Focusing on Nutrition & Body Composition in the Off-Season

During the racing season, most of your goals are probably performance focused, whether that’s finishing your first marathon, setting a PR, or stepping up to a new distance successfully. So you try to use your nutrition to support the pursuit of these targets, like fueling right on race day. But with spring events still to come and the holidays behind us, maybe you’ve got different aims in mind now. I’ve recently had a lot of people reach out asking for help with body composition changes they want to make during the off-season, which is what this post is all about.

Why is the off-season a good time to focus on nutrition for body composition?

Unless you’re gearing up for an early 2023 race, you might have eight to 12 weeks (or more) of downtime, which provides you with the perfect opportunity to dial in your nutrition. During racing season, it’s difficult to do much around body composition because you’re fueling for performance in training and competition. But now that there’s less mileage, intensity, and frequency for a while, you’ve got more bandwidth to focus on other elements of your overall well-being.

What’s the best way to approach nutrition for body composition?

The key is concentrating on healthy eating. This isn’t the same as dieting, which implies restricting or eliminating certain foods and attaching unhelpful “good” or “bad” labels. When people diet, it puts the focus on the scale and eliminating certain foods or food groups. In many cases, it is extremely harmful and can start to create compulsive behaviors and obsessions, not to mention, these restrictive diets are not sustainable. You’ll be better off setting a goal that isn’t weight-centric, such as increasing lean muscle mass, getting stronger, or feeling better in certain clothes.

How can I evaluate my eating habits?

A good starting point when you’re targeting body composition changes is to evaluate your current meal and snack patterns. Which areas are you nailing, like sticking to consistent eating times? And is there something you could get better at, such as including protein with every meal? Once you’ve assessed what you’re doing currently, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to change, what you can keep the same, and what you can double down on.

Should I track my nutrition or not?

Some of my clients have an intuitive feel for what they’re eating and when, while others struggle to get a handle on what their eating patterns look like from day to day. If you fall in this second category, you might find it helpful to see where you’re at and what you could tweak. Don’t get fixated on every single detail, start weighing your food, or count calories, but rather stick to the basics of recording meals & snacks, timing and monitoring feelings of hunger, satiety, and boredom related to your food.  If you’ve struggled with disordered eating or anxiety, tracking probably isn’t the best approach for you.

Which changes can I start making now?

It might seem counterintuitive, but big body composition wins can come from just a few small changes. For example, if you often skip breakfast because your morning is hectic or fitting in lunch around your work schedule is tricky, you might overeat later to try to compensate. In which case, getting intentional around eating those essential meals every day is an easy fix. The off-season can also be a good time to get back to eating things you’ve missed, like big salads or extra veggies. You might have more time to cook and bake if you’re training less, which could allow you to make some new snacks like pumpkin spice and mint chocolate energy bites and gingerbread blender muffins that will keep your energy level high between meals and power you through your off-season workouts. If you find that you’re not getting the right balance of carbs, protein, and fat, you could start trying to include all three in each meal.

How can I get help with my body composition goals?

Recently, I’ve had a lot of people writing to me via Instagram and the Fuel for the Sole podcast asking questions about their nutrition at this time of year. This led me to create a new Off-Season Body Composition Series. It features four virtual classes that you can watch and replay at your convenience. Then you’ll get homework that will guide you on what to evaluate and focus on before the next class. 

We’ll cover how to evaluate body composition, take genetics into account, and set goals in week one. Then in week two, we’ll review macronutrients and look at how to better balance meals and snacks. Moving into week three, you’ll learn how to spot behaviors you can change and when to create new ones that support your healthiest body comp. Finally in week four, you’ll discover the reasons that your weight might fluctuate, which goals it’s better to focus on instead, and how to chase them effectively. 

This is NOT a weight loss course or crash diet. It’s a way to empower yourself to self-identify your strengths, find controllable factors you can improve, and forge sustainable habits for life. If you commit to practicing these consistently, then you’ll get the positive changes that you’re hoping for – not only in your body composition, but also your performance and overall health. 

Sign up now for the Off-Season Body Composition Series, and we’ll send you the first class right away. You’ll then receive the remaining three over the coming weeks. 

Disclaimer: The content in our blog articles provides generalized nutrition guidance. The information above may not apply to everyone. For personalized recommendations, please reach out to your sports dietitian. Individuals who may chose to implement nutrition changes agree that Featherstone Nutrition is not responsible for any injury, damage or loss related to those changes or participation.