Even the most dedicated athletes have an off-season, rest days, or even weeks without intense training. Changing your nutrition to match a sudden drop in how often, how long, or how hard you train can help make sure you are fuelled, but not too much - or too little! - and strike the right balance when you're taking it easy.
Different Needs, Different Feeds
Building a solid foundation of matching your needs is a good place to start when it comes to nutrition. If you are sedentary (not moving all day, or very little) or inactive (moving a little but not meeting the physical activity guidelines of 1-hour+ per day for young individuals), you should match your energy intake from food and drink appropriately. This will mean you'll be eating a little less than if you were being very active or training hard. Your body uses calories to move and be active, and if you're not being as active, you won't need as many calories from food and drink. This does not mean you have to drastically reduce how much food you eat. More that, if you are a little less active, eat a little less. Eating enough is crucial, and will help you towards meeting your needs for important vitamins and minerals, too, such as calcium, vitamin D, and iron - as well as all the others!
Managing Your Meals
The Eatwell Plate is a helpful tool towards meeting your nutrition goals for everyday life. Starchy carbs, fruit and veg, dairy, protein, and small treats can help build a healthy relationship with food. Even on rest days, light training days, and in the off-season, you should work towards a balanced diet to provide you with the nutrients you need. The thing to consider, however, is that you'll require less food. Here are just a couple of ideas:
- Eating smaller portions is a good way to 'eyeball' what you eat and manage your nutrition when you need a bit less. This could be as simple as having a smaller bowl of porridge at breakfast, fewer triangle sandwiches at lunch, or a couple of heaped tablespoons less of rice at dinnertime.
- Super swaps, like having a piece of fruit instead of a packet of sweets, can be a good way of knowing you've had a little less - and the fruit will give you more nutrients!
- You may even want to skip the snack altogether and decide not to have that extra chocolate cereal bar or biscuits.
- Feeling full? That's ok! Eat slowly, drink plenty, and know when you've had enough to eat so that you feel good and satisfied. There's nothing wrong with leaving a bit more food on your plate at mealtimes if it means you're finished.
As long as you eat enough throughout day and get plenty of nutrients you'll be good to go! Eating enough is important, especially if you only have one rest day and you're training the next Overall, knowing when to make little tweaks to how much you eat can help you keep healthy habits and still perform at your best!
Guest Author: Liam Oliver, BSc Nutriton.