Over the last decade, in support of training periodization, there has been an emergence around the concept of nutritional periodization. Within athletics (track and field), the science and art of periodization is a cornerstone concept with recent commentaries emphasizing the underappreciated complexity associated with predictable performance on demand. Nevertheless, with varying levels of evidence, sport and event specific sequencing of various training units and sessions (long [macrocycle; months], medium [mesocycle; weeks], and short [microcycle; days and within-day duration]) is a routine approach to training periodization. Indeed, implementation of strategic temporal nutrition interventions (macro, meso, and micro) can support and enhance training prescription and adaptation, as well as acute event specific performance. However, a general framework on how, why, and when nutritional periodization could be implemented has not yet been established. It is beyond the scope of this review to highlight every potential nutritional periodization application. Instead, this review will focus on a generalized framework, with specific examples of macro-, meso-, and microperiodization for the macronutrients of carbohydrates, and, by extension, fat. More specifically, the authors establish the evidence and rationale for situations of acute high carbohydrate availability, as well as the evidence for more chronic manipulation of carbohydrates coupled with training. The topic of periodized nutrition has made considerable gains over the last decade but is ripe for further scientific progress and field application.
Trent Stellingwerff, James P. Morton, and Louise M. Burke
Jennifer Sygo, Alicia Kendig Glass, Sophie C. Killer, and Trent Stellingwerff
Athletes participating in the athletics (track and field) events of jumps, throws, and combined events (CEs; seven-event heptathlon and 10-event decathlon) engage in training and competition that emphasize speed and explosive movements, requiring optimal power–weight ratios. While these athletes represent a wide range of somatotypes, they share an emphasis on Type IIa and IIx muscle fiber typing. In general, athletes competing in jumps tend to have a lower body mass and may benefit from a higher protein (1.5–1.8 g PRO·kg−1·day−1) and lower carbohydrate (3–6 g CHO·kg−1·day−1) diet. Throwers tend to have a higher body mass, but with considerable differences between events. Their intense, whole-body training program suggests higher PRO requirements (1.5–2.2 g PRO·kg−1·day−1), while CHO needs (per kg) are similar to jumpers. The CE athletes must strike a balance between strength and muscle mass for throws and sprints, while maintaining a low enough body mass to maximize performance in jumps and middle-distance events. CE athletes may benefit from a higher PRO (1.5–2 g PRO·kg−1·day−1) and moderate CHO (5–8 g CHO·kg−1·day−1) diet with good energy availability to support multiple daily training sessions. Since they compete over 2 days, well-rehearsed competition-day fueling and recovery strategies are imperative for CE athletes. Depending on their events’ bioenergetic demands, athletes in throws, jumps, and CE may benefit from the periodized use of ergogenic aids, including creatine, caffeine, and/or beta-alanine. The diverse training demands, physiques, and competitive environments of jumpers, throwers, and CE athletes necessitate nutrition interventions that are periodized throughout the season and tailored to the individual needs of the athlete.
Louise M. Burke, Linda M. Castell, Douglas J. Casa, Graeme L. Close, Ricardo J. S. Costa, Ben Desbrow, Shona L. Halson, Dana M. Lis, Anna K. Melin, Peter Peeling, Philo U. Saunders, Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, Oliver C. Witard, Stéphane Bermon, and Trent Stellingwerff
The International Association of Athletics Federations recognizes the importance of nutritional practices in optimizing an Athlete’s well-being and performance. Although Athletics encompasses a diverse range of track-and-field events with different performance determinants, there are common goals around nutritional support for adaptation to training, optimal performance for key events, and reducing the risk of injury and illness. Periodized guidelines can be provided for the appropriate type, amount, and timing of intake of food and fluids to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competition. Some Athletes are at risk of relative energy deficiency in sport arising from a mismatch between energy intake and exercise energy expenditure. Competition nutrition strategies may involve pre-event, within-event, and between-event eating to address requirements for carbohydrate and fluid replacement. Although a “food first” policy should underpin an Athlete’s nutrition plan, there may be occasions for the judicious use of medical supplements to address nutrient deficiencies or sports foods that help the athlete to meet nutritional goals when it is impractical to eat food. Evidence-based supplements include caffeine, bicarbonate, beta-alanine, nitrate, and creatine; however, their value is specific to the characteristics of the event. Special considerations are needed for travel, challenging environments (e.g., heat and altitude); special populations (e.g., females, young and masters athletes); and restricted dietary choice (e.g., vegetarian). Ideally, each Athlete should develop a personalized, periodized, and practical nutrition plan via collaboration with their coach and accredited sports nutrition experts, to optimize their performance.
Ben Desbrow, Nicholas A. Burd, Mark Tarnopolsky, Daniel R. Moore, and Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale
Adolescent, female, and masters athletes have unique nutritional requirements as a consequence of undertaking daily training and competition in addition to the specific demands of age- and gender-related physiological changes. Dietary education and recommendations for these special population athletes require a focus on eating for long-term health, with special consideration given to “at-risk” dietary patterns and nutrients (e.g., sustained restricted eating, low calcium, vitamin D and/or iron intakes relative to requirements). Recent research highlighting strategies to address age-related changes in protein metabolism and the development of tools to assist in the management of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport are of particular relevance to special population athletes. Whenever possible, special population athletes should be encouraged to meet their nutrient needs by the consumption of whole foods rather than supplements. The recommendation of dietary supplements (particularly to young athletes) overemphasizes their ability to manipulate performance in comparison with other training/dietary strategies.
Graeme L. Close, Craig Sale, Keith Baar, and Stephane Bermon
Injuries are an inevitable consequence of athletic performance with most athletes sustaining one or more during their athletic careers. As many as one in 12 athletes incur an injury during international competitions, many of which result in time lost from training and competition. Injuries to skeletal muscle account for over 40% of all injuries, with the lower leg being the predominant site of injury. Other common injuries include fractures, especially stress fractures in athletes with low energy availability, and injuries to tendons and ligaments, especially those involved in high-impact sports, such as jumping. Given the high prevalence of injury, it is not surprising that there has been a great deal of interest in factors that may reduce the risk of injury, or decrease the recovery time if an injury should occur: One of the main variables explored is nutrition. This review investigates the evidence around various nutrition strategies, including macro- and micronutrients, as well as total energy intake, to reduce the risk of injury and improve recovery time, focusing upon injuries to skeletal muscle, bone, tendons, and ligaments.
Shona L. Halson, Louise M. Burke, and Jeni Pearce
Domestic and international travel represents a regular challenge to high-performance track-and-field athletes, particularly when associated with the pressure of competition or the need to support specialized training (e.g., altitude or heat adaptation). Jet lag is a challenge for transmeridian travelers, while fatigue and alterations to gastrointestinal comfort are associated with many types of long-haul travel. Planning food and fluid intake that is appropriate to the travel itinerary may help to reduce problems. Resynchronization of the body clock is achieved principally through manipulation of zeitgebers, such as light exposure; more investigation of the effects of melatonin, caffeine, and the timing/composition of meals will allow clearer guidelines for their contribution to be prepared. At the destination, the athlete, the team management, and catering providers each play a role in achieving eating practices that support optimal performance and success in achieving the goals of the trip. Although the athlete is ultimately responsible for his or her nutrition plan, best practice by all parties will include pretrip consideration of risks around the quality, quantity, availability, and hygiene standards of the local food supply and the organization of strategies to deal with general travel nutrition challenges as well as issues that are specific to the area or the special needs of the group. Management of buffet-style eating, destination-appropriate protocols around food/water and personal hygiene, and arrangement of special food needs including access to appropriate nutritional support between the traditional “3 meals a day” schedule should be part of the checklist.
Ricardo J.S. Costa, Beat Knechtle, Mark Tarnopolsky, and Martin D. Hoffman
Ultramarathon running events and participation numbers have increased progressively over the past three decades. Besides the exertion of prolonged running with or without a loaded pack, such events are often associated with challenging topography, environmental conditions, acute transient lifestyle discomforts, and/or event-related health complications. These factors create a scenario for greater nutritional needs, while predisposing ultramarathon runners to multiple nutritional intake barriers. The current review aims to explore the physiological and nutritional demands of ultramarathon running and provide general guidance on nutritional requirements for ultramarathon training and competition, including aspects of race nutrition logistics. Research outcomes suggest that daily dietary carbohydrates (up to 12 g·kg−1·day−1) and multiple-transportable carbohydrate intake (∼90 g·hr−1 for running distances ≥3 hr) during exercise support endurance training adaptations and enhance real-time endurance performance. Whether these intake rates are tolerable during ultramarathon competition is questionable from a practical and gastrointestinal perspective. Dietary protocols, such as glycogen manipulation or low-carbohydrate high-fat diets, are currently popular among ultramarathon runners. Despite the latter dietary manipulation showing increased total fat oxidation rates during submaximal exercise, the role in enhancing ultramarathon running performance is currently not supported. Ultramarathon runners may develop varying degrees of both hypohydration and hyperhydration (with accompanying exercise-associated hyponatremia), dependent on event duration, and environmental conditions. To avoid these two extremes, euhydration can generally be maintained through “drinking to thirst.” A well practiced and individualized nutrition strategy is required to optimize training and competition performance in ultramarathon running events, whether they are single stage or multistage.
Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Robert F. Chapman, and Julien D. Périard
High-level athletes are always looking at ways to maximize training adaptations for competition performance, and using altered environmental conditions to achieve this outcome has become increasingly popular by elite athletes. Furthermore, a series of potential nutrition and hydration interventions may also optimize the adaptation to altered environments. Altitude training was first used to prepare for competition at altitude, and it still is today; however, more often now, elite athletes embark on a series of altitude training camps to try to improve sea-level performance. Similarly, the use of heat acclimation/acclimatization to optimize performance in hot/humid environmental conditions is a common practice by high-level athletes and is well supported in the scientific literature. More recently, the use of heat training to improve exercise capacity in temperate environments has been investigated and appears to have positive outcomes. This consensus statement will detail the use of both heat and altitude training interventions to optimize performance capacities in elite athletes in both normal environmental conditions and extreme conditions (hot and/or high), with a focus on the importance of nutritional strategies required in these extreme environmental conditions to maximize adaptations conducive to competitive performance enhancement.
Peter Peeling, Linda M. Castell, Wim Derave, Olivier de Hon, and Louise M. Burke
Athletes are exposed to numerous nutritional products, attractively marketed with claims of optimizing health, function, and performance. However, there is limited evidence to support many of these claims, and the efficacy and safety of many products is questionable. The variety of nutritional aids considered for use by track-and-field athletes includes sports foods, performance supplements, and therapeutic nutritional aids. Support for sports foods and five evidence-based performance supplements (caffeine, creatine, nitrate/beetroot juice, β-alanine, and bicarbonate) varies according to the event, the specific scenario of use, and the individual athlete’s goals and responsiveness. Specific challenges include developing protocols to manage repeated use of performance supplements in multievent or heat-final competitions or the interaction between several products which are used concurrently. Potential disadvantages of supplement use include expense, false expectancy, and the risk of ingesting banned substances sometimes present as contaminants. However, a pragmatic approach to the decision-making process for supplement use is recommended. The authors conclude that it is pertinent for sports foods and nutritional supplements to be considered only where a strong evidence base supports their use as safe, legal, and effective and that such supplements are trialed thoroughly by the individual before committing to use in a competition setting.
Gary J. Slater, Jennifer Sygo, and Majke Jorgensen
Although sprint athletes are assumed to primarily be interested in promoting muscle hypertrophy, it is the ability to generate explosive muscle power, optimization of power-to-weight ratio, and enhancement of anaerobic energy generation that are key outcomes of sprint training. This reflects the physique of track sprinters, being characterized as ecto-mesomorphs. Although there is little contemporary data on sprinters dietary habits, given their moderate energy requirements relative to body mass, a carbohydrate intake within the range of 3–6 g·kg−1·day−1 appears reasonable, while ensuring carbohydrate availability is optimized around training. Similarly, although protein needs may be twice general population recommendations, sprint athletes should consume meals containing ∼0.4 g/kg high biological value protein (i.e., easily digested, rich in essential amino acids) every 3–5 hr. Despite the short duration of competitions and relative long-recovery periods between races, nutrition still plays an important role in sprint performance. As energy expenditure moderates during competition, so too should intake of energy and macronutrients to prevent unwanted weight gain. Further adjustments in macronutrient intake may be warranted among athletes contemplating optimization of power-to-weight ratio through reductions in body fat prior to the competitive season. Other novel acute methods of weight loss have also been proposed to enhance power-to-weight ratio, but their implementation should only be considered under professional guidance. Given the metabolic demands of sprinting, a few supplements may be of benefit to athletes in training and/or competition. Their use in competition should be preceded with trialing in training to confirm tolerance and perceived ergogenic potential.