Runners often face a break from running – whether it is the off season or if a runner has taken a break after a marathon or is injured . The initial break from running can last a few days to weeks, during which time you do very little activity as your body recovers from a long period of training. Then gradually there is a transition into active rest where daily activity and cross training is initiated . However as compared to structured training, the volume and intensity of training are both very low during the recovery period. .
Off season may bring about various other targets whether it is concerning nutrition or concerning muscle strength and toning .
This article will deal about the nutritional challenges faced by runners in the off season
Target No 1 : Avoid weight gain
The main concern in the mind of runner who is already at optimum weight is to avoid weight gain. During the training period due to excessive calories spent the runners have to incorporate good quality carbohydrates and fats in the diet . If the calorie in and calorie out balance is not strategized as there is overall reduction in energy expenditure the calories may add up leading to weight gain . Every 3500 extra calories eaten leads to increase in 1 pound of weight. One has to become more mindful about eating. Personally I feel that the intermittent fasting method of either 14: 10 or 6 : 8 window works best here and saves us from eating unnecessary calories and keeping the macros in proportion.
Target No 2 : Weight loss
If weight loss is the offseason target, the plan should be to loose no more than 0.5 to 1 kg per week. This approach to weight loss helps to reduce body fat and to minimize a reduction of lean muscle mass. A weight loss of 0.5 to 1 kg 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. Runners with excess fat could improve their times as much as one percent for each pound they lose. That is, if a 200-pound man loses 10 pounds (five percent), he should be able to race five percent faster. A half marathon in 2:00 becomes a 1:54. However one has to be very careful that the weight loss is that of body fat not muscle , hence the body fat index will be a better guide rather than weight.
Following are the few ways where off – season weight loss can be approached
- A low carbohydrate and a high protein diet together with a scientific approach towards intermittent fasting usually helps . The mantra should be eat clean and eat green.
- Eat nutrient dense foods for eg a bowl of quinoa will pack in more protein than a bowl of fries or popcorn .
- Do not go on a liquid diet and limit food in liquid forms as they pack in a load of calories . Fruit smoothies should especially be avoided as they lead to a sharp insulin spike which hampers metabolism.
- The benefits of protein cannot be emphasized enough. Research has confirmed again and again that eating protein increases satiety Not only will you feel fuller, longer, but you’ll probably eat a little less, too. So make protein a priority at every meal. Protein is critical for runners. Your body needs protein to repair and build muscle tissue after a challenging workout. It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and even blood, and you need it to make enzymes and hormones, too. Some of the best sources of protein are wild fish, free-range poultry, and lean meats, or plant sources like legumes, nuts, and seeds. Or, mix up a smoothie with protein powder for a filling milkshake-like treat. Most runners should aim to consume about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, depending on how much running , weight training or any other form of cross training they are doing.
- Avoid energy drinks which are very high on sugar . Instead hydrate using plain water . If you’re trying to lose weight, drink water at least 90 percent of the time, and stick to unsweetened tea, coffee or other unsweetened beverages when you want to mix things up. Several Harvard studies have shown that energy drinks are directly related to obesity.
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.
Tips to Achieve Your Offseason Nutrition Goals
- 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 had incorporated into your diet to support your training, but you now no longer need.
- Focus on diet quality:Eat more foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, like colourful fruits and vegetables. Eat less of the high calorie and heavy complex 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 your energy intake accordingly.
- 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.
- 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.
- Try something new: It is a good idea to change the patterns of eating and try out new energy gels or supplements and 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 senses while also introducing beneficial nutrients that may have been lacking in your training diet.
Dr. Pallavi Aga (MBBS MD) is a doctor who is pursuing preventive health in the form of nutritional counselling especially for weight loss. She is passionate about fitness and nutrition, being a runner herself too. She is an avid follower of eat clean and green with a holistic approach to health and diet. She is trying to build a medicine free and hospital free holistic life style. Her mantra is ‘use food as fuel’.
You can direct your nutrition, weight loss and clean eating queries to her at email@example.com.
Her Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/nutritionistpallavi/