October 8, 2004, Newsletter Issue #204: Train Like Lance, part five

Tip of the Week

5. Nutritional Periodization. Again, a revolutionary concept. Actually, it`s only revolutionary in that it was planned periodization. Traditionally, cyclists would gain weight in the off-season and then try and burn it off at the beginning of the race year, which is a type of random periodizational training that isn`t too effective. But Carmichael figured that if Lance didn`t gain so much weight, he could instead focus on getting his body to use fuel more efficiently. Therefore, he cycles his eating throughout the year.

In the winter, he eats far fewer carbs because he isn`t burning so many calories. Because high performance isn`t necessary (i.e., no races), he will train his body to more efficiently burn fat for energy but restrict his carbohydrate intake. This comes in handy during the race season when he needs to hold onto glycogen stores as long as possible. So by withholding some carbs (he still eats some and never approaches anything resembling an Atkins approach), Lance trains his system to be more efficient.

During the season this will change and he`ll add more and more carbs as the races get more intense. Your body will not function at its highest level without carbs (which you know if you`ve read almost anything I`ve written). So as Lance starts to race, his diet becomes more carb-oriented. During the Tour, Armstrong may consume up to 1000 grams (4,000 calories) in carbohydrates alone. Carmichael says, "If Lance tried to race on a low-carb diet, he`d die."

If this strategy sounds familiar, it`s because we`re always prescribing similar eating styles at Beachbody, especially for P90X. Some form of periodizational nutrition works for almost every individual because it`s very rare that we do the same thing, in the same way, throughout the year. In a very basic sense, proteins make muscle, fats make the body function properly, and carbs give it energy for both athletics and brain function. So the more sedentary you are, the fewer carbs you need, but as your activity level changes, your carb level must change too if you want to perform your best.

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