Nutrition Tips for Runners During the Offseason

Also keep in mind that while a lower body weight and body fat may be associated with improved running performance, it is important to realize that there is no "ideal" body size or weight for optimum performance. In her book Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, Monique Ryan, MS, RD, states: "Athletes need to realize that they will perform their best when they reach and maintain their own optimal body composition, not some idealized body composition that would require excessive training efforts and restrictive food strategies." Strive to achieve a healthy, maintainable body weight that makes you feel your best and you will perform your best.

More: Will I Run Faster If I Lose Weight?

If weight loss is your offseason goal, you should plan to lose no more than 0.5 to 1 pound per week. This approach to weight loss will help you maximize the amount of weight loss as body fat, and minimize a reduction of lean muscle mass. A weight loss of 0.5 to 1 pound per week equals a daily calorie reduction of 250 to 500 calories below what you need to support you daily energy needs and minimal training.

Offseason Target: Eat More Healthfully

Whether your goal is to lose weight or just prevent weight gain during the offseason, you should also think about shaping up your diet as a whole. Oftentimes when you're in the middle of a season, you can get into a routine and eat a lot of the same foods while limiting or completely cutting out others. The offseason is a great time to reintroduce some of those foods, as well as others from all of the food groups. It's also the right time to increase variety and strive for balance in our diets.

More: Top 10 Superfoods for Endurance Athletes

5 Tips to Achieve Your Offseason Nutrition Goals

1. Decrease energy intake to avoid weight gain: This can be done easily by cutting out the extra bars, sports drinks and recovery snacks that you incorporated into your diet to support your training, but you now no longer need.

More: 9 Flat-Belly Foods

2. Focus on diet quality: Eat more foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, like colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat less of the energy-dense foods and refined carbohydrates that previously added energy to your diet, but not much else. Base your diet off of a variety of fruits and vegetables—this will help fill you up, making it easier to reduce you energy intake accordingly.

3. Take time to tune into your hunger cues: During the season you might eat without thinking or even when you're not hungry but you know you need energy to support your training. Instead of sticking to the same eating schedule, try to listen to your body when it says it's hungry and when it says it's full. Intuitive eating plays a huge role in healthy weight loss and maintenance.

More: 7 Ways to Curb Hunger and Shrink Your Waistline

4. Add your old favorites: Sometimes during the training season you limit foods that you think are bad for you or don't work well with running. No food is a bad food; just remember to enjoy everything in moderation.

5. Try something new: Dietitians always preach never to try anything new on race day or before an important workout. Instead we say stick to what works. The offseason is a great time to try new foods that you may have been avoiding because you weren't sure how your body would react. Adding new foods to your diet can stimulate your palette while also introducing beneficial nutrients that may have been lacking in your training diet.

More: 10 Bitter Foods That Cleanse the Body and Boost Performance

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