Nutrition in the Non-Competitive Season

Registered Dietitian, MaryAnn Levenson, offers some tips to manage your weight or lose some fat in the off-season. Read on!

Write it Down: Keep a 4-Day Food Diary

A food diary serves the same purpose as a training log. It makes you accountable for your actions and helps to keep you committed to your long-range goals! For example, losing 5 pounds during the off-season will help improve your power-to-weight ratio, which results in improved climbing performance. For four days, include one weekend day, write down everything you eat or drink. It is also helpful to record the reason you are eating. For example, are you eating because you are hungry, stressed, or bored? Also include the time and amount you exercise to help you evaluate your current eating pattern and identify any habits that may need to be modified. For example, are you skipping breakfast, snacking all day, and then overeating at night because you’ve become too hungry from not eating all day, or are you entertaining yourself with food when bored or rewarding yourself with chocolate when you’re stressed!! Remember, you should be eating only when you are hungry and need to fuel your body.

Reduce Your Current Intake by 500 Calories Per Day

If you are happy with your current weight, congratulations!! If your goal is to maintain your current weight during the non-competitive season, make sure you plan on decreasing calories by simply decreasing portion sizes as you decrease your training time and/or intensity. If you’re off-season goal is to decrease some fat weight make sure you do it in stages and not all at once. Depending how much you need to lose, a realistic goal is from 0.5 to 1 pound per week. It is really a simple math equation. Losing one pound a week requires you to create a deficit of 3,500 calories, or ~ 500 calories a day, by exercising more and or eating less. Drastically reducing the amount you eat is not realistic for most of us. Dieting all day by skimping on breakfast and lunch and then beating a path to the refrigerator from dinner until bedtime doesn’t work. Trimming the number of calories you currently consume by small increments, ~ 500 calories a day, is a realistic goal.

Concentrate on Eating Your Calories When you Need them Most During the Day

Have you worked out today? Have you eaten today? Most of us perform the bulk of our training, our work, and our family obligations between five am to six pm. Why do we insist on eating the majority of our calories after six o’clock? Our muscles and our brain cells thrive on having a steady, constant supply of fuel available. Try to divide your calories up throughout the day. Plan to eat a meal or healthy snack every three to four hours so your blood sugar does not dip too low. Even if you are trying to lose weight, you still need to be well fueled before you head out the door, and you still need to replenish your glycogen stores following exercise. Eat a “reasonable” size portion (a good reality check is the serving size listed on the label), select lower-fat items, and eat fewer calories at night when you don’t really need them.

Eat Slowly

Your brain needs about 20 minuets to receive the signal that you have eaten your fill. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. This habit can save you many, many calories.

Eat your Favorite Foods

If you deny yourself your favorite foods, you are likely to binge. Some of our favorite foods are full of empty calories devoid of any nutritional benefit. Eat the food and enjoy it, just try to limit the portion size. Choose three cookies instead of seven, one glass of wine in place of two. Try not to label foods as “good” or “bad”. Think of food as fuel and choose the best fuel source for your body. Would you put regular gas into your Ferrari?

Choose Nutritious Snacks

Choosing nutritious snacks can help you meet your nutritional needs. When at work, stash the following foods in your office:

  • instant vegetable or bean soup
  • pretzels
  • snack-size whole grain cereal
  • mini cans of water packed tuna
  • instant oatmeal
  • dried fruits
  • crackers

On the run, pack a sack with your favorite snacks and take it with you. Try whole grain crackers with low fat cheese, celery with peanut butter, or fresh fruit and water. If you are not too tired of your favorite energy bar, such as Power Bar, Clif, Luna etc, they also make a healthy choice for a snack. If you must go to a vending machine or fast food store choose snacks full of nutrients, such as fruit, nonfat yogurt, fruit juice, bagels, or raisins.

December 1, 2006 | Posted in: Training Tips |