Nutritionist Sally Pinegar advises us on how to have a break from intense training without piling on excess pounds.
So it’s getting towards the end of the season and you’re looking forward to a well-earned break from training and eating sensibly. Bring on those nights by the fire, casseroles with lashings of mash, roast dinners and country pub lunches. Before you know it you can easily gain a stone or more. It only takes you to eat two thousand more calories per week, and reduce your training by another 2,000 calories to see you gain over a stone through the winter. Come next triathlon season you’re faced with a shed load of weight to shift impossibly fast whilst trying to train hard. What’s a triathlete to do? These five suggestions should help you stay slim and trim during the off-season.
1. Cut starchy carbohydrates
Triathletes focus just a little too much on carbohydrate. They’ll have toast at breakfast, snack on malt loaf, energy bars, then eat pasta for dinner. You can just about get away with this in full training but if you carry it on into the off-season you’ll start packing on the pounds as all those energy-giving carbs get converted into fat stores.
On training days you should eat your starches directly either side of your training session as a snack beforehand and then a main meal afterwards. At other times of the day and on non-training days, make the focus of your diet protein, vegetables and a little fruit. For instance, try having three scrambled eggs on one slice of toast at breakfast; no morning snack; bean-based soup at lunch with no bread, followed by yoghurt; no afternoon snack; chicken or fish and vegetables for dinner, perhaps with a small amount of good homemade sauce.
2. Big breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner
Try to eat the bulk of your calories before the evening. Any time you get the chance to have your main meal at lunchtime, do so. That way you’ll burn more of the calories off as energy during the afternoon’s activities. When that’s not possible, just add a little more to your lunch and take a little away from your supper. Eat your evening meal before 7:30pm and go for a walk afterwards.
3. Go to sleep earlier
Notice I didn’t say go to bed earlier. I mean sleep rather than watching TV or surfing the net or working in bed. It’s been proven that people who stay up late eat more calories. It’s because the longer you go between meals the more likely you are to get hungry and so you snack more. Also the lack of proper darkness fools your brain into thinking it’s not night-time, so your appetite is stimulated.
4. Recognise hunger
When people are in full training they get frightened of hunger, scared it will affect performance. They train their bodies to be sugar burners by giving them lots of refined carbs and sugar thinking that training and racing will be boosted. They become sugar burners.A sugar burner means more frequent hunger pangs, more frequent hunger pangs mean more food and more starchy sugary food means more hunger. So use the off-season to retrain your body to be a better fat burner. Learn to tolerate low level hunger, boredom hunger and sugar-demanding hunger and only eat when you are properly stomach-rumbling hungry. When you do eat, make sure it’s mainly low GI foods, which release their energy slowly.
5. Train differently
Use the winter to try out some different sports and activities. Taking part in new activities will burn more calories because you’ll be working less efficiently and you’ll be using different muscle groups to the ones you’re used to. Just remember not to ignore the tri training for too long, or you’ll lose your sport-specific fitness.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
You’ll find loads more triathlon training advice in triradar.com’s Training Zone section.