With a low training intensity, the three-month base phase is an ideal time to shed extra pounds with a diet of protein and good fats. “Body composition is so important to the base period,” says sports nutritionist Drew Price. “You’re looking to reduce your weight and now’s the perfect time to do it because training intensity should be low.”
Improving your aerobic capacity is key, and this is achieved through long sessions at anything less than around 75% of your max heart rate. Nutritionally, this means you can reduce high-intensity fuelling carbs and increase the proportion of energy derived from protein and good fats.
“Depending on the amount of training you do, your carb intake should be 6-9g per kilogram of bodyweight,” says Price. “Protein nestles between 1.2g and 1.6g per kg, with fat around 0.9g-1g per kg.” You might think cutting carbs and increasing fats is counter-intuitive to losing weight, but an excess of carbs is absorbed into the body as fat. Good fats, like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, are also more satiating than carbs, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer.
Lower glycogen levels and intensity also guide your body to becoming a more proficient fat-burning machine. This is heightened by integrating fasted sessions, i.e. in a glycogen-depleted state. One fasted session a week, ideally before breakfast, is fine for many.
“I tend to do a couple of runs each week and a longish ride (2.5-4hrs) in a fasted state,” says Michelin chef and world age-group duathlon champion Alan Murchison. “However, this is for experienced athletes only, as there’s a real chance of bonking or running out of fuel.”
During the prep-phase you should also increase antioxidants to boost immunity. Cut down on pasta and rice, and take on more carbs from colourful vegetables.
The breakfast of Helvellyn Tri victor Alex Lawton isn’t a bad one to follow: porridge with water, pumpkin seeds, sultanas, cherries, blackcurrants and grapes.
Great foods for base nutrition
Good fats: Walnuts, cashews, avocados; almond butter; olive, flax and canola oil; salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, trout, mussels; liver, tofu, lean beef, sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Antioxidant-high: Tomatoes, red kidney beans; raspberries, red apples, raisins, blueberry juice; red cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, watercress, red pepper, butternut squash, onion; liver and kidney.
Fibrous foods: Oatmeal, cereal, whole grains; apples, pears, oranges; parsnips, carrots, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, celery, raw savoy cabbage, mushrooms, chickpeas, black beans.