important source of energy, yielding 9 kcals per gram. It should contribute to 20%-35% of daily energy intake, with limited (less than 10%) saturated and trans fats.
Consuming less than 20% of energy from fat does not benefit performance. Fat is essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K), and essential fatty acids.
There has been an increased interest in the benefits of a high-fat diet for endurance athletes. There is emerging evidence that low carb/high fat diets could be beneficial, particularly for performance in ultra-endurance sports. Studies show that at least several months of adaptation to the diet are required for the metabolic changes and restoration of muscle glycogen to occur.
Good sources of fat include, fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and dairy products.  

Harley Nunan – USA Triathlon Coaching Coordinator

Dieting Gone Too Far
By Marni Sumbal - MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

In many sports, it is considered beneficial to achieve a leaner body composition for locomotive efficiency — in other words, the less you weigh, the easier it is to move your body. Within the sport of triathlon, triathletes are not immune to this mindset and will often manipulate the diet in order to achieve a lower body fat percentage. Although there are safe and healthy ways to change body composition, triathletes can be very rigid and inflexible with their thoughts and actions. When a driven, perfectionistic, competitive, achievement-oriented triathlete is constantly exposed to diet discussions, advertisements, articles, endorsements and images on social media, a general interest in weight loss may manifest into an unhealthy obsession.

With so many ways to enhance performance and to optimize health, two of the most popular sought-after strategies by athletes include diet and body composition changes. When done correctly, performance may improve. However, it’s not uncommon for athletes to engage in unhealthy weight control methods, resulting in great emotional and physical consequences. Whether for aesthetics, competitive leanness, body dissatisfaction or in pursuit of an ideal “race weight,” athletes often place unrealistic expectations on performance and their bodies. What may start as an innocent attempt to lean-up or to lose a few pounds, can easily spiral out of control, undermining health, training, recovery, performance and mental well-being.

When your athlete feels pressure to achieve a leaner body composition, an increased fascination with nutrition, body fat, weight and calories can develop into an unhealthy group of eating behaviors called disordered eating. Typical disordered eating behaviors include obsessive counting calories, clean eating, carrying out food rituals, fasting, avoiding sport nutrition products, having an off-limit food list, or avoiding certain foods or food groups for non-medical reasons.

If you are concerned that your athlete may have an unhealthy relationship with food and the body, start the conversation with a non-judgmental tone in order to make your athlete feel safe and cared about. Making it clear that you care about your athlete’s health and well-being, you may say, “I’m worried about you because I’ve noticed that you are struggling to complete your workouts lately.” You may also say, “you’ve been experiencing a lot of injuries/sicknesses lately. It may be best to consult with a professional to make sure you can adapt to your upcoming training load.”

The most common precipitating factor in the development of an eating disorder is dieting.  What starts as a well-intentioned diet plan, slowly transforms into skipping meals, undereating, removing specific foods or entire food groups from the diet and sacrificing calories before and after workouts. An eating disorder is a serious psychiatric condition that affects all types of individuals. Eating disorders are complex and multifactorial. Interestingly, athletes are at higher risk for an eating disorder compared to the rest of the population. A disciplined, goal-oriented athlete can be guilty of chasing perfectionism. Feeling great pressure to succeed, restricting food can become an easy way to exert control. Constantly pushing the body to the limits, athletes don’t realize how much food and fluids are needed for training. Lastly, many athletes believe that leanness is an essential factor in improving performance. With these realities in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why so many athletes suffer from eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors.  

With several different genetic and socio-cultural triggers, risk factors for an eating disorder include dieting, need for control, weight stigma, body dissatisfaction, perfectionism, anxiety, biochemical imbalances, traumatic life events, behavior inflexibility, nutrition misinformation, low self-esteem, and being teased or bullied. With a strong stigma behind eating disorders, it’s important to show support to those who are struggling and to emphasize that help is available.

As a coach, routinely remind your athletes that optimizing performance should not require excessive training and restrictive eating. Resorting to destructive methods of manipulating body composition will only sabotage performance and health. Pay attention to any warning signs that your athlete may be eating too little and training too hard. Fatigue, anemia, compromised bone health, hormonal imbalances, hair loss, notable weight loss, lack of energy, a decline in muscle mass and strength, mood changes, amenorrhea, restless sleep, and overuse injuries are common signs of an energy imbalance. Inadequate caloric intake relative to energy expenditure will result in extra stress on the body – increasing the risk for injury, sickness and burnout. Encourage athletes to maintain healthy training and eating behaviors that will favor long-term health and longevity in sport. It’s encouraged to partner with a Board Certified Sport Dietitian to provide effective, safe and personalized nutrition advice to athletes. If you are concerned about an athlete’s weight or health, a Board Certified Sport Dietitian can counsel athletes who are struggling with the physical and emotional consequences of dieting. 

As a coach, how much emphasis do you place on body image? Do you often talk about weight loss, body fat or dietary trends to your athletes? Body composition is a sensitive and personal issue yet far too many coaches share an overvalued belief with their athletes that a lower body weight will improve performance. Inadvertently, you may be placing your own values and attitudes regarding weight, dieting and body image on your athletes. As a coach, you should never assume that reducing body fat or weight will enhance the performance of your athlete. Every athlete has his/her own optimum performance weight where the body functions the best and this body type is achieved by consistent training, nutritious eating and proper fueling and hydration. Acknowledge an athlete’s strengths beyond the physical, for athletes are more than just a look. Making remarks about body composition and performance can trigger or exacerbate disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. Don’t be the coach who makes stereotypical assumptions about the ideal body type for athletic greatness.

As a coach, use your power and authority. In today’s fad-diet obsessed society, it can be difficult for athletes to keep a healthy perspective on body image. Help your athlete understand the importance of maintaining a healthy body composition – even if that image doesn’t look like the idealized image seen on social media. Protect the physical and psychological well-being of your athletes by discouraging dieting and enforcing healthy eating habits.

Extreme nutrition habits are extremely trendy while discussions of health are lacking. Be a role model and encourage your athletes to care for their mental and physical health. Eating is not cheating. Meeting daily nutritional needs and supporting training sessions with proper sport nutrition is a necessary component of athletic success, and it keeps sport fun and health-promoting.

Marni is a Board Certified Sport Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and she is the author of Essential Sports Nutrition. Her business, Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, focuses on helping athletes reach athletic excellence through proper nutrition, fueling, lifestyle and training practices. Areas of expertise include race week/day nutrition, vegetarian diets, disordered eating and fueling the endurance athlete. She is a 14x IM finisher (including qualifying for the Ironman World Championship six times) and resides in Greenville, SC. with her husband Karel. For more info, you can visit her website at: Trimarnicoach.com 

Nutrition Periodization for Triathlon Coaches
By Bob Seebohar - MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II

As a triathlon coach, you understand how important nutrition is to support the training plan you create for your athletes. However, sometimes your athletes do not have the same realization so it is up to you to help them understand how to structure their daily nutrition to support their health and performance goals. This is where the concept of nutrition periodization comes into play. Nutrition periodization is a concept I created in the early 2000’s and has recently gained quite a bit of attention.

In brief, nutrition periodization means that an athlete’s daily and training nutrition plan should support the physical periodization and training load changes that you prescribe. There are specific nutrition goals for each training cycle and you, as a coach, can help your athlete implement these goals. Remember, nutrition supports physical training and can help your athlete improve their performance as well as improving certain health markers such as weight and body composition. The mantra of nutrition periodization is that food should be used to fuel the body, not as a reward for training. More simply stated, “eat to train, don’t train to eat”.

The following nutrition periodization principles below are guidelines for you to implement in your annual training plans for athletes in an attempt to assist your athlete with taking better control of their daily nutrition. If you do not feel comfortable with doing this (and you certainly want to remain in your scope of practice), reach out to a qualified Registered Sport Dietitian to assist you and your athletes.

Some of dietary recommendations listed in each cycle can be applied to other cycles but they are categorized under their most applicable cycle below.

Preparatory cycle (also known as base training)

  • Volume: low to moderate, gradual build
  • Intensity: low

Goal #1: Pursue active weight loss.
This is the only training cycle where active weight loss should be pursued. The key word is “active,” which means that athletes manipulate the macronutrients they eat with the sole purpose of weight loss. Macronutrient shifting is important in order to continue to feed the body but also create necessary deficits without following a starvation “diet”. Sometimes, physical training may be negatively affected with this type of macronutrient shifting, which is why it is placed in this training cycle. Daily nutrition should be comprised mostly of protein rich food, sources of beneficial fats and vegetables, with only a small portion of fruit and whole grains. The concept of Metabolic Efficiency Training is extremely useful during this cycle as it works to improve the body’s ability to use fat as energy and thereby, assist with weight loss.

Goal #2: Learn the “eat to train” mantra.
Eating to train is a simple way of making sure that the food and fluid “tanks” are topped off before workouts to ensure an athlete is nutritionally prepared. This training cycle is about learning what it means to eat to train, not train to eat. Encourage athletes to take small steps to achieve this by focusing on hydration or healthy snacking throughout the day that focuses on combining macronutrients and stabilizing blood sugar. It is important to keep in mind that since the training load is usually low, most athletes will not need to consume a larger amount of calories, at least not until volume and/or intensity increases later in this cycle.

Goal #3: Experiment and make mistakes.
Most triathletes do not know what specific food combinations or timing patterns of meals/snacks they can eat before each mode of exercise. Because triathlon consists of three different modes, it is important for the athlete to experiment with different foods before swim, bike and run sessions to determine which food combination has the best “gut response”. It is very rare for an athlete to be able to eat the same food in the same amount before each sport. Encourage your athletes to experiment with different foods and the timing of eating before each workout to learn what their body can and cannot handle. This trial and error is a crucial step in creating a race day nutrition plan.

Pre-competition cycle (also known as the build cycle or intensity training)

  • Volume: moderate to high, gradual build
  • Intensity: moderate to high

Goal #1: Practice race simulation eating.
It is extremely important that athletes practice race simulation eating during training well in advance of their race season. Because the gut processes calories very differently at higher exercise intensities, there should be specific race simulation eating sessions planned in an athlete’s training program. It usually takes a few of these sessions to craft the exact nutrition plan for race day so be sure to start these sessions early in the training cycle. Don’t let your athletes make the mistake of believing that since a product works for them during lower intensity training, it will be also work during a race.

Goal #2: Implement recovery nutrition strategies.
Contrary to popular belief, recovery nutrition does not begin after a workout is finished.  Recovery nutrition begins before the workout begins. In fact, it may begin days before the workout since it is the food and fluid “tanks” that need time to be filled before training. While replenishing carbohydrates can be important for some athletes after certain training sessions, it may also be important for some to incorporate more fat burning principles utilizing the concept of Metabolic Efficiency Training. Recovery nutrition plans have evolved over the years and simply do not include consuming as many carbohydrates as possible in the first 30-60 minutes following a harder training session.

Generally speaking, a balance of carbohydrate, protein (in amino acid form) and fat will prove to be most beneficial for the majority of athletes. A small percentage of athletes (think professionals or those following extremely high carbohydrate diets) will require a few different nutrition “tweaks” from time to time. Otherwise, blood sugar optimization and periodized carbohydrate intake should be the main focal points.

Competition cycle (also known as the race season)

  • Volume: moderate to high
  • Intensity: moderate to high

Goal #1: Don’t deviate from the plan.
This is usually the time of the training year when athletes begin to doubt certain practices, including their race day nutrition. If a structured nutrition periodization plan was implemented leading up to race season, there will be no need to deviate much since you and your athlete likely spent months determining what combination of foods and beverages worked best for their gut and performance. It is best to not deviate much from what has worked in the lead up to race season. Remember, duration and intensity of training and racing will have an effect on the digestion rate of foods and beverages. Liquid and semi-solid sources of calories usually work better for shorter distances and higher intensities while more solid foods can sometimes be tolerated better for longer distances and moderate intensities.

Goal #2: Avoid “nutrition temptations”.
Races have expos. Expos have new nutrition products. Teach your athletes to not sample these products the day before a race. Instead, encourage them to take samples, put them in their bag and save them for after the race. No surprises to the digestive system!

Goal #3: Mentally prepare for the next cycle.
As the race season concludes, you must constantly remind your athlete that training volume and intensity will decrease significantly and with this comes a reduction in energy expenditure. Macronutrient shifting will need to be addressed immediately after the last race. It’s not an easy discussion to have with athletes sometimes but it is necessary. Remember, it can take weeks to change a behavior and the more prepared your athlete is beforehand, the more successful they will be in adopting a new nutrition behavior change.

Transition cycle (also known as the off-season)

  • Volume: low
  • Intensity: low
  • Fun factor: high

Goal #1: Control calorie intake and PREVENT weight gain.
Most athletes do not participate in structured training during this cycle but rather, they engage in much needed recovery. While this can include some light exercise, it does not typically result in high energy expenditure. Because of the reduction in training load, reduced calorie burning and not quite fully adopted nutritional shifts to their daily nutrition, athletes are prime to gain weight during this cycle. It is best to educate athletes about blood sugar optimization, Metabolic Efficiency Training, and macronutrient shifting with the goal of consuming more protein, fat and fiber in the form of vegetables. Calorie control and reducing whole grains and starches is important until base training begins again.

Goal #2: Do the “pantry shuffle”.
Race season is over. Let your athletes know it is imperative to get rid of the energy bars, drinks and gels because they are simply not necessary during this cycle and are a source of calories that are not needed.

Goal #3: Experiment with whole foods.
With keeping goal #1 in mind, athletes should experiment with new foods, restaurants and different ways of preparing foods to enjoy different cultures, food experiences and to simply break the norm of the more structured eating plan that they likely followed during race season. Food first is the mantra now.

By combining the above nutrition periodization principles to an already periodized physical training program, athletes will be able to reap the benefits of taking better control of their nutrition which will lead to improved health and performance markers.

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, METS II, is the creator of the Nutrition Periodization and Metabolic Efficiency Training concepts. He is a USAT Level III Certified Coach, the owner of eNRG Performance (www.enrgperformance.com) and co-owner of Birota Foods (www.birotafoods.com). Contact him at bob@enrgperformance.com.

Newsletter Exam: 

USA Triathlon Certified Coaches can earn 1 USAT CEU by passing this newsletter exam. This newsletter exam can be purchased in the LearnUpon store. Each newsletter exam costs $9.99 and coaches are required to score 8/10 to pass the exam (coaches must repurchase to retake a newsletter exam).