Tapering Your Diet in the Off-season
“Macca,you need to be fat in July to win in Kona. You’re raceready all year! That approach does not win Hawaii or support athletic longevity.” That was the sage advice of Mark Allen to Chris McCormack in 2005. Of course, Macca would go on to be crowned world champion in 2007 and 2010. He has since admitted that there are times of the year when athletes should be heavier to optimize recovery, stave off illness and build strength, but he also underscores that gaining and losing weight healthily necessitates proper adapation. So what to do now that winter has arrived, the race season is over and training volumes tend to be lower? How can we allow for this period of recovery and avoid weight gain?
Many triathletes confess, “I train to eat.” What we eat, however, should support our training and not the other way around. While high-volume training, athletes often feel justified in eating whatever and whenever they want, as if the additional daily calories have no effect on weight. The basic weight equation is inescapable: calories consumed must meet calories expended. As we move into the offseason, athletes often continue consuming just as much as they did during their peak training. Furthermore, the off- season correlates with fall and winter holiday seasons and these often involve indulgent foods and drink.
Consuming 500 calories a day more than you are burning equates to one additional pound of body weight a week. This translates to four pounds a month and a whopping 12 pounds over a three-month period. Imagine starting next season having to carry around this added weight.
The Yo-Yo-ing of Body Weight
Even more problematic than this weight gain is the drive to lose it too quickly, not allowing the adaptation that Macca refers to. Similar to weight fluctuations of yo-yo dieting, large variations in body mass may have a negative effect on health and performance. Achieving an ideal body weight can help improve specific areas of your overall health such as insulin sensitivity, lipid profile and blood pressure, as well as give you that extra boost of confidence and self- esteem. Maintaining your weight in the off-season will bring you closer to your long term goals and minimize strain on bones and joints as you spring back into training. Instead of entering the pre- season battling to shed excess pounds, you should focus on a strong foundation of aerobic endurance, muscular strength and building a resilient body.
What Is Diet Periodization?
Everyday eating is the blueprint of vitality for your long-term success. Most of you follow a training plan, whether coached or self-trained. Likewise your diet should be in line with the phases of your training and your overall program goals. A periodized nutrition plan is one of the best ways to achieve this. Periodization is a strategy that divides your training year into specific cycles with specific goals, each requiring a different mix of volume and intensity, to get you in top shape for your key races. Your nutrition plan should be aligned with each phase of your training schedule. Therefore, significantly less calories are needed in your off-season than when you are doing high mileage or are in your competition phase.
Eat Healthy. Be One-Step Ahead of the Game for Next Season.
Training for a triathlon creates nutritional challenges. In order to reap the benefits of training, you must meet these challenges head on. Nutrition can help you to achieve your optimal performance and with the right eating plan your investment in training will be fully compensated.
Enjoy the off-season. Make good choices, eat healthy and transition back into your training season in full force with energy, confidence and stamina for an even more successful year.