The Definitive Guide to Nutritional Periodization For Mixed Modal Athletes

By Evan Peikon
This article is for those looking to maximize both performance, and body composition concurrently. If you clicked this hoping for a cookie cutter plan then save yourself 15 minutes and close your tab. On the other hand, if you are willing to put in some effort and apply the info presented below it will go a long way. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way….

To start, the human metabolism is not static, nor are your needs in terms of fuel on a day to day basis. Since training volume/intensity, and consequently recovery demands, vary from day to day it only makes sense that your nutritional prescription match said fluctuations. Why then do we simply recommend someone consume X,Y&Z amount of calories/macro nutrients per day and call it good? If you are willing to put the time in to periodize your training then it only makes sense to do the same with your nutrition.

That being said, in this article I’ll discuss how to…
Calculate/ match you caloric intake with your training volume on a day to day basis, make adjustments relative to your goals, and choose macro-nutrient ratios that are appropriate for your individual makeup.

*Note- the same information presented in this article can be applied to make adjustments when increasing or decreasing volume from training cycle to training cycle (ie- a higher volume base building phase will require more calories than a deload week, a higher intensity phase will require a larger % of calories from carbs than a lower intensity phase with the same total volume etc).

So without further adieu….

Step 1:
In order to begin this process you must first calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the amount of energy your body expends while at rest (ie- the minimum amount of calories you must consume for your body to perform basic metabolic functions).

In order to calculate BMR I use the Mifflin-St. Jeour formula, which is touted as the most accurate method for BMR/TDEE calculation (another option would be the harris Benedict formula, though it is slightly less accurate). *

Note- the number you receive from the calculation is simply a starting point based on a large data set/ average human metabolic function. Metabolic Efficiency/Inefficiency, as well as damage can influence this number. As such, you may need to do some tinkering down the line.

Formula for Men:
[10 x Body Weight (kg) ] + [6.25 x height (cm)] – [5 x age (y)] + 5
Formula for Women:
[10 x Body Weight (kg) ] + [6.25 x height (cm)] – [5 x age (y)] – 161

BMR calculation example:
Sex: Male
Height: 5’10’‘ (177.8cm)
Weight: 200lbs (91kg)
Age: 24
[10 x 91] + [6.25 x 177.8] – [5 x 24] + 5 = [910] + [1111] – [120] + 5 = 1,906 calories

*Note- you can find calculators online that do the math for you, but I found it relevant to include the calculations so you know what the back end process entails. 

Step 2:
Once you establish your BMR it is time to figure out how many calories you need to consume on a given day in order to recover/ maintain your body weight (relative to your training volume/ intensity).

Training Volume/ Intensity Multiplication Factor
Rest Day BMR x1.3-1.4
Active Recovery/ Low Volume Training BMR x1.5-1.6
Moderate –> High Volume Training

2x Day Training Sessions

BMR x1.7-1.8

BMR x1.8-1.9

In order to figure this out you simply need to multiply your BMR by the activity factor that corresponds with a given type of day. So for example… At my height, weight, and age my BMR is 1760 calories. In order to figure out how many calories I need on a high volume training day I would multiple 1760 x 1.7-1.8. Which, would equate to 3000-3200 calories.

*Note- volume/ intensity are subjective measures. As such, you should try to step outside of your own frame of reference and be honest with yourself when assessing the demands of your training. 

Step 3:
Once you establish the amount of calories you need on a given type of training day it is time to apply an adjustment factor based on your goals.

Goal Daily Expenditure Adjustments 
Gain Muscle Increase calories calculated in step two by 5-10%
Maintain Weight Consume the amount of calories calculated in step two
Lose body fat Decrease calories calculated in step two by 10-15%

Since my goal is to gain muscle I would require an additional 5-10% increase in calories each day. As I previously stated in step two I need 3000-3200 calories on my high(er) volume training days (lets call if 3100 for the sake of keeping it simple). In order to apply the adjustment factor I would multiply 3100 x .10 (assuming I wanted to go with an aggressive 10% increase), which would equal 300 calroies. I would then add this number onto 3100 (you would subtract it from your total if the goal was weight loss). So, of my high(er) volume training days I would then consume 3,400 calories which would facilitate an increase in body weight.

Lets take this one step further now and factor in different macro nutrient ratios….

Step 4:
In the fourth, and final, step you will calculate how many of each macro nutrient (proteins, carbs, and fats) you will consume each day.

Approach Ratios 
High(er) Carb Pro: 25-35% Carb: 40-60% Fat: 15-25%
Moderate Carb Pro: 25-35% Carb: 30-40% Fat: 25-35%
Low(er) Carb Pro: 30-40% Carb: 20-30% Fat: 30-50%

*Note: %’s are relative to the total # of calories you are consuming. Protein, carbs, and fat contain 4,4,&9 calories per gram respectively. So, if you are consuming 2000 calories per day with 40% coming from carbs you would consume 200g carbs per day (ie- 2000 x.4 = 800 calories from carbs. 800 cals/4 cals per gram = 200g)

When deciding how to divide you macronutrients it is important to consider what your goals are, your total training volume, how well you tolerate carbs, and what your individual food preferences are. For most people i’d recommend starting with the moderate carb approach, seeing how you respond and then adjusting as needed. When deciding what % range to use within a given approach set your protein at 1-1.2 grams/ lb of body weight and then divvy up the carbs/fats as needed (you can go higher on the protein if desired, but know that it will not increase protein synthesis by any means if that is your reason for doing so).

Also of Note- the high(er) your intensity is (with total volume being equal) the larger % of calories you should consume from carbohydrates as no level of lipid adaptation will allow you to perform higher intensity work with fats as your primary fuel source.

So for example….
In the previous scenario I stated I need 3400 calories on my high volume training days. If I were to set my protein intake at 1-1.2g/lb i’d take in ~800 calories from protein (ie: 200 grams of protein) which would equate to 25% of my total calories. Since I am lean and tolerate carbs well I aim to take in ~40% of my daily calories from carbs, which would equate to 340 grams. Thus leaving the remaining 35% of my calories as fat, which would come out to 130 grams. Keep in mind this 25/35/40% (p/f/c) is simply what works for me, it is not a recommendation. I’ve gone as high as 60% of total calories from carbs and as low as 20%. Based on experimentation i’ve settled on ~40-50% as a sweet spot where I feel good, and perform well- the point being there is no hard and fast rule. You need to find what works for you based on your current training demands/ individual makeup.

What about post workout nutrition?
I’ve already covered this topic in depth. So, instead of going down that rabbit hole again I will simply recommend you check out an article I wrote titled, “Post Workout Nutrition for the Fitness Athlete” which you can find HERE.

Putting it into practice:
As I previously mentioned there is a high level of variability in metabolic function from person to person. Because of this you may need to make adjustments to your nutritional prescription after applying the formulas above. However, i’d recommend you follow them as closely as possible for 2-3 weeks before doing so (in order to get a baseline). Once you are ready to make adjustments you can titrate the calories up or down (or adjust the macro ratios) based on changes in bodyweight, as well as how you feel in and out of training. Also note that it may take some trial and error to match your training volume with the correct activity factor, so be willing to make changes.

*Note- There are various iphone apps that make nutritional tracking simple. Before you start playing around with the formulas outlined above I suggest you track everything you are taking in for a week first so you can control as many variables as possible/ see what your current intake looks like (If you are far off the numbers outline above I recommend you make incremental changes rather than completely overhauling your nutritional prescription all at once). Once you do begin to implement changes I also suggest making a general skeleton for what you need to take in on a given type of training day to keep a reference/ streamline the process.

Sample Days:
Below i’ve included some sample days to give you an idea of what constituted high volume, low/moderate volume etc. I’ve also included a snapshot of my nutrition plan to give you an idea of how i’ve applied the information above. *Workouts programmed by HPA coach Ryan Hughes.

High Volume Training & Nutritional Rx:
A. 1 PS+ 2 Sn+ 3 OHS; build to a tough set
B. Clean. Front Squat. Split Jerk; 1.1.1 every 90s x10 sets
C. Deadlift; build to a moderate 5 reps
6 Rounds For Time:
5 Unbroken Ring Muscle Ups
5 Unbroken thrusters @135
3 Sets:
2:30 Assault Bike @90%
2:30 Assault Bike- easy pace

Meal 1- 5 XL Eggs in 1 tbsp butter ,12oz sweet potato
Post Workout- 30g Protein/ 60g carbs (via whey/ highly branched cyclic dextrin)
Meal 2- 8oz 85% Beef, 1.5 cups white rice
snack- 1 Quest Bar, 1 small handful nuts (~30g)
Meal 4- 8oz 90% Bison w/ 1 tbsp oil, 12oz sweet potato, Grilled vegetables
Totals: ~3,300 cals 190g Pro, 330g Cho, 135g Fat

Active Recovery Training & Nutrition Rx:
40 Minute Row @2:20/500m
20 minutes low effort skill work & mobility Active Recovery

Meal 1- 5xl Eggs in 1 tbsp oil, 4 slices ezekiel bread
Meal 2- 2x 4oz Turkey Burger in 1.5tbsp oil 12oz sweet potato
Snack- 1 scoop whey 1 cup berries small handful macadamia nuts (~30g)
Meal 3- 8oz 85% beef, 14oz white potato
Totals: ~2850 cals 180g protein, 250g carbs, 130g fat

High Performance Athlete  was established in July of 2014 as resource for coaches in athlete in various fields of sport. Our Goal is to educate those in the fitness community about methods of optimizing performance via best practices in hopes of helping others real self actualization. HPA brings proven training methods, enhanced nutritional prescriptions, & lifestyle intervention/ recovery protocols to the table that cannot be duplicated.  If you are interested in working with an HPA Coach check out our services page where you can find more details regarding our exclusive coaching services, nutritional consultations and more.  If You’ve Enjoyed Reading this article you might also be interested in… Health Vs. Performance: Underfueling, Stress, & Recovery Post Workout Nutrition For Fitness Athletes

3 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Nutritional Periodization For Mixed Modal Athletes

  1. So I have a question on this when determining macro %’s. First off, I tolerate carbs EXTREMELY well. This is also Open season, so my training intensity is pretty high with relatively low(er) volume. M-W-Th-F are relatively mod-higher volume/intensity training days. Tuesday is low intensity Z1 active recovery/skill work. Saturday is a double session and Sunday rest day. I’ve calculated out my cals/day for each days activity factor also in regards to weight gain. I’ve calculated out my macro %’s for my training days, but when I think about my active recovery and rest days, I’m wondering if I should adjust my %’s of P/C/F. Do you keep these percentages relatively constant through the week until maybe you enter a new training phase where int/vol changes or do you adjust the macro’s daily according to training/lifestyle factors? For example, you have a 25/40/35 break up, but on your rest days or active recovery days, do you drop the carb intake and increase protein fats or just keep everything the same?

    • In regards to the training/ rest day macros…
      Personally I keep my macro ratios relatively the same on training/ rest days, though there may be slight changes (+/- a few % points) due to a lack of PWO nutrition/ slightly different pre-WO nutrition etc. If one if solely trying to manipulate body comp I can see a strong argument for cycling macros, but if the goal is performance or weight gain i’d stick to the same %’s (or within the same range) on the lower volume days as you will need those carbs to recover/ stay in an optimal hormonal state. Also note that I, like you, tolerate carbs very well so that plays a factor in what I do.

      Macros from cycle to cycle…
      I keep the macro ratios the same for an entire training cycle minus some tweaks in the first few days when i’m adjusting, then change them when he demands of my training change (though I don’t deviate too much as i’ve found a higher carb prescription works best for me in the majority of scenarios). One could change the ratios day to day based on lifestyle factors as well, but honestly the stress that would cause would likely negate and benefit. Also note that overall calories will have a greater magnitude of effect so as long as that is dialed in (and is the main variable that is changing from day to day) I wouldn’t stress too much about the macros being perfect every day (ie- if you want to go lower on the carbs one a given day and up the fats it isn’t the end of the world).

      And lastly… Once you dial everything in and get a baseline don’t be afraid to make changes based on your intuition/ how your body is responding.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, or if you need help trouble shooting further down the line.

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