Eat to train, don't train to eat. Remember, Bob's mantra during these months if you are indeed taking a break from training and enjoying exercising without much structure and the confines of technology.
I recently traveled to San Francisco to present a 5-hour workshop on the application of my Nutrition Periodization principles to coaches and it was great. What made it so positive was the interaction but even more importantly were the numerous "light bulbs" going on above the heads of the coaches. Nutrition Periodization makes sense, we know this but until you actually get to learn how to put it in practice, it could be confusing. No worries though! That's why I present on this very topic and expect more to come in 2008.
Of course, one of the most important points of the workshop was eating in the transition cycle, or better known as the off-season. This is where almost all athletes make some nutritional blunders and pack on a few unnecessary pounds. I'm not saying gaining a little weight is a bad thing but it can be if it will affect your emotions. I've had many athletes gain some weight during their transition cycle and have the hardest time trying to shed it during their preparatory cycle. For these athletes, the negative emotional impact of being unsuccessful at losing weight makes them become fixated on this goal rather than training. It is these athletes whom I do not recommend much, if any, weight loss during their transition cycle.
Here are some tips I like to share with athletes during the transition cycle. Enjoy and execute during this somewhat challenging time of the year.
1. Control energy intake. It's tough to turn off your high-calorie eating program that you likely followed during your competition season because it is a habit. Habits are tough to break and require time and preparation to change. Unfortunately, for most athletes, the transition cycle is not long enough to promote a successful behavior change of manipulating the quantity of calories consumed. It may be too late now but a great thing to do for next year is to tell yourself that you will change your nutrition plan about 1-2 months before your competition cycle ends and reinforce this statement every couple of weeks. If you do this, you are more likely to be ready to make the behavior change once your off-season hits rather than stumbling unsuccessfully through it.
2. Do the pantry shuffle. It is very likely that nutrition supplements (bars, gels, drinks and pills) are at the forefront of your kitchen cabinets. You don't need these extra calories or nutrients during your transition cycle since you are not expending as many calories so take all of these, put them in a box, tape it (that's right tape it!), and put it somewhere that you will not see until your next training cycle. Remember, out of sight, out of mind!
3. Don't eat like an athlete. Unless you are still competing in another sport. And I mean competing, not just trying one out or having fun doing it, tell yourself that you are not an athlete. Now, don't psyche yourself out and force yourself to have to visit a sports psychologist. The point is that you are not training like an athlete any longer so don't eat like one. Far too many times, I see athletes justifying the quantity of food they eat due to their longer duration and higher intensity training. Well, this is not the training cycle to do this. Remember, you don't need all that extra food!
4. Prevent weight gain. Yes, this is by far the most important goal of this training cycle. If you can prevent gaining weight during this cycle, you will be far more successful in the beginning of your preparatory cycle, even if you will try to lose weight. The less you put on now means the less you have to take off later. And for some athletes, losing weight is not as easy as starting to train again. There is an enormous emotional component of weight loss that typically extends the time it takes to lose weight and it really plays with an athlete's self-confidence. For now, just focus on preventing the gain!
I know this time of the year presents certain challenges such as the holidays but do your best. Follow my four steps and you will come out of this cycle in good shape and ready to enter your preparatory training without the primary goal of weight loss. And if you do, well, you know where to find me! :-)
Eat to train, don't train to eat!