The off-season is not the time to be focused on your race weight nor is it the time to look for a diet plan as a restrictive and controlling eating method to assist in weight loss.
The off-season provides the best opportunity for you to learn how to create a foundation diet.
And for many athletes, a prime opportunity to learn how to plan a healthy diet.
By adopting a healthier method of eating in the off-season, you will likely find yourself in better health throughout your more specific phases of training.
Ultimately, be creating a style of eating that helps you maintain a healthy weight (every athlete is different), while staying in great health in the off-season, you will be more inclined to maintain your realistic and balanced eating strategies when your training volume and intensity increase.
Which, as you know, when training volume and intensity increase, healthy eating habits often get thrown out the window because of lack of energy and time.
Yep, every athlete has been there!
Cereal is a meal, right?
Even during the holiday season, you can still eat well and move closer to your health goals.
Spend the next few weeks working on my three sensible off-season nutrition strategies to help you create a style of eating that is sustainable and realistic.
To start off, it's time to develop a healthy relationship with food.
I hope you find these off-season nutrition tips valuable, as they create the foundation of healthy eating which every athlete needs before advancing with training volume and intensity.
1) Develop a healthy relationship with food
This goes without saying but a great relationship with food paves the way to great eating habits.
With a healthy relationship with food, you can create a style of eating that works for you. There are no bad foods or off limit food lists, no obsession with calories, gluten or carbs or any other food that has been previously labeled "unhealthy."
Instead, you appreciate the nutritional value found in food.
Diet plans are effective because they tell you what not to eat.
But, they are not sustainable and that is why they are not long-lasting after the initial weight goal is reached.
Because there is a clear difference between feeling passionate about what you put into your body and dangerously obsessing over every calorie you eat, it’s important that you see the off-season as the perfect time to get a handle on your definition of “healthy eating” when you are not expending a ridiculous amount of energy.
For those who fall into the later category of being hyper-obsessed with food, healthy eating should include indulgences and there's no better time to practice responsible, feel-good indulging than around the holiday season.
Plus, eating healthy is much easier to accomplish when you have extra time in your day to spend in the kitchen, when you are not swimming, biking or running.
Here are a few tips on how you can improve your relationship with food.
1) Learn to eat mindfully. Pay attention to your hunger and satisfaction cues. Honor you biological hunger and recognize when you eat out of boredom, emotions or stress. Work on your eating-related decisions, specifically at meal time, snack time and in the evening.
2) Improve your eating experiences. No food should be forbidden or scary unless it is for a medical reason. You should always feel better after you eat than before. Learn to become a better planner and eat with the purpose of nourishment. Indulge responsibly and on occasion (seriously, it's healthy to indulge!).
3) Eat at the right times. When your workout volume is low, you don’t have to worry about eating a lot before workouts or reloading yourself post workout. But at the same time, if you find yourself in a cycle of under eating around workouts, and then overeating (or rewarding yourself with food), something is not right with your meal/snack timing and macro nutrient distribution. To start, try to eat at similar meal compositions at similar times each day and plan snacks before and after all of your workouts. As you listen to your body, you can make small tweaks, as needed, based on your hunger/satisfaction/energy cues.
4) Remove trigger foods from your house. In the early stages of improving your relationship with food, it’s important to remove temping foods from your house or work environment. When you really need that special food, plan a special occasion around eating it and be sure to yum! The ultimate goal of improving your relationship with food is to learn how to eat mindfully. There will be a time in your life when you can have/be around previous tempting foods and not feel the urge to eat those foods. This will be life changing but first, you must create a healthy relationship with food.
5) Give yourself permission to eat. Stop your day and slowly enjoy a meal. Smell, taste and enjoy your food. Every meal should be worth stopping for. Proper meal eating habits are critical for athletes. If you don't learn how to plan and eat your meals, you may be sabotaging your workouts due to lack of energy/nutrients or feeling too full/hungry around workouts.
6) Don’t work out to eat or to indulge. Restriction may lead to overeating/binge eating. Don't reward yourself with food. If you want to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. You don't have to workout for 5 hours to deserve to eat something.
7) Don’t let food control your life. Avoid being too rigid, restrictive or strict about “healthy” eating. Nothing bad will happen if you eat the occasional sweet treat or eat an extra portion of a dish that makes your tummy feel great inside.
For further reading, here are three of my most popular articles on the topic that I am so very passionate about as it relates to helping athletes improve their health and performance.
Having a healthy relationship with food and the body is the key that unlocks great performances!
The off-season weight debate
If you want to take the next step to improve your relationship with food and the body or nail your off-season nutrition, let's work together so that you can have a professional nutrition guide in your individual journey. I'll help you take away the guessing so that you can feel more confident in your daily diet and food choices.
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