When the holidays are around the bend or you won't be training as hard for a period of time, you may worry about weight gain as you take a break from your normal training routine. The good news is that you can prevent unnecessary weight gain during the off season by improving your metabolic efficiency during this time.
Metabolic efficiency is the body’s ability to use certain nutrients at certain times. When you increase the intensity of your training, the body uses less fat and more carbohydrate for fuel. This is known as crossover. During the off season, maintaining a high carbohydrate diet while training less can lead to detrimental body fat gain. It is important to maintain your weight within 10% during this time.
While carbs are essential, so are protein and fats. Consuming too much of any of them during the off season can lead to metabolic inefficiencies. By eating a combination of foods, you will retain dietary equilibrium.
You can become more metabolic efficient by making some of the following off-season dietary changes:
1. Follow a diet consisting of lean protein, with a small amount of healthy fat like omega-3 fats.
2. Eat large portions of fruits and vegetables and lastly add whole grains to comprise no more that 1/4 of your plate. Focus on food colors: The more vibrant hues you put on your plate — greens, reds, oranges, purples and yellows — the better. Eat fewer brown, white, beige and pale yellow carbs.
3. Decrease your normal carb intake. Consider putting away bars, gels and drinks until after you start base training. Your body needs a break from high energy, high carb products during this time. This will force you to fill your plate with healthy protein and fat from whole food sources.
4. Strive to eat healthy proteins and fats 80% to 90% of the time to help minimize off-season weight gain; you can take a break and indulge the other 10% to 20% of time. This helps prevent feelings of failure when you make poor food choices.
Nutrition requires the same level of focus and attention as training, and it can take weeks or months to change your eating behavior. So make healthy choices and be ready to resume your full training regimen as a better, more metabolic-efficient athlete.
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