Matching Nutrition to Your Evolving Training This Spring

Train right with tips and tricks and of the trade from Chris Carmichael and Carmichael Training Systems.

Apr 18, 2006
Outside Magazine
Carmichael Training Systems

Carmichael Training SystemsTM

Congratulations! Those long, often cold miles that predominate your winter foundation training are coming to an end. For many of us, the coming spring and summer indicates that it's time for some real preparatory work to begin.

The concept of periodization divides your training into small, distinct, goal-oriented segments. These dynamic training phases (Foundation, Preparation, Specialization, and Transition) all place different demands on your mind and body. This type of program focuses on gradually reaching peak performance through a planned series of steps and the philosophy behind it applies to all aspects of your training, including nutrition.

Because your training load is changing, your nutritional demands need to change accordingly. Your nutrition plan must meet the energy, nutrition, and repair demands your training imposes on your body. When you're eating enough of the right foods, the carbohydrate stores that supply so much energy for workout performance will be replenished between the end of the day's workout and the beginning of the next day's. Similarly, matching your food intake to your training helps ensure you're getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maximize both performance and health.

As the name implies, the Preparation Period of your periodized training program prepares you for competition or a specific goal. For most people who have summer sports goals, the Preparation Period applies to the spring months (March to May/June). While the previous Foundation Period focuses on longer, lower-intensity workouts that develop aerobic conditioning, the Preparation Period is characterized by interval efforts near your maximum sustainable pace or intensity. You have developed a strong aerobic base, and now it's time to push the pace in training so you can go faster and longer.

Your typical weekend rides or runs will still be long, if not longer, than your winter outings, and will include periods of higher intensity. These increased workloads mean you will have increased carbohydrate needs. How much? Likely around 3.0 to 3.5 grams per pound of body weight. Your protein requirement will go up as well to the 0.6 to 0.7 grams per pound range. Overall, your total caloric intake should only increase by about 15 percent over your nutrition program from the winter. The relative ratios of carbohydrate, protein, and fat don't need to change, and this 15 percent increase in energy intake can simply come from making small increases in portion size.

While these guidelines address the issue of macronutrient demands, they do not consider the importance of choosing quality macronutrients. The question remains: Which food choices are the healthiest examples of carbohydrate, protein, and fat?

When we consume food, we get everything within that food product, good and bad. While the sugars in a doughnut and an orange both potentially end up as liver and muscle glycogen, the fruit has several advantages over the doughnut. It is rich in antioxidants and free of saturated fats. It also contains much more fiber. Here are some examples of excellent food choices for all three macronutrients:

Quality Carbohydrates:
Cooked potato with skin: 50 grams/cup
Brown rice: 45 grams/cup
Pasta: 40 grams/cup
Black beans: 40 grams/cup
Large banana: 30 grams
Large pear: 25 grams
Watermelon: 11 grams/cup

Quality Protein:
Soybeans: 29 grams/cup (the only vegetable source of complete protein)
Lean red meats: 7 grams/ounce
White meat chicken and turkey: 7 grams/ounce
Fish: 7 grams/ounce
Egg: approx. 6 grams per egg

Quality Fat:
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews
Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower, safflower, sesame
Oils: olive, sunflower, flaxseed

Be careful not to be overly clinical about nutrition. This is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, mentally or physically. However, a little thought can go a long way in aiding your recovery and boosting the benefits of your training program. Nutrition should support the activities you spend so much time and energy training for, so listen to your body when you find yourself craving more food as the volume and intensity of your training increases this spring.

One more tip: don't pay so much attention to your desire to lose weight right away. Matching your nutrition program to your training will gradually bring you down to your ideal weight, but it won't destroy your performance the way that a combination of drastic dieting and hard training can. Your sedentary friends can afford to lose weight quickly because they place almost no demand on their body to perform. Focusing on weight loss first and quality training second will leave you lighter, but slower. Focusing on quality training and proper nutritional support enables you to get faster and leaner at the same time.

Train right with tips and tricks and of the trade from Chris Carmichael and Carmichael Training Systems, at

Filed To: Nutrition