Become A Better Athlete During Post Season – II

The holiday season is upon us and many athletes are looking forward to a few days of vacation and spending time with family and friends. While this time of the year is delightful it also can be a challenging one to balance training, downtime & diet.

    One of the most common concerns between now and January is “weight management”.  In your peak season your volume and training intensity was much higher, you were grazing on food, felt strong and able to maintain your weight (for the most part). Throughout the holidays the temptation is much higher to continue to nibble, but you need to do so in moderation. Just as you have different training phases to attain peak fitness, so too does your diet in order to reach your desired body composition. The question is how YOU control your hunger and not vice versa.

     Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to influence energy balance. Leptin is an intermediary of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppressing hunger and potentially leading to weight loss. When working properly, your body responds to leptin by decreasing your appetite after you’ve eaten. Ghrelin on the other hand is a fast-acting hormone and is involved more as a role in meal initiation. Thus, ghrelin is also referred to as the hunger hormone. Produced by the stomach, its job is to send a message that you need to eat. Like leptin, it works in the region of the brain in charge of pleasure-seeking, and researchers believe ghrelin also controls “stress eating,” makes you crave high-calorie foods and promotes abdominal fat.

     Not only the size and frequency of meals have an effect on leptin and ghrelin levels, but also the composition of a meal is a cause of elevating both leptin and ghrelin. When ghrelin is activated it tells your brain that you are hungry. How do you react? Have protein and healthy omega 3 and 6 fats in your meals (including snacks). Ghrelin and leptin will tell you that you are full and you won’t graze until the next meal.

     Always listen to your body. If you think you are hungry prior to your scheduled breakfast/am snack/lunch/pm snack/dinner, step away from the food item that is in front of you, have a sip of water or tea first. Include protein into your diet routine and you will be able to stay on an eating calendar that does not lead to overindulging.

     If you gained three pounds over Thanksgiving, take control now. Catching Holiday weight gain early, before Christmas is upon us, is key. Gaining 4-8 pounds over the holiday season is common, but don’t be one of the millions of individuals effected by it. Get bad habits, and your weight, under control now and you will be thankful moving forward.

Take Away:

     Your choice of foods and activity level are like remote programmers of ghrelin and leptin. By eating solid proteins, such as lean meats (chicken, bison), seafood (salmon/tuna) and nuts in your meals, you stay satisfied longer. Eat simple sugars, and you’ll be spiking ghrelin. Keep an emergency stash of safe foods such as a handful of nuts, cut-up fruit and vegetables, plain nonfat greek yogurt, canned tuna, etc. to keep hunger at bay. Happy Holidays!

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