The “off-season” needs a new name. Skate camp, two-a-day training sessions and try-outs sound pretty “on” to me. Although the “off-season” means that you may not be actively competing in sport, it certainly does not mean that you are sitting at home eating bon-bons. Instead of “off-season,” I like to think of the time between seasons as a “repair and prepare” season, a time to overcome any imbalances or injuries sustained during the year and to strengthen your body in preparation for the next season.
Just as your activities change in the repair and prepare season, so should your nutrition. Here are some things to keep in mind while planning your nutrition.
Reflect on last season. Did you come out of the season at a lower or higher body weight than you started? Athletes can often lose significant amounts of weight, including lean tissue, due to the physical demands of the active season.
Set goals for your repair and prepare season. Do you want to gain muscle? Get faster? Stronger? Improve energy levels? This is important for training and nutrition. Set Specific, Measurable Attainable Reward-based and Timely (SMART) goals for training and nutrition.
Eat according to your training schedule. Your nutrition needs may fluctuate throughout the “repair and prepare” season, depending on your training. If you are going through intense training, you should increase your intake of high carbohydrates and protein foods. If you’re not training as hard, you might want to lay off them.
Here are some nutrition tips to power through the “repair and prepare” season:
1. Focus on whole, seasonal foods such as whole grains, local vegetables and fruits and unprocessed meats. You likely have more time on your hands, so try some new recipes instead of relying on prepared meals.
2. Include post-training nutrition in your plan. In order to build yourself stronger and better, you need to give your body proper fuel immediately post-training to make the most of your hard work. Focus on carbohydrates, protein and fluids. Here are some easy post-training ideas:
- 500 mL chocolate milk and a banana
- 1 cup Greek yogurt, granola, blueberries
- scoop protein powder and
- 2 cups juice
3. Reduce your caloric (food) intake if you’re not going to be as active as in the “on” season. Focus on eating more vegetables and fruit and avoid high fat, high carbohydrates meals. Swap the burger and fries for a salad with chicken and a whole grain tortilla.
4. Increase your caloric (food) intake if you want to gain mass or if you are training hard. If you’d like to gain weight, you need to eat at least 500 more calories per day than you are burning. Focus on high energy snacks and meals that include protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Here are a few suggestions:
- Instead of having juice with breakfast, make a shake with juice, Greek yogurt and almond butter.
- Add skim milk powder to items such as soups, shakes and yogurt to increase your protein intake.
- Make your own training mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and snack on it throughout the day.
- Include a snack before you go to bed and include protein and carbohydrates. See the ideas from point two.
While taking a break from the “on” season is important for our bodies, try to make the most of the “repair and prepare” season to set yourself up for a stellar next season.