An off-season diet for athletes should consist of a good balance of food that maintains good health throughout a period of well-earned rest. While there is a temptation to ease scrutiny of eating habits during down time, poor food choices will only limit recovery, and eventually, make pre-season training all the more gruelling.
Yet, the rules that govern an off-season diet for athletes are straightforward. Better yet, they encompass a delicious variety of foods to enjoy. Following these rules will help athletes feel energized, manage weight effectively, and maintain good conditioning.
Here are some top tips for eating right during the off-season.
Even when in hibernation mode, your body still needs exposure to the glorious antioxidants that maintain healthy blood flow, improve heart health, and keep the immune system robust. Good drinking habits can assist with this. Get the blood pumping, manage inflammation, and boost your off-season recovery by drinking smart. That means plenty of beet and tart cherry juice, delicious breakfast smoothies, and a daily fix of green tea. While your thirst may not be as strong as it is after a taxing workout, quenching it with regular water intake, rather than synthesized drinks, still works best.
Giving your body a chance to repair and rebuild is what the off-season is all about. From a food perspective, there is no better way of doing this than by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Leafy greens are nutrient and protein dense, packed with vitamins, minerals, essential acids and fiber; they should accompany your off-season food choices at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Kale, spinach, and broccoli all come to mind here. And, don’t forget about the fruit. Just like vegetables, their high nutritional value and low calorie count can have a tremendous impact on your health.
As energy expenditure decreases, so too should your calorie count. Downsizing food portions is an essential part of the off-season diet for athletes, as it helps match calorie intake with a reduced training load. There’s no need to get overly mathematical when adjusting serving sizes; simply use visual cues. For example, rather than devouring a heaped bowl of oats for breakfast, as you would before a work out, reduce it to ¾ of a bowl or just try using smaller dishes. It’s also important to remember that – whether in-season or out – calories should always be sourced from clean and healthy foods.
With less training sessions to attend, the need for a quick top-up of pre or post-workout energy decreases. As such, your tendency to reach out for energy snacks used to fuel or refuel should ease. In other words, go easy on the sugar-saturated and high-calorie fixes such as energy bars. Instead, use your new-found spare time to prepare your own healthy snacks. Fruit and vegetables can be eaten plentifully without weight-gain concern, while nuts, rice cakes, raisins, and peanut butter are also sound snack options.
Along with the dos of an off-season diet for athletes, there are plenty of don’ts. One of those is alcohol consumption, which tends to increase when athletes are not in training. Given that one standard alcoholic drink contains at least 100 calories, it’s important to drink in moderation.
Also, while the temptation to eat fast food is strong during a period of rest, this fodder comes riddled with processed ingredients and is devoid of nutritional value. Skip the take away and create your own culinary delights instead. As for managing that pesky sweet tooth, which becomes a little noisier during the off-season, there are plenty of smart dessert options to consider.
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