The New Year is here and it is a perfect time to re-evaluate your nutrition. As you might expect, we always encourage our readers to think critically about what they are putting into their body. We want you to understand in practical terms what “maltodextrin” or “natural flavors” are and how they’ll impact your performance. We also encourage you to think critically about the nutrients you’re putting in your body — the what, why and when of nutrient timing.

We also recommend that you avoid routine in both training and nutrition. If you ride your bike 10,000 miles in North America, it’s likely 60-70% of those miles are ridden in May through September. If you run 2,500 miles per year, they may come more consistently throughout the year, but it’s likely that your training volume increases and decreases with periodization. As much thought that goes into your training plans, should also go into your nutrition…and these plans should evolve in tandem throughout the year based on your goals.

Here are our 3 New Year’s tips to reviewing your nutrition and having a great 2016:

1. Be critical of the ingredients you’re eating. Much like avoiding apples sprayed with pesticide, athletes in 2016 have the luxury of choosing products with ingredients that they believe in. This is not to say that we recommend eliminating all processed ingredients, because some may serve a very important purpose to your athletic goals. Instead, we recommend reading ingredient labels, and then learning what those ingredients mean to your nutrition.

Examples: What’s the effect of Tapioca Syrup compared to SuperStarch? How does Casein differ from Whey protein and what would the effect on recovery be? You can read a little bit about different proteins here, and rest assured that we’ll be explaining some of these concepts in detail during 2016.

2. Build a nutrition plan that changes with your training. If it is the off-season and you’re lifting weights to gain muscle mass, build your nutrition for that period of time accordingly. If you’re putting the final touches on your race fitness — doing less training in hours, but training at higher intensity — build your nutrition for that period of time accordingly.

What you’ll find is that you can train higher volumes and receive higher quality if you build a nutritional plan that matches your training. That’s a win-win for any athlete. If you want to get started, here’s a post on the difference between race nutrition and everyday nutrition.

3. As you build or review a nutritional plan, remember that it’s almost impossible to track variables or changes in diet and link them directly to improved performance. This is also why nutritional studies are hard to control for — there are so many variables that go into your performance, sleep, hormones, stress — all impact performance regardless of how good your nutrition is.

What we recommend is that you set yourself up for success by having patience and allowing yourself to experiment with new foods or pre-race dinners in the hopes that you’ll be better over the course of years, not weeks.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, or click the icon in the lower right and we’ll get back to you on chat as soon as possible.