Common Nutrition Myths of the Offseason
By Bob Seebohar
The offseason is here and most athletes rejoice at the opportunity to rest and heal their bodies from a successful race season. After the last triathlon it is very easy to turn off the thought process of training and take a much needed break but the race season nutrition plan still lingers and is one of the most difficult things to manage in the offseason. Below are four nutrition tips you can use as you navigate the weeks or months of your offseason.
Tip #1: Eat to train.
The offseason is usually categorized as a time to recover, rehabilitate the body and mind and have fun exercising without structure. There should be no quantitative objectives in terms of training and because of this, it is important to give your body permission to rest. From a nutrition standpoint, since you are not training, you should bring whole foods back into your daily diet, void your daily nutrition plan of sports nutrition products and focus on controlling your blood sugar to improve your satiety and hunger feelings. Choose a good source of protein, fiber from vegetables or fruit and healthy fat to comprise most of your meals and snacks.
Tip #2: Learn your thirst.
Just because you are not training doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still pay attention to your daily hydration. This is a great time of the year to learn what thirsty means to your body. Do you have dry mouth? Do you develop dehydration headaches throughout the day? How many times do you urinate? Answering these questions will help you determine when you are thirsty and if you are consuming enough fluids. Remember, hydrating your body does not to be done by drinking only water. While water is a great choice, there are other great methods to improve your fluid balance such as eating high water containing foods such as vegetables and fruits. The bonus is that you will be consuming more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants at the same time!
Tip #3: Ask why.
The offseason is littered with temptations, from the holidays to social gatherings to goodies being presented to you in the break room at work. It is one of the most difficult times of the year for athletes to remain in nutrition control. One of the best things you can do is ask yourself why you are thinking about eating a food or drinking a beverage. This will help you understand more clearly the nature of your decisions and will hopefully assist you into making food and drink choices based on biological hunger rather than emotional hunger. The latter is the cause of most weight gain during the offseason because it is tied to stress eating. Before making a food or drink selection, ask yourself why you are thinking about that selection and if you are truly biologically hungry (typically seen as your stomach just beginning to grumble).
Tip #4: Don’t gain.
I know the offseason is a time of celebration and with that comes letting your daily nutrition plan slip a bit. While there is certainly room for this within having a healthy relationship with food and allowing misses, engaging it in too often will only sabotage your body with more body weight. I normally do not blink an eye with weight fluctuations of five pounds or less because that is mostly attributable to water, carbohydrate stores and bowel movements but when weight gain, specifically, exceeds five pounds, it is time to pay attention. The offseason is not a time for unnecessary weight gain. The majority of athletes will normally put on a few pounds but when in excess of 5-10 pounds, habits re-form and the emotional destruction of weight gain begins. Do yourself a favor and have the goal of enjoying the food you don’t have too often but in moderation without binging.
Use these simply nutrition strategies to navigate your offseason successfully and in control and remember to allow yourself a break from the stress of training. Take it easy, relax and let hunger be your guide to eating.
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS is a sport dietitian and USAT Level III Elite and Youth/Junior certified triathlon coach. He was the U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Dietitian for the 2008 Olympic Games and was the personal Sport Dietitian for the 2008 Olympic Triathlon Team. He has coached Sarah Haskins and was a performance team member (sport dietitian and strength coach) for Susan Williams.
Bob's book, Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat, teaches athletes how to structure their nutrition and training program throughout the year to maximize their body's ability to use fat as energy and improve body composition. He also has a Metabolic Efficiency Recipe book in electronic format with over 100 metabolically efficient meals and snacks. For more information and to order the books, visit www.fuel4mance.com or contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org