Athletes and Winter Weight Gain

P1010276The winter is a time of rest for many athletes before they start ramping up their training for spring races. For many people, including athletes, weight gain might be viewed as an acceptable part of surviving the winter months. The weather is unpredictable. Training indoors can be a real drag. The holidays are stressful and full of opportunities for overeating. These are all excuses for winter weight gain. They are, of course, excuses. I am sure most of us can think of many excuses for why we gain a few extra pounds this time of year. Stop the excuses! Winter weight gain is not inevitable. Weight gain can be a set back for athletes once their off-season has ended and they are working to get back in race shape. Those few extra pounds often don’t come off as easy as they went on. In most cases the weight is not the favorable kind (it is mostly excess fat). In an effort to lose the weight quickly, many athletes under fuel once training has resumed. The extra weight can also mean that takes a little longer to get back into shape.

Great, so how do you maintain your weight during the winter? Here are a few helpful tips:


  • Bring something healthy to the party! Bringing your own healthy option is always a great way to have a healthy option for both yourself and your family and friends. It can be a fun challenge to remake a traditional holiday dish to be both healthy and taste great.
  • Survey the buffet table. Choose your favorites and take a small portion of what you really want. Don’t even bother with the rest.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of the plate should be a protein, and the remainder quarter should be your favorite side dishes.
  • Focus on family, not food. It is important to remember that this time of year is for enjoying the company of family and friends. Move away from the food table and focus more on conversations.
  • Practice mindfulness during the holidays. It can be hard to stay mindful with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Slow down at meals and take small bites. Take the time to enjoy the food and the company.

Bad winter weather-

  • Keeping an exercise routine during the holidays can help with weight maintenance. The off-season is a perfect time to do activities that you don’t have time for during heavy training.
  • Make a negative into a positive and try some winter weather activities. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing can be a great way to keep up some level of activity during the off-season and can help decrease the effects of cabin fever.
  • Make a trip to the gym. The off-season is a great time to work on strength and conditioning. Yoga can be a great off-season activity as it focuses on flexibility and some classes offer core strengthening.


  • Reduced training load means a reduction in caloric expenditure. Many athletes don’t decrease the calorie intake with decreased training. Caloric expenditure is drastically reduced when a person goes from 16 hour of training per week to zero. Make sure to adjust your caloric intake accordingly.
  • It might be worth doing a test for basal metabolic rate or resting energy expenditure. This can help with determining calorie needs. It can also help to work with a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) to determine energy needs during the season and in the off season.
  • Use the winter time to try new recipes and focus on making healthy meals. Since you are not training as much you likely have more time to focus on healthy eating and meal preparation so make the most of it. Find healthy recipes that are quick and easy and can be used during the season. If you build healthy habits now then you are more likely to continue the healthy habits when you resume training.
  • Fruits and vegetables should make up half your plate and a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and veggies are recommended per day. Make it a goal to get the minimum servings per day. The more you fill up on fruits and non-starchy vegetables the less room you will have for junk food.

For some athletes the off-season is the perfect time to focus on weight loss goals. It is not usually appropriate to focus on weight loss during the season because under fueling for exercise often leads to poor performance. The above tips can be helpful for weight loss as well as weight maintenance. For more nutrition information go to my website at and sign up for my newsletter.




About Nutrition Coach Katie

I am an athlete, registered dietitian, and sports nutrition expert. I am constantly researching anything and everything about performance nutrition and training. I love to cook and this includes trying new recipes and sharing recipes that I love. This blog is meant to be both informative and personal. Contact me with questions about nutrition or my blog at Follow me on twitter @ktkissaneRD My website is
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