Athletes live their lives in cycles.
After all, staying at maximum peak performance every day for your entire life isn't really sustainable, no matter how determined you are to stay in shape. Athletes, particularly those who have a defined "season" at some point throughout the year, want to peak when they're playing they're most important games. Naturally, that means you're going to train less at certain points during the year.
But just how much rest should you be getting during your offseason? How much relaxing can you do before you're severely hampering your performance abilities? For some athletes, it can be frighteningly easy to gain weight during the offseason. But it's a lot harder to shed that weight when it's time to prepare your body for peak performance. With that in mind, here are some tips for preventing unwanted weight gain during your offseason.
1. Realize a Little Weight Gain Is Perfectly Natural
You need to know that it's perfectly fine to put on a little bit of weight during your offseason. You don't have to be obsessively monitoring the scale for any sign of the needle ticking up. That ruins the entire point of relaxing and recharging during the first portion of your offseason. However, you must be diligent that this normal, natural weight gain doesn't spiral out of control.
Gaining a few pounds over the offseason won't ruin your training or majorly set you back, and it won't be a massive challenge for you to lose that weight if you'd like to, either. Most athletes lose weight during their season. It's not ideal for performance, but it's the truth.
Allowing yourself to re-gain some of that lost weight and nourish your body can aid in the recovery and rebuilding process. It can also make your offseason gains more significant inside the weight room.
However, if you simply want to see gradual improvements in your body composition season after season, this postseason period of increased calorie consumption shouldn't last forever. If your offseason is five months long, you probably don't need to be reaching for that extra serving of cheese in month four (unless you're actually trying to beef up, of course; but if that's the case, this article isn't for you).
2. Don't Become Sedentary
There's a difference between easing up on your training and becoming a bonafide couch potato. Your season puts you in constant competition, and it's OK to want to take a break once the season is over. However, that doesn't mean you have license to live like a sloth for the next month.
You probably know this, but top athletes don't stay top athletes by taking prolonged breaks from movement. Even when they're not in season, they're still hitting the gym, going on walks, performing yoga and generally keeping themselves limber and active. Drew Brees, for example, doesn't touch a weight for several weeks after his season ends. Instead, he performs activities like paddle boarding, hiking and biking. "I don't touch a weight for a period of time, but I always want to be sweating, I always want to be in shape. That's kinda part of my edge," Brees told STACK.
Even when you're taking a break after the end of the season, you should still aim to find a routine that keeps you active at least three times a week for 45 minutes a day. This activity shouldn't consist of playing your sport or target the same muscle groups that may have worn down over the course of a long season. Instead, use the break to become a more well-rounded athlete and branch into some activities you may not have time for when things kick back into high gear.
3. Adjust Your Food Intake
Even though you should be staying active during all phases of your offseason, you probably aren't going to be nearly as active as you are during your season or heavy training periods. That means you'll be burning fewer calories. Therefore, you're likely going to need to cut back on the amount of calories you consume if you want to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Cutting down on your meal portions can be an easy way to achieve this, but athletes used to big meals may have difficulty cutting back. You can help yourself out by changing the content of your food rather than the size of your meals. If you're used to a protein-heavy dish, swap out a third or half of your meat portion for a hearty serving of grilled vegetables. You'll likely be eating more volume overall, but fewer calories. Swapping out calorie-dense foods like cheeses, chips, butter, desserts, etc., for fruits and veggies will allow you to cut back on your calorie intake without feeling like you're barely eating anything.
Athletes have to constantly think about the impact of their decision on their body. This remains true during the offseason, but it doesn't mean you should punish yourself.
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