Run Fuel: the importance of periodization

Periodization is kind of a fancy word, but it basically just means this:

Doing different things at different times in your training cycle for optimal results.

So to apply that to nutrition, it is very simply eating in different ways at different times in your training cycle.

Marcia’s Tuesday topic is Run Fuel so I’m linking up to share a few things I’ve been tweaking lately.

Over the last few years, I tried a lot of fasted runs and more metabolic efficient ways of eating, as I shared quite a bit about in previous posts.


I still do the occasional run fasted but for the most part I’ve shifted back to high carb and fueled workouts and it seems to be benefiting my running.

However, the more balanced carb/protein approach had a number of benefits too as it taught my body to be a more efficient burner, using less fuel in distance races than I used to, even on race day.

I’ve come full circle in the last six months to find both equally important.  There are phases when teaching your body to burn fat, not sugar, is very helpful in the build toward endurance efficiency.

There are phases when you need to be fueled with high quality carbs to perform at a high level.

It isn’t necessarily either/or– it is both/and.

On a weekly basis, it can be helpful to have higher carb days and lower carb days based on the training and energy demands.

On a month to month basis, it can be helpful to vary the nutrient phases to achieve certain outcomes.

For example, in base building nutrition should be more balanced.  For someone who does not feel great on grains or higher carbohydrate intake, this is a great time to incorporate higher fat and protein.  As race specific training and longer runs pick up, higher carbohydates are necessary to stay energized and meet training needs.

And while we can certainly make nutrition very complicated and I can tell you the specific macro nutrients you want to aim for on certain days of the week, it can also be very simple:

Listen to your body.  Eat more when you are hungry.  Eat less when you are easily satisfied.  Eat extra carbs when you crave them.  Eat less when you don’t.

Our bodies are brilliant and are generally steering us in the right direction.

For those of you who do love all the numbers and data, we’ll dive in to all of this and more in the second round of the runner’s nutrition course.

Do you use periodization in your training and your nutrition?

Does your nutrition naturally change day to day based on your workouts and hunger?

I’m linking up with  SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run.


20 thoughts on “Run Fuel: the importance of periodization

  1. So interesting, and you make such a great point that our bodies will tell us what it needs. Lately I’ve just been eating whatever feels right, mostly because I’m not running high mileage or training for anything. But I agree that it doesn’t necessarily have to be very complicated, even during training! Great info.

  2. As you know the metabolic approach did not work for me but I still eat fewer carbs then I used it. My biggest problem is getting a lot of veggies in my diet…or just keeping up with them in my fridge! I love what you said about our bodies being “brilliant” because that is right on! Especially after long hard workouts of 90-120 minutes my body tells me exactly what it wants to eat! Love this.
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – My Mood is Like New England WeatherMy Profile

  3. I’ve been doing a very loose carb cycling for a few years now — I tried stricter once & it wasn’t for me. So basically I tend to eat more carbs when I’m more active, less when I’m less active (like now, when I’m not at all active, LOL).

    It can be hard for people with a history of disordered eating (but not an eating disorder), sometimes.

    For the most part, I feel I do better with more carbs. But it’s easier to lean out with less. A little frustrating at times!
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted..Can you be content . . .My Profile

  4. I don’t do anything planned like periodization or carb cycling or anything like that. I will do fasted runs, especially in the summer when I need to get out the door and go. I truly believe that those runs help me during races–my body does a much better job after training using fasted runs. I do much better as well with a higher protein diet than carbs. Idk if it’s because I’ve gone through menopause? I know that metabolism is quite different in the older runner but there is so little research on that. We aren’t a very big group to study!
    Wendy recently posted..In Pursuit of Happy JointsMy Profile

    • Sounds like you’ve done a great job of working with your body and determining what works best!

      I just read an interesting book by a 50 year old woman trying to get in the best shape of her life- and doing lots of interviews/discussing with experts on the older running population. It was so interesting! I randomly found it at our library- called “Older, Faster, Stronger” – she discusses nutrition a bit too.
      Laura recently posted..Run Fuel: the importance of periodizationMy Profile

  5. I have done low-carb long runs before (a snack before, but no fuel during). I think those really helped me during marathon training for my first BQ. Now, I sometimes skip fuel on a long run, sometimes I take it – it’s based on how I feel. I do tend to eat less carbs on rest days and more carbs on harder workout days, based on my cravings.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted..A Day in the Life of a Running CoachMy Profile

  6. I had never heard of periodization. I found it very interesting to apply in nutrition. It’s good to know that. Thank you Laura for sharing this information.

  7. Pingback: Zero Week: 2/5- 11 Weekly Wrap | Chocolaterunsjudy

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