How to cruise through the holidays? Be mindful of a few eating principles

By Anton Macasieb | Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo/Unsplash

The nutritional guidelines for triathletes during off-season shouldn’t be drastically different from the rest of the year, but the athlete’s training load and environment can significantly change over the holidays. From fewer bike rides to more parties and get-togethers, it can be hard to comply with that strict nutritional regimen you’ve been following all year.  Here are a few bits of advice on how to navigate the off-season’s eating options.

Take it Down a Notch

Your caloric intake is partly proportional to the amount of training you do, and with plans to reduce your training load in the next couple of months, so should the calories you consume.

The biggest culprit for significant and unwanted weight gain for triathletes is having a mindset of not changing their diet during the holiday season, which is, perhaps, the most tempting time of year to indulge in sweet and savory meals. Unless you’re planning on maintaining your training load, reduced consumption of the starchiest foods is a must to avoid excess weight gain.

Go for Wholesome Nutrition

It’s the best time to ditch sports bars, protein shakes, and performance-based beverages. Products like gels and sports drinks are designed to speed up recovery and replenishment of glycogen stores, which aren’t a major focus anymore in the off-season.Look at a diet rich in nutrients beyond calories like dark green and leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and low glycemic index starches. These will contain vitamins and minerals lost quickly in intensive workouts and are tough to replenish, like magnesium.

Don’t Build Bad Habits

Consuming excessive alcohol, carbohydrates, and fat not only results in weight gain, but it might also be habit-forming, which can be quite a drag (excuse the pun) as the season starts up again next year. Avoid bingeing through consecutive holiday parties.  Instead, take control of your indulgences and make sure you stay on top of your energy balance.  The last thing you want is biting off and gaining more weight than you can lose.

Mind, But Don’t Stress

It is the holidays after all so you need to cut yourself some slack. While it’s best to not veer too far from your nutritional goals, let’s face it—some leniency needs to be built in. Athletes who exhibit significant weight loss during the race season are expected to gain back some weight as glycogen stores are replenished. A gain of five pounds is typically viewed as an acceptable amount that can be shed fairly easily in the coming months as training ramps up.

Sticking to strict eating guidelines and diets might be close to impossible over the coming weeks. Save your mental fortitude for next year when sticking to your diet counts much more. Keep these general principles in mind so you don’t have to stress over that nagging urge to have a slice of your mom’s homemade pie or whether your office Christmas party will be serving a salad or not.  ’Tis the off-season to be jolly after all.