I will open with a couple of disclaimers. First, this is for those who were content with their race weight in the 2016 season. If weight loss continues to be a goal for you, then although relaxing the diet over the holidays is quite reasonable, a whole season going backwards would probably be detrimental. Secondly, I’m talking a weight gain of 5-7% of body weight, something that can reasonably be lost again in the spring.
- To build your energy stores. Many triathletes go quite lean through the race season. This is ideal for racing, as weight loss indeed translates to racing speed. However, it can also mean that on long runs or long rides your are becoming glycogen deprived. Find yourself bonking on long rides or long runs? You either need more body fat or to be consuming more nutrition during exercise. So, putting on a bit of weight allows you to go that much deeper on training in the off season. I personally see my off season volume go up as there are no breaks to taper for races.
- To train heavy. A little extra resistance in training will help build strength. There’s a reason swimmers don’t shave until race time, cyclists don’t train in their aero helmets, and runners having training shoes vs. racing shoes. The extra weight or resistance leads to an extra feeling of speed come race time. Training 5k’s over the winter then racing them 5 lbs lighter will feel like a magical gain of speed.
- To enhance nutrition. Maintaining race weight through the season can mean some fairly particular eating. In managing our intake, at times athletes neglect to eat a well-rounded diet and might be missing certain micronutrients. Relaxing the diet and eating a more well-rounded and diverse selection of foods can prevent any long-standing deficiencies. A daily multivitamin while not necessary for many, is also an insurance policy towards avoiding such deficiencies.
- To maintain friendships. Not entirely seriously, but I know personally I get a lot of comments about my particular eating habits through the race season. It helps ensure your friends and family that you aren’t a complete training robot if you go deep into the apple pie over the holidays. Allowing yourself a beer or glass of wine can be a nice change from the rigors of squeezing your training volume around everyday life.
So, still try to eat well-rounded meals this off season, but allow yourself a little indulgence and know that it can actually help you achieve your goals for next season.