By: Marni Rakes, M.S.
You've set your goal and have decided to train for an Aflac Iron Girl event. Great choice! You replaced the elliptical machine and stationary bike with the treadmill and a few weekly spin classes. Now, you are counting miles rather than calories burned.
The day you register for a race you begin to train like an athlete. The day you finish a race, you become an athlete. No longer do you tell others that you have to "exercise." Instead, your workout routine is structured, planned and disciplined. Although training for an event may seem tiresome and sometimes boring, an end goal will give you the determination and motivation to stay true to your training routine.
As mentioned in last month's article, winter brings cold weather and a lack of motivation for your training routine. Even non-structured activities become difficult. Do you contemplate getting out of bed, leaving that warm, snugly comforter, to get in an early 30-minute swim? Are you one of the many who stays in bed or do you fight temptation and go for the workout?
For the times you do have the motivation to exercise, and find yourself enjoying your change in routine, weight loss is probably still on your mind. Don't worry, you are not alone! There is nothing wrong with focusing on calories in and calories out during the time of year when performance is not a main concern. Of course, you are also doing a great thing for your heart, as you focus on hitting the gym six days a week. Exercising to burn calories is a practical method to gradually lose weight, so long as you gradually cut back on your caloric intake in order to create a caloric deficit.
Unfortunately, your high-calorie nutrition plan, to support arduous peak-season training and racing, tends to carry to the off-season. No longer do you have the luxury to eat a little extra during the day because you can't just "burn it off in training." In the off-season, you want to give your body a break from structured training, so you can stick to an exercise plan that will boost the metabolism without a sense of monotony.
As you choose to exercise on a daily basis in order to burn calories, it is important that you aren't just exercising in order eat whatever you want. Exercise is only one part of losing weight in the off-season.
Find foods that leave you feeling satisfied and not stuffed. One less serving a day, or 300-400 fewer calories, may be the missing link to losing those stubborn five to ten pounds. When grocery shopping, check food labels to find foods that have less than 150 calories per serving, so you don't go overboard on meal and snack calories.
When struggling to find the best heart-healthy foods in your supermarket, use your best judgment, and a little nutrition knowledge, to find the healthiest options. And, when there isn't a healthy option, think twice about buying that food. Unfortunately, there is no healthy alternative to double-stuffed Oreos (and no, regular Oreos do not count).
When planning your meals and snacks, it is important to prioritize low-calorie, low-sugar and low-fat, portioned-controlled foods to complement foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Furthermore, a colorful diet with a variety of wholesome and natural foods will ensure you are meeting all calorie recommendations without eating an excessive amount of calories.
In the off-season, don't be afraid to go to bed a little hungry. Start your day with a filling breakfast and try to eat fruits and veggies for your snacks. If you appreciate a calorie-controlled diet, you will not only create a lifetime of healthy eating, but you will also go into the racing season with a more efficient body.