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The winning diet: training mesocycle Specialization.

In September many runners, in particular competitive cross-country runners, will move into the Specialization mesocycle of their training year. This is the three-month period during which you become strongest, fastest, and most capable of meeting the challenges of competition. Therefore your training intensity needs to very high, and with it your energy intake by way of nutritious foods. Carbohydrate provides the lion's share of the fuel you need, while protein repairs muscle, helps you recover for the next heavy workout, and protects your immune system throughout this intense training period.

Let's examine up close what the dietary needs are for a 165-lb runner in the Specialization phase of training. For starters, athletes are looking at a carbohydrate need approximating 4 to 5 grams per pound of body weight--some 70 percent of total calories. For our 165-lb runner, this means 660 grams of carb daily. This is nearly as many calories in carbohydrate as the total daily caloric intake during the Foundation mesocycle.

Targeting about 3,700 total calories daily in this training-intensive phase, protein should account for .8 to .9 grams per pound of body weight, or about 14 percent of total calories. This means consuming daily around 130 grams of protein. Fat consumption lowers to about 16 percent for optimal competition; this is lower than the two previous mesocycles (the Foundation and Preparation periods). Because in your Foundation period you consumed less calories than now, you'll find you are aiming to take in the same number of fat grams as in the Foundation phase, 65 to 70 grams daily.

Let's look at an effective nutrition plan alongside a sample workout week. For our 165-lb runner in the Specialization mesocycle (Sep-Oct-Nov), training five to eight hours a week we might see:
Sample Training Week

Sunday    Monday  Tuesday    Wednesday    Thursday   Friday  Saturday

75 min    Rest    50 min     15 min       50 min     Rest    15 min
running,          running,   warm- up;    running,           warm-up;
steady            steady                  steady
pace              pace;                   pace;

                             6 strides;                      6

                  4 strides               4 strides

                             8 x 400                         10 x 200
                             meters with                     meters
                             2 min                           with 1 min
                             rest;                           rest;

                             15 min cool                     15 min
                             down                            cool down

For a training week like this, let's look at three dietary snapshots--a standard training day; a heavy, interval training day; and a recovery day. Menu items with an asterisk (*) have recipes that follow:
Standard Training Day: Sunday

Calories             3,598
% carb-protein-fat   68-13-19
Carb grams           640
Protein grams        120
Fat grams            78
Saturated fat grams  22
Fiber grams          51


16 oz. berry-banana smoothie; 1 whole grain bagel; 1.5 cups O.J.


20-30 oz. sports drink; 1 cereal bar


Veggie burger/bun/tomato/provolone; medium baked potato; 1 piece fruit; 1 can cola


2 cups fruit or vegetable juice; 2-3 oz. fig bar cookies


1 cup cabbage soup *; 4 oz. grilled salmon; wild rice; spinach/toasted almonds; 1 slice Italian bread; 1 glass white wine


8 graham crackers; 1 cup chocolate pudding
Interval Training Day: Wednesday

Calories             3,871
% carb-protein-fat   68-13-19
Carb grams           672
Protein grams        133
Fat grams            81
Saturated fat grams  15
Fiber grams          49


1 cup oatmeal/.5 cup skim milk; 2 slices whole-grain toast/2 Tbsp fruit preserves; 1.5 cups O.J.


1 large banana


Black bean and roasted pepper burrito/2 Tbsp plain yogurt/.5 avocado/2 cups brown rice; 1 handful tortilla chips/.25 cup salsa; 1 piece fruit


16 oz. sports drink; 1 PowerBar


Vegetarian lasagna; 1 cup tomato orzo soup*; 1 slice whole-grain bread; 2 cups mixed green salad/non-fat dressing


1 fruit popsicle
Recovery Day: Friday
(Reduce caloric intake 10-15%)

Calories             3,445
% carb-protein-fat   72-12-16
Carb grams           644
Protein grams        108
Fat grams            61
Saturated fat grams  13
Fiber grams          55


1.5 cups bran cereal/raisins; 1 banana; 1 cup skim or soy milk; 1.5 cups O.J.


1 6-oz. container low-fat yogurt; muffin


Black bean hummus in a pita pocket/cucumber/romaine/tomato/carrot; handful pretzels; cup fruit salad


16 oz. banana smoothie


Speedy gnocchi*/marinara; honey-glazed carrots; 2 cups mixed green and vegetable salad/2 Tbsp low-fat dressing


2 chocolate chip cookies (3-inch diameter); cup soy milk

Most people are aware that steaming vegetables is the best way to prepare them, as boiling them leaves behind most of their nutrients in the water. Soups, therefore, are a great addition to your diet: you consume the water the vegetables were cooked in. Soups, being single-pot dishes, are also very easy to prepare, and have the added bonus of providing you with ample liquid--an essential component of your diet in the Specialization mesocycle. You can prepare a lot of soup at one time, it freezes well, and is very convenient to heat and serve after a workout.
15 servings/45 minutes
109 cal
% carb-protein-fat: 77-15-8
5 carrots, chopped
3 onions, chopped
2 16-oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes (with liquid)
1 lg. head cabbage, chopped
1 15-oz. can cut green beans (drained)
2 green bell peppers, diced
10 stalks celery, chopped
1 1-oz. envelope dry onion soup mix
2 quarts tomato juice
1 14-oz. can beef broth

Place everything in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are tender. May be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
8 servings/40 minutes
258 cal
% carb-protein-fat: 73-20-7
7.5 cups water
2 10.5-oz. cans vegetable broth
2 10.75-oz. cans condensed tomato soup
5 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1.5 cups diced carrots
1.5 cups diced celery
1 cup green peas
1.5 cups uncooked orzo pasta
.5 cup fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place everything except parsley, salt, and pepper in a large stock
pot and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and
salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

Gnocchi means "potato pasta" in Italian. The following recipe uses instant mashed potatoes. Serve with your favorite sauce.

2 servings/15 minutes
437 cal
% carb-protein-fat: 85-13-2
1 cup potato flakes
1 egg, beaten
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
3 Tbsp basil
1.5 cups flour

1. Place potato flakes, egg, and water in a medium bowl and mix. Stir
in salt, pepper, and basil. Blend in flour to make a fairly stiff
dough. Turn dough out on a well-floured board. Knead lightly.

2. Shape dough into a long, thin roll shaped like a breadstick. With a
knife dipped in flour, cut into bite-sized pieces.
3. Place a few gnocchi at a time into a pot of boiling water. As the
gnocchi rise to the top of the pot, remove them with a slotted spoon.

4. Top with your favorite pasta sauce, adding additional salt and
pepper to taste, if desired.

Chris Carmichael's Food for Fitness, 2004, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, NY, pp. 48-52, 58-59, 273, 305-306, 323, 362-369
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Publication:Running & FitNews
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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