Cyclists seem to work extremely hard during the season to control their weight, and one of their biggest fears is weight gain during the offseason being detrimental to their ability to regain a high level of fitness going into next season.
Make no mistake about it, keeping the pounds (or kilos) off in the next three to four months is no easy task. Here are a few weight control tips to utilize as you go into the winter months and those oh-so-dangerous holidays!
First, let me point out that there is a clear difference between weight control (or loss) and nutrition. Sound nutrition is the basis for any weight control, weight loss or health issues plan. You can control your weight eating Twinkies if you choose, but that doesn't mean you'll have solid nutrition.
First, seek out a neutral nutritionist, fill out a three- to five-day diet record, and have them evaluate where you are getting your calories from in terms of carbohydrates, protein and fat percentages. I use the word "neutral" because a lot of nutritionists are not qualified and can represent a specific product.
In addition, have them make sure that your caloric intake includes the right quantity and mix of vitamins and minerals. If there are any nutrient deficiencies, they can also be addressed at this time. Most important in this analysis is to have the nutritionist define your individual energy requirements during this part of the cycling season.
Most athletes reduce their mileage and intensity, and their energy requirements also change. This relatively simple analysis will help get you into a proper range of caloric intake. And of course, not only does it benefit you from a weight control perspective; it can also be a positive step to a healthy lifestyle.
Write It Down
In addition to completing the initial food record listed above to figure out your optimal caloric mix and intake, take the time to keep an ongoing record of what foods and quantities you are consuming. It is not necessary to do this daily, but pick a few days during the week to write everything down in detail.
First, you may be surprised as to how much of something you are consuming. This will allow you to control some of the foods you love so much and may be contributing to excess caloric intake.
An example that comes to mind is peanut butter. How easy is it to spread a big scoop of peanut butter on your bread! Check out how much you are really putting on. Another benefit of writing it down is you may not want to write something down and that in itself may control your intake.
Timing Is Everything
Like a good comic, timing is key to being able to eat more of what you want and either maintain or lose weight. Remember to eat some carbohydrates and protein within about 30 to 45 minutes of ending your exercise session.
Also, a major contributor to weight gain is eating in the evening—either a late dinner or snacking after dinner. Unless we're exercising right before bed (not recommended!), our metabolism naturally slows down during the evening. If we eat too much or too late in the evening, it is much harder for our bodies to burn off those calories and there is a greater likelihood that those calories will turn to fat.
I generally recommend a hard and fast eating deadline (usually about 2.5 hours before bedtime), which seems to be comfortable for most people to maintain.
The "Off" Days
Focus on reduced caloric intake on the days that are not as active. It sounds simple, but can be difficult. It's these "off" days of physical activity that can be the killers. It also represents a good approach to phasing in a weight control program. Instead of attacking the program with an all-or-nothing approach, start the first few weeks where you monitor only these off days.
Sometimes, we aren't as successful as we want to be because we just pick a day and start this all-or-nothing approach. Try phasing in slowly, just like you would do with a physical program that works on increasing loads and stress over time.