With training season for various sports on the horizon or already in progress, I often get posed with the question of how should I eat when training versus during the offseason. It’s a great question because not making necessary adjustments to the diet during the offseason can be problematic when the training season resumes and visa versa. The worst thing an athlete can do is minimize the importance of diet during the offseason and gain fatty tissue in place of lost muscle mass. This will not only set the athlete back in terms of continued performance, but may also allow for improper recovery. Basically, the athlete will be taking 2 steps back instead 1 step forward.
For most athletes, training season will bring more intense workouts which will increase the metabolic rate overall. Depending on the ultimate goal, caloric intake will likely need an adjustment in order to maintain current weight and support optimal performance throughout training. On the flip side, caloric needs need to be evaluated when not intensively training (i.e. the offseason) to prevent fat gain and muscle loss. Keeping a detailed food record for at least 3 days will help a sports dietitian know how to make modifications. Be sure to record not only what is eaten, but how much and at what times. This will help the nutrition professional know if you are meeting your caloric goals or not and make adjustments accordingly.
In addition to overall caloric intake, timing of meals and snacks and modifications of specific macronutrients may need to be made to support your workouts. Creating an eating schedule to support pre-, during, and post-workout eating will allow the body to properly replace exhausted stores from the previous workout and repair muscle damage before the next scheduled workout. Eating consistently throughout the day will allow proper distribution of calories along with carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Carbohydrate rich foods and beverages will replenish stored carbohydrate in the muscle (also known as glycogen). The amount of carbohydrate, proteins, and fats needed per eating opportunity (i.e. meal or snack) typically depends on the amount of time the athlete has prior to the workout, weight of the athlete, and length of time of the workout or competition. For example, a soccer player whose workouts are primarily in the afternoon can spread his intake throughout breakfast, lunch and 2 snacks before starting his workout versus an early morning runner who may have to rely on a more concentrated carbohydrate source 30 min-1 hour before his run then utilize recovery nutrition during and following the workout or competition. They may have similar carbohydrate needs, but how they will consume them can be different. Adequate protein intake post-workout will assist in muscle tissue repair as breakdown occurs throughout athletic workouts. Repairing muscle tissue will allow for optimal, quick recovery in order to continue improving performance. In addition to protein, carbohydrates are necessary for recovery as useful glycogen, or stored carbohydrate in the muscle, must be replaced. Healthful unsaturated fats along with carbohydrates are useful in supporting low to moderate intensity workouts along which are vital aspects of recovery. Recommended amounts will vary based upon total daily caloric intake. Use the table below as a guide to plan pre-, during and post workout meals and snacks.
Immediate Pre-workout (1 hr-30 mins prior): Approx. 50g carb snack or beverage
During workout: 30-60 g carb per hour for workouts lasting 1 hr. or longer (endurance athletes)
Immediate Post-workout (within 45 min after workout): approx. 20-25 g protein & easily digestible carb (amount depends on athlete’s weight)
In closing, nutrition plays a vital role in allowing athletes to progress to higher levels of competition. By choosing the right foods and timing meals and snacks appropriately around workouts, athletes can train harder, compete to win, and advance further! If you are seeking more detailed, individualized meal plans in order to Fuel for Excellence, please contact Kate for an appointment!