November is here, which means we are at or nearing the end of the season for high school and college fall sports. This can mean a lot of different things, for many athletes. It might mean entering a true off-season or they may be transitioning into a winter sport or entering club season. Regardless of what the next step might be, here are some things every fall athlete should think about now.
1. What are Your Goals? If you are in the off-season, this is the perfect time to focus on your eating habits to optimize your body composition. If you are transitioning to a winter sport, do you need to make changes to fueling before the season starts? If you are entering club season, how will the timing and amount of eating need to change for you?
2. Goals of Offseason Fueling. Compensate for the differences in lifestyle and training during the offseason by adjusting nutrient intake. Recognize that changes in body fat and weight may occur and be aware of appropriate changes. Create a balance between training volume and nutrient intake.
3. Create Small Successes. Find small changes you can make and small successes you can rejoice in. Try to drink double the amount of water you currently drink. How about simply adding vegetables with lunch every day? Add protein to breakfast. Small successes add up to major diet overhauls and big performance gains long-term!
4. Tips to Take with You. Focus on eating more “real” foods versus convenience foods (ie. bars/prepackaged shakes). “Real” foods will help every athlete improve. Instead of 4 granola bars daily, can you swap 1 out for trail mix? Instead of chips after school, can you switch to fruit and yogurt or toast and peanut butter? The more real you eat, the more real results you see. Keep in mind that sleep is an important part of reaching your body composition goals. Make ample time for rest.
5. Weight Gain. Are you looking to add some lean muscle mass this winter? A healthy goal is to gain ~1/2 pound per week. Gaining too quickly can result in unwanted body fat. Use these tips to help incorporate more quality into your diet to promote weight gain: Eat every 2-3 hours during wake hours. Add caloric dense foods such as nuts and nut butters, cheese, granola, avocado. These will increase calories without volume! Include nutrient dense caloric beverages such as milk, smoothies, 100% with all meals.
6. Weight Loss. Some excess weight weighing you down? Off season is a good time to focus on small, healthy weight loss without the use of extreme diets. Losing 1 or less pound per week is a healthy goal that will minimize loss of muscle mass. Include more fruits and vegetable in your day include lean protein at every meal AND snack, such as nuts, greek yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, turkey. Avoid sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened juice. Continue to eat often about every 3-4 hours, this will keep a steady supply of energy and prevent you from overeating. Increase fiber. Look to whole grain, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetable. Fuel more earlier in the day! Taper your meal size as the day goes on to enable you to burn more calories during the more active part of your day.
7. Weight Maintenance. Match your carbohydrate intake level to your activity level.
For more specific and individual recommendations, now is a great time for athletes to check in before the winter with Suzanne Iovanni at Building Better Nutrition.