Nutrition for Competition Cycle

by Developing Endurance: pp. 70-71
Kinetic Select August 2019


This book excerpt from Developing Endurance goes over nutritional strategies for pre-competition and during competition phases to maximize performance.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Endurance, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.

For endurance athletes, the competition cycle usually includes the build (precompetition) and race (competition) components. The build component is often high-intensity and high-volume work aimed at improving speed, power, and sport-specific strength. This adds stress to the body, and recovery is crucial to the athlete’s ability to achieve optimal performance. During the competition cycle, the training intensity and volume are also typically quite high. Therefore, athletes should not pursue active weight loss during this cycle.

Some athletes may want to restrict calories in this cycle to try to lose those last few pounds; however, this can be detrimental to higher-intensity training. Caloric restriction prevents the body from maintaining high levels of output and from recovering quickly after intense training sessions. The biggest mistakes made during this time of the season are not eating frequently enough, making poor food choices, and having inadequate fluid intake. The worst thing an athlete can do during the competition season is to significantly alter the nutrition plan.

Because of the higher intensity and frequency of glycogen-depleting workouts, daily carbohydrate intake should increase from the previous training cycle and should range from 7 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight. For athletes engaging in extreme training, daily carbohydrate intake may need to be greater than 10 grams per kilogram of body weight in order to meet glycogen resynthesis needs. This is not the time for athletes to deny their body the necessary carbohydrate that will be crucial in attaining their workout and recovery goals.

The recommended range for daily intake of protein remains moderate at 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Athletes can use the higher end of this range if their training requires frequent, intense speed training sessions and strength training sessions. The range for fat is similar to the range during the preparatory cycle with the exception of athletes training for ultradistance races; for these athletes, daily fat intake may be as high as 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. The higher fat intake for these athletes is needed because of the higher levels of energy loss from longer-duration training sessions. Fat is more energy dense and will help these athletes remain in energy balance. The athletes should focus on healthier fats such as polyunsaturated (specifically omega-3) and monounsaturated fats. They should consume minimal amounts of saturated and trans fat.

Regardless of the training cycle, recommendations for hydration are fairly consistent. Remember, though, that environmental conditions and travel must be taken into account, because these factors can make it more difficult for athletes to stay hydrated.


The popularity of endurance sports continues to grow worldwide. Now, from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) comes the definitive resource for developing the endurance training programs that maximize performance and minimize injuries. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

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