Off-Season Nutrition - By Jen Rawson, RD
As runners, our schedules and timelines revolve around our training cycles. After a major goal race, runners are advised to take an off-season where the body is allowed time to rest and recover before the next challenge. While most runners have charts and schedules detailing their training plan, mileage, and splits, many forget to consider how their nutrition should vary during different stages of the training cycle.
A high carbohydrate diet is the accepted standard diet for a runner. While that's the best approach during training, adjusting the diet with training cycles can help achieve optimum performance on race day and recovery during the off-season.
Eating during a training cycle
During the buildup phase for a major race, mileage increases weekly and so does the body's demand for energy to fuel the muscles. To provide this source, an increased proportion of your diet should come from carbohydrates as you build further into your training plan. For example, a marathon runner should be eating up to 65% of their diet from carbohydrates. But before you go running out to pick up a box of doughnuts, it's important to consider the quality of the carbohydrates you're choosing.
Think of your body like a car. You can fuel it with "regular fuel" comprised of simple carbohydrates full of added sugar (such as doughnuts, cookies, and pizza) or you can choose to fuel your body with "premium fuel" comprised of complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and fruit. The regular fuel is cheaper and will get your body where it needs to go, but the premium fuel will make your body run better with fewer breakdowns or health consequences in the long term.
To add high quality complex carbohydrates to your eating patterns during training, try:
Eating during the off-season
After a goal race, training volume will drastically decrease. Without the added demands on our muscles, our bodies do not require as much fuel. That means reducing your carbohydrate intake to around 45%. You'll want to focus more on protein for recovery and healthy fats while still maintaining a smaller portion of complex carbohydrates.
Changing your eating patterns in the off-season isn't always easy. You may have gotten used to eating a high carbohydrate diet and allowing yourself a few more indulgences. But with a few simple tweaks, you can prevent weight gain and maximize your recovery. Here are some suggestions for eating in the off-season:
Your diet doesn't need to drastically change between your training cycle and your off-season, but being aware of your energy demands and adjusting your daily routine can ensure you're fuelled up properly for both your training and recovery phases.