Summer represents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for the off-season athlete, especially when it comes to nutrition. The off-season is an ideal time to change daily eating habits, modify weight and body composition, and fully recover from any athletic-related injuries.
It’s also an appropriate season to experiment with nutrition, according to Heather Fink, a registered dietitian and consultant for Indiana University Health Sports Performance. Overall eating patterns, specific food selections and volume of intake are just a few of the nutrition changes an athlete may consider.
Making significant changes in the off-season lowers the risk that dietary changes will have a negative impact on your sports performance. “You don’t want to make big changes in the diet when your sport is in season because you don’t know how the body will respond,” she says.
Here are four nutrition reminders to help athletes stay healthy through the off-season.
If there is a drop in training volume and intensity, it’s appropriate to adjust daily caloric intake to avoid weight gain. All too often, athletes throw caution to the wind in their diets during the off-season, which only makes it harder to get back in shape when the season starts. “They may think, ‘I’m exhausted, so I’m not even going to think about my nutrition,’” Fink says. “You want to avoid those huge swings from strict diligence, to not having nutrition on your radar at all.” It’s healthier for the body if diet and fitness are more consistent year-round.
Remember your protein. Since the off-season is a time of recovery, it’s important to get adequate protein, which provides a good foundation for healing.
Stay hydrated. Indoor training during the summer could also change an athlete’s hydration needs. You probably don’t need as many sports beverages if you exercise in a climate-controlled environment during shorter, less intense training sessions.
Enjoy food. Finally, the off-season is a perfect time to have fun with food and cooking. Try new recipes, enjoy dining out with teammates or host a cook-out. Continue to enjoy all foods in moderation while you celebrate your successful season.