How to Avoid Gaining Weight in Your Offseason

The offseason doesn't have to be a period of weight gain.

If you're an active athlete, chances are there's a difference between the amount of exercise you get in your offseason compared to when your season is going on. And if that's the case, you might also notice that the number on the scale starts creeping up as a result of your temporarily-less-active lifestyle. When you experience a sudden decrease in activity, your body is going to need less calories to avoid weight gain, but your habits and your mind may not be on board. Bringing down your intake for the offseason is a necessary step in staying in shape for the next season, preventing you from putting on weight you have to shed when you begin playing again.

Offseason Nutrition

Cutting back on what you eat is difficult. If you're used to cramming 3,000 or more calories into your day for a hardcore maintenance routine, cutting back to under 2,000 is probably going to make you feel significantly deprived. Your body mass index (BMI) can help you determine how many calories you need. You can learn how to calculate your BMI using various online resources. In essence, you can justify increasing your lowered intake just a bit if you maintain a strong workout routine, but otherwise, expect to count calories throughout your break. Here are some tips for keeping the weight off and keeping your eating habits on track.

Focus on your food intake

If you're not going to be exercising as much, you won't need as much protein to keep your body moving. Consider refocusing your meals to prioritize a vegetable-heavy diet. Keep your meat portions to only a handful of times a week, and rely on alternatives like cauliflower, black bean burgers, jackfruit and other healthy options that lower the calories, allowing you to eat more and feel fuller.

By replacing portions of meat with portions of vegetables, you allow yourself to consume much more bulk, filling your stomach more readily and keeping the calories down. This staves off feeling hungry and deprived.

Use dressing, cooking and seasoning strategically to spice up your vegetables and make them more appealing. Don't try to switch to a diet of pure steamed vegetables: Try grilling, sautéing, baking, roasting, marinating and transforming your vegetables. Zucchinis make excellent vegetable noodles, while eggplant lasagna (where you replace the meat with eggplant) is a savory, satisfying substitute for regular meat lasagna. Think outside the box to find ways you can replace as much meat in your diet with vegetables as possible.

Use food prep to stay on track

If you're struggling to keep the calories down and avoid giving into to high-calorie cravings, try to minimize your chances of wandering astray by preparing all your meals in advance. Food prep allows you to decide ahead of time what you'll be eating for particular meals throughout the week. You can try Mason jar salads, portioning out baby carrot, celery and ranch snacks, or packing fruit, granola and yogurt together. There are tons of suggestions online for meals that will last days in the fridge without going bad and methods of storing food that don't let them ruin other components of the meal.

Preparing your meals ahead of time gives you greater incentive to stick to your healthy diet by removing some of the element of choice for your meals. Sure, you can technically ignore it and get something else for lunch, but that would be a waste of food, and the prepped meal is, by definition, far more convenient to eat than going out of your way to cook or buy something else. Sticking to your food prep will allow you to ensure the meals you eat are suitable to your diet.

Pay attention to how you eat

If you have a habit of cramming your meals into a 10-minute frame or eating on the go, take the offseason to break that habit. Eating without paying full attention to your meal is a bad habit, and an excellent way to overeat. When you don't pay attention to your meals, your brain doesn't notice when you're surpassing full and entering bloated. If you slow down and fully focus on your meal without distractions, including taking more time to chew, you can cut your calorie intake, burn more calories and increase satiety with less food. Taking your time chewing and eating allows you to notice exactly how much you're eating, enabling you to take more control of your intake.

The offseason doesn't have to be a period of weight gain. If you focus on cutting calories and developing healthy eating habits, you can remain fit and trim before your game starts up again next season.