Whether you’re the type of endurance athlete that feels the drive home from the final race of the year is enough of a rest / off season, or you’re the type that happily couch-binge-watches Hawaii Five-0 for weeks, for most of us February is a month spent rebuilding for our next season of racing. We not only make goals for training numbers, but also touch base with the scale and make goals for weight management. Of course, without a race kit threatening to tattle on our diet choices, comfort foods can call very loudly. Even if you’re not one of us up north hunkered in by the wood stove while snow whips by outside, what sounds better than a hearty warm bowl of pasta? The thing is, during base phase, generally intensity is lower even if we are doing a good amount of volume, so even though temptations are high, it is really the best time of year to accomplish our weight management goals.
What are some reasonable goals to make during the phase and what are some strategies for reaching them?
1 - Set your calorie intake target
2 - Set your macronutrient ratio targets
1 - If you’re comfortable with your current weight, your calorie intake target equals your base metabolic needs plus any caloric expenditures during exercise. If doing a fancy base metabolic rate test is not in the cards, MyFitnessPal will give you an estimate based on your data such as weight and activity level. A power meter will give you a fairly precise figure for the calories you expend running or riding. Otherwise, TrainingPeaks or MyFitnessPal will give you an estimate based on your weight, HR, and type and duration of activity. If your goal is to gain or lose weight, you need to set a caloric surplus or deficit. Aiming for a 400-500 calorie deficit per day is a sustainable weight loss calorie intake goal.
2 - In his book Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes, Bob Seebohar recommends the following macronutrient intake for base training phase:
5-7 grams / kg body weight for moderate training days to
7-12+ grams / kg body weight for heavier training days (this is the macronutrient that varies the most based on training load)
1.2-1.7 grams / kg body weight
0.8 - 1.0 grams / kg body weight
I’ve set my ratio goals to 45% carbs, 30% protein, and 25% fat, keeping the total amount of protein consistent from day to day but increasing carbohydrate intake on intense training days. MyFitnessPal is an excellent tool to keep track of these intake ratios.
All those numbers sound great until you get home from a spicy interval session craving that tasty bowl of pasta. The above ratio ends up being a lot more protein and veggies than you might think, and a lot less rotini. Here’s a couple suggestions to have a satisfying but ratio- friendly bowl of “pasta”:
a- Start by replacing the pasta noodles with spiralized zucchini (try this super easy tool),
spaghetti squash (how to cook here), or even shaved (with a regular peeler) carrots & parsnips. Any of these options can still be twirled around your fork!
b - Top with tomato sauce mixed with ground bison or ground turkey; chicken, broccoli and my favorite cauliflower cashew alfredo sauce (recipe below); or your own favorite mix of veggies, seasonings, and of course protein.
Cauliflower Cashew Alfredo Sauce Makes about 2.5 cups
6 cloves garlic (for even tastier sauce, coat cloves with olive oil and wrap in foil and bake at 375 until browned, 15-20 minutes)
1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄3 cup raw cashews
2 cups cauliflower florets
13⁄4 cups miso broth, chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1⁄4-1⁄3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons Braggs liquid aminos
squirt of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Add cashews, cauliflower, and liquid of choice to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add nutritional yeast, Braggs, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
Add the garlic and all ingredients from the saucepan to your blender and puree at high speed until smooth. If you want it thinner, you can always add a little water, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Here is a comparison of these pasta dish modifications against a serving of traditional pasta and meat sauce:
As you can see, MyFitnessPal is very helpful in illustrating the different macronutrient compositions of meals. Whereas a traditional pasta dish is around 65% carbohydrate, and 18% fat as well as protein, the spaghetti squash dish and the zucchini dishes are around 40% carbohydrate, 25% fat and 35% protein.
If you’d like to learn more about personalizing these goals and setting up MyFitnessPal to help achieve them, or for more ideas for ratio-friendly whole food recipes, feel free to sign up for a consult!