When it Is Good to Gain Weight

"Macca" is a naturally big fellow. A more typical example of off-season weight gain at the elite level is that of Ryan Hall. The half marathon American record-holder gains three to five pounds after each marathon as a result of training less and allowing himself to eat a little less carefully than he normally does. Hall considers this weight gain a good thing—part of his body's overall recovery from the stress of the recently completed training cycle. He looks at a three- to five-pound weight increase as an indication that his body is ready to return to structured training.

If you really wanted to, you could minimize post-race weight gain by reducing your food intake by an amount that's commensurate to your reduction in training. But it would be difficult to pull off because it takes a while for appetite to decrease after a drop in training volume.

More: Your Guide to a Healthy Offseason

I think it's OK to eat enough to satisfy your appetite in the off-season, even if it means you gain a few pounds. In fact, I see nothing wrong with allowing yourself, for at least the first couple of weeks after a big race, to indulge in a few more treats than you normally eat when you're trying to get fit and lean for a big race. Again, this is something that most elite athletes do.

Reward the disciplined eating you do within the training cycle by having a little ice cream between cycles. This will actually make it easier to return to disciplined eating at the start of the next one, much as a break from training restores the hunger to train.

It is possible, of course, to let off-season weight gain get out of hand. The best way to avoid this is to take another cue from the elites and set a personal weight-gain limit. Chris McCormack doesn't let his weight creep above 185. Ryan Hall limits his post-marathon weight gain to three to five pounds. Determine a limit that's appropriate for you and respect it—but also use it!

More: 5 Ways to Avoid Unwanted Offseason Weight

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About the Author

Matt Fitzgerald

Matt Fitzgerald is a certified sports nutritionist, endurance coach, and author. His many books include Racing Weight and The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Matt's writing also appears regularly on competitor.com, in Women's Running, and elsewhere. He has served as a consultant to several sports nutrition companies, as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, and as a nutrition advisor to professional runners and triathletes. Matt also provides nutrition counseling services to athletes of all experience and ability levels through racingweight.com. A lifelong athlete himself, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally. Learn more at mattfitzgerald.org.

Matt Fitzgerald is a certified sports nutritionist, endurance coach, and author. His many books include Racing Weight and The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Matt's writing also appears regularly on competitor.com, in Women's Running, and elsewhere. He has served as a consultant to several sports nutrition companies, as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, and as a nutrition advisor to professional runners and triathletes. Matt also provides nutrition counseling services to athletes of all experience and ability levels through racingweight.com. A lifelong athlete himself, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally. Learn more at mattfitzgerald.org.

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