By Coach Matt Smith
January/February in the Northern Hemisphere is usually the time of year that athletes are starting to get into a consistent training rhythm and ramp back up from hibernating over the holiday season. The motivation could be signing up for the big race of the year or needing to shed some winter warmth that was accumulated over the holidays. Most people get highly focused on adding workouts back in or looking at dieting to quickly shed the pounds. Time and again I see athletes get hurt by adding too much training too quickly or try to cut calories and have training be compromised by being out of energy.
While most call this season the off season, I kindly refer to it as the preparation phase in training. Athletes should be focused on putting in time and getting in a good training rhythm, establishing a good pattern of sleep and preparing their bodies for the best season with their nutrition as well.
There are a few things you can do now that will set you up for success later in the season in regards to your nutrition. If you think about your body as your engine and the food you put in the gas, now is the time to run a diagnostic check and make sure the systems are running at full steam and can best utilize the high-octane fuel you’ll be putting in to spool up the turbos on race day.
a) Clean out the fuel lines first
A lot of people talk about a cleanse or juice fast to clean out your fuel system. Especially in January it’s the buzzword. While a cleanse can be a good idea, if your waste processing systems like the liver, bilary glands, intestines and lymph systems aren’t working at 100% all you’re going to do is back the stuff you are trying to cleanse up in another part of the system. I recommend a yearly detox that starts with using food and supplementation to support these functions first, then a gentle detox that focuses on heavy metals, toxins and lymphatic systems. I recommend a some of the protocols taught in the 7 Day Detox Miracle book or will work with my clients to customize a program for them.
b) Make sure your belts are working and lubed well
The linings of our cells are built on a foundation of essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Now is a great time to add more, healthy fats to your diet to support cellular growth as you start to tax your system more. I recommend a diet that is 40% carbohydrates, 30-40% fat and 20-30% protein. More and more research shows that fat as well as trace minerals are what helps you recover as much as amino acids found in protein. Try adding some avocado, coconut oil, olives, deep water fish (not farmed), nuts and grass fed butter to your diet. Another good way to add some healthy fats and help joints is bone broth which you can make yourself or buy online. Make sure the source of the bones is top quality.
c) Start to upgrade your fuel sources
It’s a good time to experiment with new fuel sources that are nutrient dense and properly prepared whole foods based. You can find some good recipes in books like The Feed Zone Table, The Athlete’s Fix, or Run Fast – Eat Slow. A few simple tips are to limit processed and packaged foods, know the source of what you are eating (not Safeway), buy organic vegetables and fruits, and eliminate hydrogenated oils. Take some time to read the labels and know what you’re putting in. Usually if you can’t pronounce it, it’s not something you want to eat.