Athletes that I’ve worked with will typically bring up nutrition as something they want to improve, and this is something that is hard to prescribe to people because the answer is usually (like in most things) it depends. Nutrition is heavily dependent on the size of an individual and what type of mesocycle they are in.
Before diving into the nuance of nutrition periodization, it’s important to understand on a more macro level what adaptation you want your body to elicit. Ultimately, you want to teach your body to use fats as a primary source of energy for low-intensity rides, in order to spare carbohydrates for higher intensity moments in an event.
Glycogen or Fat
We want to help our body develop this preference for fat because, in our bodies, we have 10’s of thousands of fat Kcalories stored, while only having about 1500-2500 Kcalories of glycogen stored in our body, and once you have depleted your body of glycogen, your ability to go hard is non-existent. So how do we develop this preference?
Developing Fat Preference
At the beginning of the off-season, the time right after the transition period, it is best to increase the ratio of healthy fats: carbohydrates. Specifically, good fats should be consumed (Avocado, Macadamia Nuts, Fish). You can train your body to become “Fat Adapted” by limiting the carbohydrate intake in the hours surrounding a low intensity (Zone 2) workout. Beyond this, doing fasted rides (where you don’t eat for 8 or more hours before) can aid in eliciting this physiological adaptation, but this should be monitored carefully because you may be under-calories and feel terrible, which is not the goal.
Carbs are King…Mostly
It should be understood that carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient in that if you don’t consume enough you will not be able to complete hard workouts or make repeated hard efforts in events when it matters. This is one of the few times that an athlete should not intake more carbohydrates than fats.