By PCG Nutritionist Katie Barberi
As an athlete’s season comes to end, many start to look forward to a break from the structure of training. They think about not doing workouts, not having to worry about making training fit in to their day to day life, at least for a little while. And understandably so, training is hard work.
In the process of thinking about their time off, many athletes also drop off when it comes to their nutrition as well. In the few months of off-season some athletes can manage to gain 10-15 LBS. (in some cases more–yes I have seen it!) due to less exercise and less control nutrition.
My number one question as a nutritionist is “why?” Why would you create more work for yourself in a few months time? Why not use this time to take control of your nutrition and weight so when your next season starts–you can focus on getting stronger, instead of losing pounds?
Take Control Today
I have been working with athletes for many years now, and I have found that I have been able to help my athletes make the most significant and beneficial changes in their weight during off-season. Once season starts it is a lot harder to make drastic weight changes as bodily needs are so much higher considering the training load gets more intense. You may say, yes but when training gets higher you are burning more calories so you should be able to lose weight easier. My response to that is, yes that is generally the case, BUT if we did it that way then we are taking away but needed calories that will allow you to hit the numbers you are looking for going into the first races of the season.
Let me elaborate on this a little:
During season your body is in “high intensity mode” you are training hard, you only get a few days off here and there but you need everything you can get to fuel your body. More calories in equates to more power and more strength. Every person has a magic number that works for them that equates to holding a steady weight, being able to put down power, and still function as a normal human being when not riding. During season, I as a nutritionist, am limited on how much I can cut that magic number back to allow for weight loss but won’t be so much of a cut back that it affects your abilities as an athlete. Because of that it takes longer for weight to come off. There is also the question of proper fueling before, during, and after activities. One food that works really well for one person as a pre-workout food might not work well for someone else.
The Moral of the Story
So, moral of the story: don’t let your nutrition drop during the off-season. Now is the time to make those big changes so that next season you can go harder, put down more power, and all around feel better!
Again I can make small adjustments to this during the season but I limit how much I do because I don’t want to mess with the routine that you have created for yourself. And I am not just talking about that routine in regards to eating enough. I am also talking about the mental routine that comes with that food. We all have a pre-workout, pre-competition routine. It makes us feel good, it helps calm nerves, and it is what our body knows. If you try to change something during the season it can mess with you. A superstitious person would say that creates bad luck, I saw it just throws off what you and your body know. And while the change could actually be a good one, if you have one bad ride or race after that change you are more prone to never try it again, even it actually may be the better choice, you just needed to give it a chance.
Let me help
Off-season, on the other hand is a completely different situation. During off-season I, as the nutritionist, can help you to experiment more, I can make more drastic changes to your calorie and macronutrient intakes, and we can make big changes now that are going to help you when you go into the season. For example, during season I may only be able to help you lose 1-2 pounds a month where as in off-season I can aim for 3-4 a month ( As a side note, the healthiest amount of weight for anyone to lose is 1 pound a week, its gradual and more sustainable over a long period of time than big drops quickly). I can also help you to find better, healthier and more fueling foods for pre-workout, during workout, and post workout. We can tests out a variety of options that are great for pre-workout and we can find what actually sits best for you and helps you to have a better workout.