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No Off-Season for Proper Nutrition

By Paul Ohanian, US Lacrosse, 12/22/17, 12:00PM CST

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Making smart food choices can help re-charge the body and prepare you for your next lacrosse season. 

In many ways, the off-season is an important time for young athletes. As we have documented previously, excessive training with no time off can lead to fatigue, overuse injuries, and burnout. A season of rest helps rejuvenate both the body and mind.

But, a warning from Dr. Jackie Berning, registered dietician and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who serves as a member of the US Lacrosse Sports Science & Safety Committee: don’t fall into the trap of compromising on good nutrition during this time. Maintaining healthy diet habits throughout the off-season can greatly benefit your body in preparation for the next lacrosse season. 

Berning has provided an off-season nutrition guideline to assist lacrosse athletes in making smart and healthy food choices. Here are five suggestions:

• Don’t overeat unhealthy foods
The off-season should not be used as an excuse to eat excessive amounts of the unhealthy foods (chips, cookies, cakes, candy, sugary beverages) that athletes avoid during the season. Doing so can put some athletes at risk for weight gain, especially since the amount of energy expended during the off-season is usually much less than during the season.

• Don’t forget proteins and carbohydrates. 
A solid off-season exercise plan should be paired with good nutrition, and protein and carbohydrates are important for muscle growth. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates your body will start to break down muscle to use as energy. Protein is important to stimulate muscle rebuilding and growth.

• Don’t be afraid to try something new. 
Trying new foods can be fun and exciting, and the off-season is the perfect time to do this. As noted above, it’s important to continue consuming carbohydrates to supply the energy for your working muscles, and grains are a good source of carbohydrates. Berning suggests adding variety to your grain samplings by trying these lesser-used grains: amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, millet, and bulgur. 

• Don’t stop mixing it up.
Fruits and vegetables are an important component of a healthy diet, and Berning suggests incorporating both raw and cooked veggies, as well as fresh fruits, as possible. Some of her suggested vegetables include: eggplant and zucchini, okra, bell peppers, green beans, and peas. Fruit options include cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, blackberries, and raspberries, among others.  Fruits and vegetables can be eaten as part of your meal or eaten on their own as a snack.

• Don’t avoid all the foods you enjoy. 
If you stay active during the off-season and keep food choices in moderation, even eating your favorite dessert is okay. With proper balance in your diet, there’s no reason to fear unwanted weight gain. Making smart food choices can help re-charge the body and prepare you for your next lacrosse season. 

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