The simple adage of ‘eat less and move more,’ to weight loss is not always so easy.

Let’s face it, as much fun as the holidays are, the season was long and filled with way too many opportunities for glutinous derailment of the year’s self-imposed dietary restrictions toward our personal training and racing goals.

It’s amazing how quickly a little less daylight, cooler temps, lack of race plan and some holiday glitter can turn any regimented athlete into an undisciplined kid in a candy store. It’s like the scientist gone mad with all the resources to maintain it. Equally amazing is how fast the body’s chemistry changes, perpetuating the downward slide and leaving the previous season’s physique a bit heavier and unmotivated. The mind tries to help, but the internal battle of trying to get back on track and hoping to avoid the inevitable and impending train wreck of illness and/or injury is always waiting.

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The simple adage of ‘eat less and move more,’ to weight loss is not always so easy. It’s rare that something good comes easily — that’s why we train — and weight loss is no exception. To be an athlete you have to embody the lifestyle and that lifestyle has to work throughout all the mutations of one’s life in order for it to be sustainable. It needs to incorporate diet, training, nutrition, and a healthy mindset. Here are five tips to get the process going, and help build your nutritional foundation at the same time.

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1. Start now.

Most athletes I know take the above tenet to the extreme by waiting till the end of winter and embarking on some kind of self-induced starvation training program. Though this may work for some, with limited pounds to shed, waiting till spring presents the challenge of not gaining any additional weight while losing the time during the winter months to solidify your nutritional foundation for the upcoming season. Starving yourself and attempting to begin a new training cycle only leaves you deficient in what your body needs to get those efforts going. With it comes the potential for injury that can last throughout an entire season. If you’re looking to shed more than three pounds, having a goal of one pound per week is totally reasonable and easily attainable provided that your couch has not become your throne. From a caloric standpoint, a reduction of 200-300 calories per day will help you achieve that and should be simple enough to do now that the party invitations have stopped showing up in the mailbox.

2. Sign up for a race.

This sounds simple but the earlier you set your goals for the season and sign up for a race, the earlier you will start to put in place the mindset to achieve them. Isolating the focus on weight loss alone can lead to a very restrictive mentality and one that can easily backfire. Although having a weight loss goal can be self-motivating, maintaining the regime to do so can be challenging to sustain without a purpose behind it. However, nothing gets an athlete going like signing up for a race. Focus the mind and the body will follow.

3. Start a strength-training program.

Many runners run, and that’s it. Logging all of those aerobic miles is what helps keep runners lean and light, especially during the racing season, but if you really want to lose some pounds you need to incorporate strength training into your regime, says Ed Cashin, owner of Exceed Fitness in NYC. Strength training increases your metabolism to the point where you continue to burn calories for 48 hours after you’re done. Cashin refers to it as ‘post-exercise oxygen consumption.’ A consistent workout of 45 minutes, three times per week will have you coming out of the off-season lean and ready for racing.

4. Eat more fat.

It’s a hard concept to grasp, and as counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s the body that will do all the work while you get to enjoy the process. Like strength training, the method is all about increasing your basal body temperature and metabolism. It’s not a pass to go and grab a bucket of fries cooked in trans and polyunsaturated oils, but rather to incorporate some solid, unprocessed nutrition into your diet. MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides such as those found in coconut oil and butter from grass-fed cows, are very easily burned and used as energy by the body at the same time it’s utilizing other calories. Omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acid, those found in grass-fed meats, will also help increase the body’s metabolism and provide a solute for essential fat-soluble vitamins that will help maintain a solid overall nutritional foundation for the body.

5. Recreate your relationship with food.

How we relate to food often drives our choices for eating. Instead of having the mindset about what one can eat, athletes frequently view their diets about what they shouldn’t eat. It’s a restrictive mentality that pushes necessary nutrients and foods out of the picture and challenges the body’s digestion, ability to uptake vitamins and energy resources, as well as the ability to prevent injury and illness. A great way to understand your nutrition is to step away from it and give your body a chance to reset, especially after it has been overloaded with refined and processed sugars and carbohydrates throughout the holidays. A guided cleanse is an excellent modality to remove all the stored negatives you have been eating, get your body back to a baseline that you can start properly building upon with positive nutrition, and actually see how functional your body can be without those things you thought it couldn’t do without. This is not be confused with a fast or period of starvation, but rather a time when you reduce your caloric consumption to the basics while adding in restorative nutrition. There are a lot of products out there, but if you want to get the most of out the process, choose one that someone can guide and educate you through.

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About The Author:

Adam Kelinson is the author of The Athlete’s Plate: Real Food for High Performance. His business, OrganicPerformance.com, is dedicated to restoring foundational nutrition for an active life of health and sustainability through workshops, retreats and performance cooking.