Weight gain in the off-season: it's good for recovery

Unfortunately this is the time of year when people athletes or not can pack on 10 pounds in no time flat, some by just looking at all those tempting holiday sweets, pastries and homemade luxury foods, along with the caviar, smoked salmon, turkey and mounds of stuffing.

Then, of course, there are all those baked potatoes stuffed with globs of butter; it's enough to swing the pointer on the scale with the just the thought of them.

However, a few extra pounds gained in the off-season for athletes can be very advantageous for deep body repair at a cellular level. By a few pounds, I mean 5 to 7 pounds, which will easily melt off when scheduled training begins in January for most multi-sport athletes.

Ironman world champ Peter Reid, one of the athletes with whom I work, recently told me that he was feeling fat but as a world champion, he knew this to be a healthy occurrence. An athlete at Peter's level will feel fat at 5 pounds over race weight because his body is so finely tuned.

However, I encourage Peter to eat whatever he wants in the off-season in moderation and enjoy the freedom of not monitoring his diet so strictly. Why create guilt and stress and deny your body's cravings when you have been diligent and undeniably dedicated during the long season?

Most athletes will notice a 5-pound gain in weight the week after an endurance event such as an Ironman or marathon. Some of this is due to an increase in complex-carb intake following the event for a period of a week or so; this reflects the tendency for carbs to hold excess water.

Complex carbs absorb and hold more water than just protein alone. I always encourage all my athletes to eat plenty of lean protein and complex carbs to assist muscular and deep cellular recovery post Ironman events.

If you have a craving, go for it and don't deny your body what it wants or more appropriately, needs for the rebuilding process. Enjoy all the off-season has to offer in terms of dietary freedom to crave what your body demands for recovery purposes whether that be physical, mental or spiritual.

This is the season to enjoy, so take the Belgian truffle when offered or the glass of French merlot and feel no guilt only satisfaction, really you deserve it!

JulieAnne White is a 9:08 Ironman finisher who coaches and advises several of triathlon's premier athletes, but her specialty is in working with age-group competitors. As of this writing she's accepting applications for the 2003 season. Click here for more info.

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