Four Simple Nutrition Tips
Many athletes try dieting during the off-season to avoid weight gain now that their training load has decreased. While this may work for a few days, inevitably, life happens. At a holiday party the yummy fare becomes too tempting and suddenly you’re binge-eating. Strictly limiting your calories and denying yourself what you crave almost always leads to over-eating at a time when the extra calories are not burned off training, but instead head straight for your hips and waist.
Practice Intuitive Eating
Don’t diet. Give yourself permission to eat what you want when you want it BUT eat it intentionally. This is simply the practice of tuning in and asking yourself what you really want and then eating that food in a slow, deliberate manner. Focus on the taste and texture of the food and pay attention as you eat it to feelings of satisfaction and feelings of fullness. When you are completely full and satisfied, put the food away and leave the kitchen or restaurant. The food will still be there. Tell yourself that when you are truly hungry again you can eat more. This is intuitive eating.
If you find yourself feeling bored or anxious and headed for the refrigerator or the drive-thru, hit the pause button. Eating is only temporary entertainment and it won’t fix whatever is causing your anxiety. Find something else besides noshing to occupy your mind and hands to relieve boredom. Focus on solving the issues that are causing stress and anxiety instead of eating. Over-eating is only going to add to your anxiety and after you scarf down that fast food you’ll soon be bored again.
2. Spice It Up
The perfect time to try new foods is when you are training less and don’t have a big race on your schedule. This is something to look forward to in the off-season; adventure eating!
During the season we tend to eat the same foods over and over again because we know we like them and they won’t upset our GI tract, but getting stuck in a food rut year-round usually leads to overeating when presented with new food choices. You might also be missing out on important micro-nutrients, so now is the perfect time to experiment with different foods to find new recipes and flavors that excite your taste buds but don’t upset your stomach.
Start your gastric journey by listing the foods you like the most and some you would like to try. Spend some time researching new ways to prepare and season your favorites. Seek out recipes that include new foods you haven’t tried before. When you find a recipe that looks doable on a busy weeknight, try it out. File away the ones that you like and toss the ones you don’t. When it’s time to start training again you will have a new collection of recipes to keep your nutrition on track through your training season.
If meal planning and recipe hunting seems a bit daunting and you could use a little help and inspiration ask me about my meal planning service.
3. Quality Not Quantity
Focus on quality. It’s easy to slip into the calorie-counting mode but trust me, that is not a long-term solution. Strict calorie monitoring, declaring some foods forbidden and depriving yourself usually leads to over-eating. The inevitable weight gain and guilt leads to anxiety, which can lead to more bing-eating… Well, you can see how that vicious cycle perpetuates itself!
Instead, focus on including nutrient dense foods into your daily diet like sweet potatoes, broccoli, quinoa, farro, fish, and nuts. These foods are delicious, filling, and provide essential nutrients your body needs. Include your favorite foods and but also include healthy AND delicious new dishes too.
One of the best ways to incorporate a variety of nutrient packed foods into your diet AND try new dishes is through customized meal planning with EatLove. This is my favorite way to help athletes eat simple, healthy meals that jive with their nutritional needs. Check it out here!
4. Have Good Taste
I’m not talking about fashion or home décor. Focus on food that tastes good instead of how many calories, carbs or sodium it has. What really tastes good to you? What foods make you feel truly satisfied?
Many nutritionists will tell you to avoid your favorite foods when you crave them the most (i.e. craving sweets in the morning) but not me! I say eat whatever it is you are craving, while you are craving it, BUT – do it in a positive and deliberate way, as described above.
This goes back to intuitive eating. Decide what food you are really craving, fix a good-sized portion of it, sit down, and eat it mindfully. Don’t scarf it down in front of a screen or while you are doing chores. Instead, savor each bite, make it last, pay attention to you hunger cues and stop eating when you feel full and satisfied. Now go on with your day knowing you can eat another portion of the food you love again tomorrow.
Eat Smart Not More
The harsh reality is, trying to avoid the foods you are craving makes you want them that much more. Denying yourself constantly is a recipe for failure when it comes to smart eating during your off-season. Cravings usually get to the best of us and that leads to over-eating in a rushed, chaotic manner followed by feelings of guilt and shame.
Spare yourself the unnecessary food longings, the stress of over-eating and resulting extra pounds. Instead, make room in your diet for the foods you love the most along with the literally thousands of others that are good and good for you.
Putting these four simple nutrition tips to work in your off-season will help avoid weight gain and improve your overall health. Best of all, you will never feel deprived, have to wrestle with feelings of guilt or shame and the more you practice intuitive eating, the easier it becomes.
Need help with nutrition? Schedule a 15 minute chat with me to see how I can help!