Want to gain 10 lbs of extra body fat over the next few months? Of course you don’t, but most people do anyway. From November to January, many people gain 10 lbs or more and triathletes are not immune to this lovely phenomenon.
Why? It’s simple. During the racing season, multi-sport athletes (or some single-sport athletes) can burn upwards of 3000 – 4000 calories per day, depending on age, gender, intensity of training, etc. For most of us, that season is usually from January through October (give or take a few months).
Then boom, we stop training. We don’t become total sloths but we’re in “recovery mode” and we don’t want to do brick workouts or run 10 miles a day, thank you very much.
To top it off, we are told over and over again (by those pesky sports dietitians!) to eat more carbs during the racing/training season, which equals more calories, which equals more energy. What happens to those carbs if we aren’t training and racing? You know the answer to that question, perhaps all too well.
Add to the situation two major holidays that basically center around food (really good food): Thanksgiving and Hanukah or Christmas. Not to mention the New Year’s Eve parties with even more really-good-food and calorie-filled beverages.
The bottom-line: weight gain is easy during the off-season but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are six tips to keep you from going up a size or two during the off-season:
1. Practice mindful-eating. This means paying attention to hunger and satiety cues and heeding them as much as possible. Its ok to indulge in cookies and egg nog a few times but listen to your body and stop when you feel comfortably full (not stuffed). Also, do not eat in front of the TV or computer; its hard to pay attention to fullness cues when you’re glued to a screen.
2. Never go to a holiday party hungry. That’s a recipe for disaster. The food is too tempting and it’s hard to stop eating good food that’s right in front of you when you’re ravenous. Have a small satisfying meal before going to a party to take the edge of your hunger.
3. Put the sport drinks, bars, gels, and gu’s away. Chances are you’re tired of them anyway. But right now you don’t need them and they’re just unnecessary calories (unless you are doing some long runs in which case a few gels are a good idea).
4. Do not skip meals.This only leads to overeating later on (or the next day) and most of the food that is around you during this time is usually high-fat, high-sugar food.
5. Allow yourself your favorite foods but balance them with less calorie-dense foods and physical activity. There’s no way I’m going to pass up mashed potatoes and gravy and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. They’re just too yummy and they’re part of the celebration. But I balance this high-calorie meal by having a smaller meal later on and going for a walk with my family in the evening.
6. Don’t try to lose weight during this time, just focus on staying at the same weight or clothing size. Now is notthe time to try that new diet you’ve been hearing about (diets don’t work anyway but that’s another story). Rather, enjoy this time of rest and renewal; it’s a great time to slow down and reflect on the year behind you. The entire month of December can be a time to rest and rejuvenate. Eat good food but don’t over-indulge. Move your body in comfortable, relaxing ways. Come January, you’ll be ready to rock-n-roll!