Off Season Nutrition: What Does Eating Clean Mean to You?

By Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN, PLAN7 Endurance Coaching Dietitian and Nutrition Coach — Isn’t Fall wonderful? We have the residual summer fitness and gorgeous weather to ride in and enjoy. But let’s face it, winter is coming… the time of year when the food becomes comforting, riding time likely diminishes due to weather and schedules and of course all the holidays. Many of us may use the off season as an excuse to put on a few extra pounds although that does NOT have to be the case! Why not maintain the physique you worked so hard for all summer and keep your food choices clean and healthy throughout the year? The focus of this article is to help you determine what clean eating is to you and in future articles how you can eat right through the “off season” and beyond.

Breanne in the process of creating a smoothie. Photo by David Harward

By definition, the word clean means “free from dirt, stains, contaminants” and eat means “put food into mouth, chew and swallow it.” Put that together and clean eating literally means consuming food free from contaminants. This however, can be interpreted in many ways. Does eating clean mean avoiding processed foods, GMOs, refined sugar, etc. or is it choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and plant-based fats? To answer those questions depends on whether you look at food choices as limiting the bad or enhancing the good. I prefer to have the mindset of enhancing the good, but they go hand in hand if your focus is on consuming what your body needs to reach your goals.

Now let’s talk about what our bodies need. With all the fad diets out there, it’s hard to decipher what’s right. Is it gluten free? Dairy free? Plant-based? Keto? Paleo? Mediterranean? Well the reason these all exist is because different bodies and lifestyles thrive on different eating patterns. The key is determining the right fuel for your body, and that is dependent on many factors. I wish I could give you one equation that tells you exactly what to eat every day, but it’s just not realistic! Instead let’s focus on balance of food choices and fueling your body for what you do each day.

For example, on a day that we ride for 5 hours we eat and drink more than we do on a day that we do a quick 1 hour spin. Sounds simple right? In concept yes, but this is where balance comes in to play. On the long ride day, we should be consuming more carbohydrates than on an easy day or rest day. So to choose a diet, say, that eliminates sugar entirely you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you intend on staying active through the winter months. You should however, keep sugars intake low on light exercise days and instead have nutrient dense foods to fill the belly and power the mind. So, if any of the specific “diets” listed above are important to you, keep in mind whether the macronutrient balance is appropriate for that day. Your engine runs the strongest when you put the proper gas in the tank!

In my next articles I will get into specific foods and break down our macronutrient and micronutrient needs as well as give ideas on how to incorporate them into your daily routines. In the meantime, I want you to think about what clean eating means to you. Is it eliminating certain products, incorporating more healthy foods, or focusing on the environment and animals? Ask yourself what you want to accomplish this “off-season” rather than wait until it’s Spring to get back into summer shape and shed the winter pounds (we’ve all been there right?!). Remember that clean eating comes from mindfulness, so set your intentions first, then we figure out the exact food plan. In fact, it would be great to hear from you! Send me your questions, requests for article content, even your personal goals. My contact info is below.

Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN earned a Master’s degree in nutrition with an emphasis in sports dietetics at the University of Utah. She is a Registered Dietitian, the nutrition coach at PLAN7 Endurance Coaching. Contact for custom nutrition planning: [email protected]

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