What to eat in the off-season

Winter weight gain

Come the new year, fitnaturally’s sports nutrition client list grows, as athletes clamber to lose the weight they gained during off-season. It’s common to see athletes come to us having gained a stone or more over the winter, as training and racing decline, nights are dark and Christmas weighs heavy on the fat percentage. What to eat in the off-season in order to stay within sight of race weight can be a real dilemma.

Nutrition for athletes is our specialism, we’re always here to get people back on track. But we’d rather they worked with us over winter so we could simply fine tune things in spring and they could get straight into efficient training.

While people definitely need some relative relaxation time, and time off from strict control, that doesn’t mean letting weight and fat roller-coaster over the year, it’s not a healthy way to treat your body. Nutrition should be managed so that come Jan/Feb it takes just a few weeks to return to optimum body composition, and that means aiming to gain no more than a few pounds. It’s realistic to expect a small rise in body weight and fat percentage, in fact sometimes, particularly for females whose hormones are somewhat affected by levels of body fat, it’s a healthy thing. Maintaining an unnaturally low level of body fat all year can lead to endocrine disruption and contribute to burnout.

What to eat in the off-season

So, it’s pretty obvious that when race season ends you’re not burning as many calories and you have a reduced need for carbohydrates; therefore it figures that you should change the way you eat to suit your less intense and structured exercise regime. You may also have let the tanks run dry nutrient-wise if you had a hard season, pushing yourself and perhaps not having much recovery time. You need to put the colour and variety back into your diet.

Humans are creatures of habit. Athletes get used to eating larger than normal portions and more than the average amount of carbs during periods of heavy training and competition, and give no thought to periodising their nutrition as well as training. But, with some thought and planning about what to eat in the off season, new year crash diets can be a thing of the murky past.

A wise athlete will have a plan for the winter that sees them maintain a reasonable level of fitness as well as a body composition that doesn’t require drastic action just before the new season starts.

Your nutrition goals over the winter are
  • To keep or or bring your weight down to within 4-5lb of race weight.
  • To keep or bring your fat percentage to within 2-3% of optimum for your sport.
  • To eat a wide range of natural foods from all macronutrient groups, in activity-appropriate amounts.
  • To ensure your vitamin and mineral status is excellent.
  • To tailor your carbohydrate intake, both amount and timing of, to your activity level.
  • To develop a healthy eating style that is sustainable for life, if you haven’t already done so (easier to work on this health behaviour during the off season).
  • To enjoy a bit more of a free-rein with food

If you’re confident about managing those goals yourself that’s excellent, but many people lack the knowledge or willpower to put it all into practise. They try all sorts of fad regimes and never settle into a lifelong simple healthy eating pattern that optimises their health and performance. With such a vast amount of conflicting nutrition messages in the media and on social media it can be really confusing, and hard to know where to start, so people don’t bother until it reaches critical stage. Either that or they take up one of the fads and end up with deficiencies or disordered eating.

fitnaturally’s sports nutrition. Trusted by athletes all over the world.

fitnaturally will help you with your nutrition and body composition goals. We have off-the-shelf solutions for sports nutrition that are flexible enough to suit any training regime.

eatnaturally for athletes plan

eatnaturally for athletes gives you a weekly meal plan straight into your secure fitnaturally online account. It’s aimed at runners, swimmers, cyclists (read about cycling nutrition here) and triathletes and is written by qualified sports nutritionists who are also experienced in competitive endurance sport. There are options at each meal to suit whatever training or rest is happening either side of that meal time, the food is chosen for speed and is really tasty and varied. It will also suit anyone else who eats with you because it’s just real, good food. At just £11.50 a week, much of which you’ll save on food you don’t buy or waste any more, it’s a sound investment.

With your eatnaturally for athletes plan you also get a complimentary copy of our eatnaturally for everyone plan each week, so you can double up your options and always have a fallback for unplanned periods of rest or (hopefully not though) injury.

Bespoke sports nutrition

If you need more tailored sports nutrition we have that covered too. We provide weekly bespoke nutrition plans, written just for you, to suit your life, training, taste, circumstances, work and health. You might use these if you have a complex life or just want some professional one-to-one support for a few weeks to get you into it.

Either plan will help you to maintain or lose body fat, and be robust and healthy, ready to hit next season prepared and ahead of the competition.

What about sports nutrition or general supplements and superfoods?

We don’t prescribe supplements or any so called ‘superfoods’; all our plans are packed with natural health-boosting vitamins and minerals, as well as being quick to make, mainstream and delicious food. Our nutritionists are foodies as well; we search for, and create, the best meal combinations using foods that you love.

Need to lose weight? You won’t even notice it’s a diet – because it isn’t, it’s healthy eating.

Trust us with your sports nutrition

As well as being nutritionists and foodies we have completed marathons, competitive open water and pool swims, half and full ironman and all other triathlon distance races up to IM, as well as cycling sportives. We know the nutrition inside out from both sides, which makes us very attuned to our clients’ needs.

Good nutrition makes the competitive difference. Make a commitment to better performance today.

Marathon training, running and sports nutrition plans for everyone from beginner to elite.


Improve your performance, fuel your training and hit your target, or race, weight with ease.
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