NUTRITION & FUELLING
Your health, weight and ability to train effectively during the winter are all affected by what you eat… and don’t eat. Here’s the lowdown on the key nutrients, supplements and carbs you need
Putting on a few pounds during the off-season is no big deal. In fact, being a little above racing weight can be beneficial as it’ll keep you warmer during cold runs and rides, and help to support your immune system.
Yet you should avoid taking this as a free pass to eat badly, as trying to lose significant weight in the spring can be difficult. It’ll also compromise the higher-intensity training sessions you’ll be transitioning to in pre-season.
Ensure that you keep a regular check on your weight and body composition during the off-season – it can be a good idea to use a calorie tracker app. The simple act of recording what you eat and drink will make you far less likely to have that extra slice of cake.
Although the temptation can be to opt for stodgy high-carbohydrate meals in the winter, the typically lower-intensity training doesn’t really require them. You can split food into ‘go nutrients’ that are your carbs, fats and protein, and ‘glow nutrients’ that are your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For ‘go nutrients’ you should be looking to up your intake of quality protein (meat, fish, eggs and dairy), especially if you’re doing some focussed strength work during the off-season.
For those ‘glow nutrients’, which will help to boost your immune system, plenty of fresh fruit and veg is the way forward. A simple goal should be to make your plate as colourful as possible, as that’s usually a good indicator of ‘glowrich foods’.
When fuelling steady long runs and rides as opposed to race-paced workouts, you can rely more on real food over gels and sports drinks. You can even experiment with some carbohydrate-fasted training, but this has to be done at a low intensity and isn’t, as many people mistakenly think, for weight loss. Instead it develops your body’s ability to use fat as a fuel and, therefore, improves running or riding efficiency. If you’re including some high-intensity efforts, though, popping a gel in anticipation of these is a good idea.
From a supplements perspective, consider a high-quality omega-3 oil to help your body cope with your training load. Also, in line with current health advice, you should be taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. Low levels of vitamin D due to lack of daylight can inhibit recovery from training and lead to fatigue.
“Putting on a few pounds is no big deal, but don’t take this as a free pass to eat badly this off-season”