Weeks have become months and many of us are just now starting to again venture into the outside world as COVID-19 quarantine restrictions are gradually relaxed. If weeks of quarantine have resulted in unwanted weight gain, you’re not alone. Apparently the “COVID-15”, a 15 pound (~ 6.8 kg) weight gain, is a real thing. Catchy headlines about the phenomenon range from “Quarantine Weight Gain Not a Joking Matter” to “Quarantine Weight Gain, Why You Shouldn’t Worry About It”. In truth, staying at a healthy, fit weight does matter. At the same time, maintaining a sensible outlook about weight and body composition also matters so that weight doesn’t become an undue stress or cause of distress.
During recent quarantine months, there are a number of reasons why energy balance, the relationship between calories consumed vs calories burned through activity has gotten off- kilter, thus making staying at an optimal, fit weight challenging. The list of contributing factors includes: changes in both training and non-sports activity; more screen time or reading time which translates to more time sitting; making high calorie food and beverage choices; limited availability of less caloric fruits and vegetables; eating in response to stress, anxiety, boredom; poor sleep.
If you are among the many who have experienced a period of weight gain from more calories in and fewer calories out, now is a good time to turn things around. Here are some key strategies for success:
- Step on the scales each morning to track your weight
- Record meals and snacks using a nutrition app or notebook – and don’t forget to record often overlooked calorie containing beverages
- Stay in tune with thoughts, emotions and reasons for eating
- Monitor your glucose and carefully match insulin dosages to foods – think about both carb grams and nutrient mix
- Focus on Smart Nutrition
- Make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, low-fat dairy, lean meats, poultry and fish foundations of meals – these foods maximize nutrients for the calories they provide
- Consume enough lean protein (1.2 – 1.7 g. of protein/kg. body weight) dispersed throughout the day; if you’re striving for weight loss add a bit more lean protein (up to 2.0 g/kg.) to your nutrition plan
- Spread intake of meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent excessive hunger and overeating especially late in the day
- Keep track of portion sizes; weigh or measure foods at least a few times each week to keep portion sizes in check
- Training and Physical Activity
- Check out Team Novo Nordisk Coach Kristina Kroce’s advice about developing a training plan without having a target race . A few take-aways from Coach Kristina are: build aerobic fitness with some high volume training (which will enhance energy expenditure); cross train to change stimuli, target all aspects of fitness and prevent boredom; have specific daily training goals that will help you reach a long-term performance goal
- If you find you are sitting for extended amounts of time when not training, start building in more informal activity, for example walking for short amounts of time throughout the day, do yard work or household chores, running errands
- Sound Sleep
- Have a routine for winding down, falling asleep, and getting at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Lack of sleep contributes to higher levels of stress hormones and can lead to eating high calorie sweets and snacks in response to feelings of stress and fatigue.
If you have faced trials staying at a healthy, fit weight during recent months, you’re not alone in this. Many factors have been at play to influence energy balance and body weight.
As restrictions relax and return to racing (and other sports competition) is something to anticipate, take a thoughtful and measured approach to reaching an optimal weigh – one which is attainable, promotes health, and allows you to perform well.