It is becoming increasingly clear that adaptations, initiated by exercise, can be amplified or reduced by nutrition. Various methods have been discussed to optimize training adaptations and some of these methods have been subject to extensive study. To date, most methods have focused on skeletal muscle, but it is important to note that training effects also include adaptations in other tissues (e.g., brain, vasculature), improvements in the absorptive capacity of the intestine, increases in tolerance to dehydration, and other effects that have received less attention in the literature. The purpose of this review is to define the concept of periodized nutrition (also referred to as nutritional training) and summarize the wide variety of methods available to athletes. The reader is referred to several other recent review articles that have discussed aspects of periodized nutrition in much more detail with primarily a focus on adaptations in the muscle. The purpose of this review is not to discuss the literature in great detail but to clearly define the concept and to give a complete overview of the methods available, with an emphasis on adaptations that are not in the muscle. Whilst there is good evidence for some methods, other proposed methods are mere theories that remain to be tested. ‘Periodized nutrition’ refers to the strategic combined use of exercise training and nutrition, or nutrition only, with the overall aim to obtain adaptations that support exercise performance. The term nutritional training is sometimes used to describe the same methods and these terms can be used interchangeably. In this review, an overview is given of some of the most common methods of periodized nutrition including ‘training low’ and ‘training high’, and training with low- and high-carbohydrate availability, respectively. ‘Training low’ in particular has received considerable attention and several variations of ‘train low’ have been proposed. ‘Training-low’ studies have generally shown beneficial effects in terms of signaling and transcription, but to date, few studies have been able to show any effects on performance. In addition to ‘train low’ and ‘train high’, methods have been developed to ‘train the gut’, train hypohydrated (to reduce the negative effects of dehydration), and train with various supplements that may increase the training adaptations longer term. Which of these methods should be used depends on the specific goals of the individual and there is no method (or diet) that will address all needs of an individual in all situations. Therefore, appropriate practical application lies in the optimal combination of different nutritional training methods. Some of these methods have already found their way into training practices of athletes, even though evidence for their efficacy is sometimes scarce at best. Many pragmatic questions remain unanswered and another goal of this review is to identify some of the remaining questions that may have great practical relevance and should be the focus of future research.
Sports Med (2017) 47(Suppl 1): 51-63