Tips for Avoiding Winter Weight Gain
Tips for Avoiding Winter Weight Gain

Author: Lisa Krayer

As I begin to write this article, I am trying to stay in shape for my last race of 2014.  Although I’m trying to keep my training hours up in order to gain a respectable finish, the reality is I am currently getting about half the amount of training I normally do.  The daylight hours are shorter, the temps are cooler, my mental focus is waning, I don’t feel like riding my bike in the cold rain (I swore off the trainer years ago), and the list goes on. Does this sound familiar?

Luckily for me, my husband’s training hours are down too and for the first time in awhile, he took the time to make supper for our family.  When I arrived home from work, I was happily surprised that supper was on the table, so I heaped my plate full of my usual portions.  Half way through my pasta dish, I realized I was already full.  I was tempted to finish my normal amount out of habit, but then decided that if I continue this trend I’ll have some extra pounds to shed next season.

I must not be the only one who’s starting to think about avoiding some winter weight gain because half of my team is joking about joining Jenny Craig (actually I think they’re serious).  So rather than bore you with information about calorie balance, I thought it would be more useful to put together some tips to help my fellow cyclists figure out what they can do to avoid winter weight gain (or at least stay closer to their race weight coming into the 2015 season).

Tip #1:   Take a quick pause before you eat to ask yourself, “Why am I eating?”  If the answer is “because I’m hungry” then honor your hunger.  If you are eating for some other reason, those extra calories tend to be the ones that lead to weight gain.

Tip #2:  Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry or too full.  Keeping a narrow margin on your hunger and fullness can help you to maintain weight.  As cyclists, I think we run the risk of getting out of touch with our body’s innate ability to tell us when to eat and when to stop eating.  I think this because during the season, we are more focused on eating according training rides and races.  For example, we try to force down some fuel on a nervous pre-race stomach, or eat before we’re hungry so we can make it through a scheduled training ride.  If this rings true to you, then this is a great time of year to get back in tune with your body.  The hunger-satiety rating scale below can help.  The goal is to stay between #4 and #6.  Start eating when you begin to feel those first signals of hunger and then stop when you are comfortably full.  Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are full.

Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale:

Full 10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick
9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt
8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
7 = Uncomfortably full, feel as if you have overeaten
6 = Comfortably full, satisfied
Neutral 5 = Comfortable, neither hungry or full
4 = Beginning signs and symptoms of hunger
3 = Hungry with several hunger symptoms, ready to eat
2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate
Hungry 1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable

Tip #3:  Log it.  Documenting everything you eat throughout the day and therefore noticing every bite of food that you take in will help you keep yourself accountable (and remind you that yes, food still has calories even if you steal it from your co-workers “secret” chocolate stash).There are some wonderful logging websites and apps such as myfitnesspal.com.  You can enter all the foods you eat throughout the day and it will give you a running log of what you eat compared to how much you should be eating.  Even if you don’t want to do this day in and day out, logging your food intake for a few days or a week can help you assess what areas need the most focus.  Several studies show that logging your food intake results in consuming fewer calories.

Tip #4:  Have a nutrition plan for the off-season.  I know this is the time of year we want a break from training schedules and our magical nutrition plan for maximal performance, but this is exactly why we need to think about it more.  It doesn’t have to be a huge thought-out plan, but know your areas of weakness and plan.  It might be as simple as making sure you eat at a couple servings of fruits every day.

So before you heap that plate full of your usual race season portions, think again.  What’s your plan to keep your weight in check?

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