For most competitive athletes, the off-season is anything but a time to take a complete break from their preparation for the upcoming year. While rest is important, athletes will resume their preparation at some point in the off-season. Similar to how they remain ready throughout the year, athletes typically partake in intense training and dieting to keep themselves in peak condition over the break. However, depending on the situation for the athlete, the specific focus of such training and dieting during the off-season may differ from that of the actual season.
According to Dr. Kim Stein, senior principal scientist of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, an athletes’ goal for his or her sport will dictate the type of training and dieting they follow throughout the season and off-season. As opposed to the “carbohydrate-rich diet” they are typically on during the season, athletes usually focus on increasing the amount of protein in their diet for the off-season. The athlete’s specific goal may determine the amount of change in their diet. “If you are trying to gain lean muscle mass or cut body fat in the off-season, place a little more emphasis on protein, ideally under the guidance of a dietitian,” Dr. Stein said.
While football players, for example, may focus their dieting and training on improving their conditioning throughout the regular season, they may feel the need to focus on bulking up for the next year. As a result, their dieting and training during their off-season will mirror that aspiration. On the other hand, if a track and field athlete’s goal centers around primarily staying in peak shape, their regular season and off-season preparation will reflect that as well.
Junior Heritage baseball athlete, Alex Kolondra, for example, mainly focuses on conditioning “during the fall and winter seasons and preparing for the spring season by training, including a mix of running and weightlifting. In the spring, we only lift around twice a week to stay in shape, and then we get back into better shape in the summer.”
Regardless of the situation, following a diet plan specific to the athlete’s sport is imperative for serious athletes looking to stay ahead of the competition.