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Coach's Column: Winter Weight Gain - How To Avoid It and How Much Is Too Much?

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |January 21, 2014 2:42 AM

Coach's Column with Namrita O'Dea: Winter Weight Gain - How To Avoid It and How Much Is Too Much?

Question: How can I adjust my diet in the off season to avoid gaining a bunch of weight? Is it healthy to gain some weight in the off season? How much weight gain is too much?

Answer: If you made it to your racing weight this season, there is no reason you should worry about putting on a couple pounds in the off-season. But, this can be a slippery slope so have a firm limit in mind and stick to it, i.e. "I'm not going to gain more than 5 pounds". The most important thing you will need to accomplish this is a plan and some guidelines for yourself. 


1) Cut out the convenience foods:

While you may need the additional calories from high energy supplements such as bars, shakes, and sports drinks during the season, the off-season is the perfect time to take a break from these. Spend more time shopping for and cooking real food such as soups, warm winter salads, roasted vegetables, and homemade fruit and veggie chips using a food dehydrator or oven.


2) Limit alcohol:

Many athletes refrain from or limit alcohol during the competitive season but let loose in the off-season. While craft beer tasting can be a fun off-season hobby, some of these beers can be really high in calories. Simply, the higher alcohol content and the more residual sugar in the beer, the higher the calories. When in doubt, have a plan to limit total number of drinks and especially, how often you indulge in the high gravity ones (sorry double IPA lovers...).


3) Change up your routine:

If you have breakfast on auto pilot and are used to eating a big bowl of cereal or making a big chocolate banana peanut butter protein smoothie every morning, it might be time to change it up. Try scrambling a few eggs and/or egg whites with a big bowl of veggies and top with pesto or salsa. And, to lighten up the calories in your smoothie, replace some of the fruit with a bunch of vegetables. If you're not used to "green smoothies" it might be best to start gradually and then build up to a blender full of greens.

How much weight is too much to gain?  If your clothes are starting to get too tight it might be time to reevaluate your diet and activity levels. Just because you may not be doing intervals yet, that doesn't mean you should not still be active. Go for a hike, ski, or try out a yoga class. Even a small amount of exercise can be an appetite suppressant.

Namrita is a Registered Dietitian and endurance mountain bike athlete. At 55nine Performance, she specializes in nutrition for sports performance and wellness, and coaching. Namrita holds a Masters degree in Nutrition from Georgia State University and is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Physiology at Georgia Institute of Technology. She also conducts clinics and camps for women cyclists and speaks at several nutrition and racing clinics in the Southeast. Namrita currently races for Team Topeak-Ergon USA. For more information and updates, visit

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