With offseason around the corner for many endurance athletes, the same questions always start pouring in. "How do I lose weight in the offseason?" "How can I not gain back weight in the offseason?" or "Should I stop eating carbs?" No you should not stop eating carbs...
First off, for most recreational cyclists, you don't have to make any enormous dietary shifts in the offseason. If an athlete is racing at a high level, and their training plan calls for quite a few hours and intensity (ex. riding 3 to 6 hours a day on a regular basis), they will need to cut back on their caloric intake when their volume or intensity of training goes down for a few months.
The Elite Diet
Typically I find the more elite you are as an athlete, the more the offseason is risky from a weight gain perspective. A lot of athletes who train full-time and train a lot of hours and then suddenly pull back on that for a month or so for mental and physical rest, have trouble not eating as much as they have been eating for the entire season. It's a habit.
In the case of an athlete who trains at a high level, they typically can afford to eat a lot when training with a large volume and intensity. You get used to having that luxury. For some it's almost hard to keep up with the calories they burn, as it's a lot of fuel to consume. No one ever said that professional athletes are all "healthy," as a lot of sugar gets consumed on five-, six- and seven-hour rides.
Eating for the Rest of UsOn the other hand, the more casual athlete who may be training only 60 to 90 minutes a day in season, is likely going to continue to exercise an hour a day in the offseason as well, both for health reasons and sanity.
Often in this case there is a lot less adjusting to do, if any. It's actually a healthy place to be when you can simply eat the same healthy and balanced diet all year. So for the more casual athlete, things can almost remain consistent. Typically there is no "burn out," as you're not running yourself into the ground with stage races, travel and long rides. Again, hopefully this athlete doesn't throw in the towel on 60- to 90-minute rides in the fall.
So what are some changes you can make in the offseason to help lower your caloric intake while getting the nourishment and fuel you need? Let's take a look:
- Athletes are still going to continue to be active. Activity requires carbohydrates. It's the nature of endurance sports.
- Remember, vegetables are carbohydrates too. Offseason is a great time to eat a lot of the veggies and salads that you couldn't eat during stage races and on big-training weekends when you just needed more calorically-dense foods than asparagus and arugula. Veggie chili is also a great idea, especially with the temperature cooling off outside and the crockpot making chili cooking easy.
More: Drop It: 10 Steps to Achieve Your Optimal Performance Weight