Weight Gain During the
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS
As a Sports Dietitian, my office is flooded with
triathletes during the February and March wanting to lose the 5-15
pounds that they gained during their off season, also
referred to as the transition cycle.
While the body physically needs the much deserved
down time and less structure associated with the
transition cycle, it does not need the weight gain.
There is absolutely no reason for endurance
athletes to gain weight during this time of the year.
Does it happen?
much too frequently but weight gain can be prevented by
simply following a few guidelines that I will detail
later. First, let’s discuss the concept of nutrition periodization
and the logistics of the “off-season weight gain”
Many endurance athletes structure their physical training
based on periodization principles in order to achieve peak
performance during their race season.
While many endurance athletes watch what they eat
and sometimes maintain very strict eating habits, many do
not employ the periodization principle to the nutrition
aspect of their training (otherwise known as nutrition
Nutrition periodization is very important for any endurance
periodization allows the endurance athlete to use food for
energy needed to support training and maintain adequate
glycogen stores but also to maintain a healthy immune
system and ward off illness, prevent vitamin and mineral
deficiencies, speed recovery from hard training sessions,
lose or gain weight, and positively alter body
We will obviously focus our discussion on the weight
component or more specifically, the prevention of weight
Most likely, you have probably finished your race season,
characterized by a high level of fitness and training.
You were burning a great deal of calories on a
daily basis because of the amount and intensity of your
training and racing.
I would guess that you also remained fairly weight
stable (plus or minus a few pounds depending upon your
hydration status), which tells me that you did a good job
at feeding your body the right amount of calories to
support your training.
Since your race season has ended and you are taking a much
needed break from the higher volume and intensity of
training and have replaced that with more unstructured,
“non-training” activities, you must understand that
your body will be going through some major changes now.
The most important change is that you are not
burning as many calories each day therefore you MUST
change the way, more specifically, the amount that you eat
each day. The good news is that this should not be difficult for you to
implement. However, the reason I chose the word “implement” is
because it is far easier to develop a plan and implement
it than it is following it.
This may sound overly simplified but the only thing you
really need to do during this time of your training year
is FOLLOW your set eating plan.
If you can instill the following nutrition
guidelines during this time of the year, you will not gain
course there is a strong psychological component to this
must not only develop, implement and follow your plan but
you must also WANT to do it.
That is the key with anything we do in life.
If you don’t want to do it or are not ready to do
it then you won’t.
So, what are the secrets to eating during the Transition
are some guidelines for you to follow:
- Control calories
- Increase variety of foods
- Enjoy food
the energy bars, gels and sports drinks in the back of
the cupboard for a while to give the body a break from
call this the “pantry shuffle”.
whole foods from all of the food groups to acquire
vitamins and minerals from foods rather than bars,
gels, and drinks.
new restaurants and foods.
Be adventurous and think outside of the box.
Foods prepared a different way or from a
different culture are good sources of nutrients and
are a break from the “norm”.
you need to lose weight and are not simply trying to
prevent weight gain, do so safely and realistically.
Since there is not much structure or strict
training guidelines during this cycle, a weight loss
of 1-2 pounds per week is safe, realistic, and will
not have a negative impact on training.
the amount of calories you put into your body is
crucial during this cycle so pay special attention to
portion sizes and quantities.
A weight gain of 2 pounds per month can happen
by simply overeating by 250 calories per day!
forget about the environment.
If this cycle falls during the year when there
is not much sunshine, it is common to eat more comfort
foods, which can be very high in calories and tend to
increase body weight and body fat
For those wanting numbers to calculate specific
carbohydrate, protein and fat needs during the day, refer
to the chart below. Remember
though, ranges of nutrients and calories exist because
each athlete is different with a different metabolic rate,
medical history and future goals and you may need more or
less than your training partner even if you are the same
height, weight, age and gender.
5-6 grams per kilogram of body weight
1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight
0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight
*Divide the amount you weigh in pounds by 2.2 to determine
your weight in kilograms.
are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and protein and 9
calories per gram of fat.
Develop your plan, implement
it and most importantly, follow
it and you will be able to prevent unnecessary
weight gain during the next few months.
Seebohar, MS, RD, CSCS is the Performance Director at the
Colorado Center for Altitude Training and Performance (ATP
Center) in Evergreen, Colorado.
The ATP Center provides training, coaching,
physiological testing and nutrition services for all ages,
types and abilities of endurance athletes.
Bob Seebohar, MS,
RD, CSSD, CSCS has been a USA Triathlon certified coach
since 1999 and is one of the first USA Triathlon Certified
Level III Elite Coaches in the United States. He has
worked with beginners to Olympians and currently
specializes in working with advanced to elite athletes.
Bob was on the Performance Coaching team for Susan
Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon Bronze medalist, as he
served as her strength coach and sport dietitian during
her journey to becoming the first United States athlete to
medal in Olympic Triathlon.
He blends his extensive education with his experience as
an athlete, exercise physiologist, sports dietitian and
Bob has a Bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science
with a concentration in Wellness Program Management, a
Master's degree in Health and Exercise Science and a
second Master's degree in Food Science and Human
Bob is also the author of the book
Periodization for the Endurance Athlete
Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org