What is your off season goal?

Are you ready to set some long term goals for 2016?

Maev Creaven [mIFM, mNTOI] Nutritionist [Functional Medicine] of the Nutrition Centre in Galway and Dublin will be bringing you regular nutrition advice on preparing for the Tour de Conamara. Here is the first of the blogs as you prepare for Christmas.

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What you do during the winter months will reflect on your performance in the spring and summer.

The winter months are the perfect time to step back and review your diet. Generally speaking, you may have a reduced training load, which could mean more free time to try out a few new recipes and ideas especially if your diet is in need of an overhaul. Whether your goal is to drop a few pounds of fat, increase more lean muscle mass or boost energy, changing your diet will most certainly result in massive improvements to your overall performance.

Cyclists often obsess about feeling faster and lighter on their bikes, spending small fortunes to shed a few hundred grammes from their bikes. Too often they take the same extreme approach to shedding their own body weight. They often think they need to starve themselves or reduce calories to get to their ideal racing weight. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Its more about eating the right food composition to fuel your rides and maximise per-formance.

The usual approach to dieting creates unintended consequences most people aren’t aware of. What happens when you restrict calories, or eat poor quality meals, is you shut down your gut and digestive hormones.

Alternatively, by eating real food, your gut releases several hormones in re-sponse to chewing, eating, smelling food, and this signals to your body to re-lease the hormone insulin [amongst many others] which helps to balance blood sugars and prevents cravings.

Managing the balance of blood sugars is crucial to healthy eating. Blood sugar balance is a very common concept but many people suffer with symptoms of an imbalance. There is a sliding scale of blood sugar instability which presents from mild symptoms of tiredness, sugar craving, weight gain, poor recovery to full blown diabetes [insulin resistant]. Over the years, Ive seen a surprising number of weekend warriors and athletes on this continuum. When you’re in-sulin-resistant, you simply can’t burn fat and no amount of training will shift those last few pounds. Also, these digestive hormones when secreted control your appetite. Therefore, if you find yourself ‘fine’ during the day, yet when it comes to the evening you are starving and need sugar post dinner and go high calorie again you are creating a vicious cycle of blood sugar dysregula-tion. Below you will see some top tips on how to support your blood sugars!

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Top tips on what can you do to support blood sugars and fat loss goals?

1. Create a food and symptom diary. Studies show by tracking your dietary intake helps prevent over eating and weight gain!
2. Create weekly meal plans
3. Master a few easy and healthy recipes. Learn a few of simple one pot meals.
4. Eat real food and cut out any processed foods.
5. Don’t have time to cook? Batch cook and freeze a few meals each week.
6. Increase above ground vegetables at each meal [non starch carbs] 7. Take in adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates for your health goals in the form of vegetables and certain grains.
8. Learn how to calculate your macronutrient ratios [next blog] 9. Try a gluten free or grain free approach.
10. Cut our any processed cereals or grains, especially at breakfast!
11. Include good sources of proteins [wild fish, irish lamb and beef, turkey] 12. Avoid all sugars as much as possible. There is no healthy sugar alternative
13. Take in good quality sources of fats [fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, butter etc] 14. Stay well hydrated during the day.
15. Apply the 80:20 rule at Christmas

The 80:20 Christmas Rule
Now that Christmas is approaching its OK to loosen the reins a little. I often recommend to my clients to follow an 80:20 rule. Eat well 80% of the time , and allow yourself the ‘treats’ for 20% [or less]! This really works. By trying to follow a very clean dietary plan at this time can create more stress on the body than allowing yourself to indulge. If you are going for a few drinks or eating a few extra pieces of Christmas cake, the best attitude is enjoy this in good company, guilt and stress free. But I do encourage you to be smart about how you indulge because it can be a slippery slope and the trick is to get back on track sooner rather than later.

I have created a Christmas Sur-vival Guide outlining the top tricks to implement when it comes to foods and alcohol! Sign up HERE

Maev Creaven [mIFM, mNTOI] Nutritionist [Functional Medicine] www.nutritioncentre.ie