One of the biggest questions I get at this time of year is, what do I change about my nutrition as my road season ends? How much can I indulge in celebratory foods? Should I just keep eating the same way but maybe a little bit less overall? Are there specific changes in nutritional needs during the transition and approaching off-season?
There are many different potential answers to that question. It would depend on what level are you training at? Do you hang up the bike often and replace it with other activities in the off-season such as weights and running? Are you more of a recreational, amateur or professional cyclist? Are you resting briefly for 2 weeks and then starting back up with a pretty big training plan with continued volume? Are you trying to lose weight? Either way, the likelihood is you are reducing the intensity of your training for a period of time as your road racing has come to an end.
For the purposes of this article, let's assume you are cutting back on hours and intensity for a few months and not racing, while transitioning into some more fun riding, trail riding, running and maybe some resistance training.
I often hear the question "should I cut my carbs out?" No, certainly not. You are still an active training athlete, which requires good recovery and glycogen replenishment. Also if you plan to put on a little muscle in the off-season you will need carbohydrates to support that muscle growth. Not to mention carbohydrates are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and energy for your day to day life.
The key at this time of year for the racer who is cutting back volume and intensity would be however to reduce the g/kg of carbohydrates in the off season. Also depending on the athlete, reducing some of the grams of fat. Note I did not say go on a low fat diet, rather reduce some of the fat if you had to increase it in season in order to keep up with your caloric deficits from big training loads.
Without races and long intense training sessions, carbohydrate loading will fall from your nutrition plan too. This allows you for example to maybe drop your daily carbohydrate intake from 7 g/kg down to 4 or 5 g/kg, especially on rest days and shorter aerobic rides. Long weekend rides will still require adequate carbohydrate intake and replenishment as you start to ramp back up later in the fall.
The more intensity and duration your workouts have, the more carbohydrates you require to sustain optimal performance and recovery. Reduce the two, and yes, you should reduce your carbohydrate intake accordingly.