What are the major changes I should be making for an off-season diet as I reduce training volume?
A: During in-season training, triathletes may need to take in 2,600–4,000 (or more!) calories, with at least 400–500 grams of carbohydrate daily. In the off-season your needs may come down by 500–1,000 calories per day, to a more “normal” range, depending on how much exercise you will be doing. Additionally, your protein and fat needs diminish slightly to accommodate less muscle recovery needs and total calorie needs; however, your decreased need for carbs is the most pronounced.
One simple way to start thinking about and changing your intake now is to cut your in-season portions of carbohydrate by 25–50 percent (again, depending on your decrease in training activity). An example of this over the course of a day would be to eat half to three-quarters of your usual bowl of oatmeal with the same amount of fruit or nuts, switch up your mid-morning bagel or muffin snack for a large piece of fruit, decrease both your lunch and dinner portions of pasta, potato, quinoa or rice by 25–50 percent, and your mid-afternoon snack should decrease from a whole to half sandwich or from three handfuls of crackers or pretzels to two. You should also reduce your protein and fat intake at lunch and/or dinner by about one-fourth. Bonus points if you add more salad or vegetables. Final note: Although the triathlon off-season generally corresponds with the holiday splurge season, try to choose your treats wisely and resist the urge to blow off your healthy eating and have a poor off-season diet. You will feel better over the holidays, keep your immunity up and start the 2020 triathlon season off on the right foot.
Lauren Antonucci, R.D., is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, three-time Ironman finisher and the founding director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.