Registered dietitian Brooke Douglas said her offices get busy each spring with endurance athletes looking to shed 5 to 15 pounds in preparation for competition.
She wishes theyd come see her in the fall instead. Its in the fall when many athletes are transitioning from months of intense regular exercise to a period of recovery when bad habits can start.
Daily training at a high level requires eating extra calories, and for many athletes these eating habits are hard to change when they suddenly dont need that extra food.
Here are some tips for making sure your off-season doesnt sabotage your next season:
1: Visit a registered dietitian. Many people are surprised to learn that their insurance covers visits to a dietitian even without a referral from a doctor. A good dietitian can help you establish an ideal off-season eating plan.
2: Dont take the off-season so literally. You arent really completely off. You should get regular exercise even if its not at the intensity level youre at during the season.
3: Ditch the energy bars, gels and sports drinks you might rely on during the season. Replace them with more whole foods from all of the food groups.
4: Balance your blood sugar by eating good sources of lean protein and fiber-rich foods (such as fruits and vegetables) at every meal, Douglas said. This will help battle cravings and improve your chances of not overeating.
5: Avoid consuming calories via beverages, unless its low-fat milk, Douglas said.
6: Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat is a tried-and-true way to make sure you know how much youre eating. It also can be just enough motivation to help cut a smaller slice of pie or eat a veggie burger instead of a Whopper.
7: Keep comfort foods out of the house. With less sun in the fall and winter, people are more likely to reach for comfort food.
Dont shoot yourself in the foot by putting on extra pounds youll have to lose later, Douglas said. There is no reason you need to gain weight in the off-season.