Jayson Hunter RD, CSCS, is a registered dietitian and fitness professional with more than 10 years of experience. To download your free copy of Jayson’s special report, “33 Tips You Must Know To Create A Profitable Weight Management Program,”visit: http://www.weightmanagementexperts.com.

There’s no doubt that fitness facilities have some athletes who are working out during the in-season. Some of these athletes may be attempting to lose weight to meet the weight goals that have been established by their coaches, trainers, etc. These goals, most likely, should have been met before the season, but because they were not, these athletes are drastically trying to lose the extra weight.

Most health professionals advise against trying to lose weight during a season, primarily because most athletes’ form of weight loss is cutting calories and skipping meals. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is the norm.

Is there a way to eat healthy and yet still lose the unnecessary pounds? The answer is yes, but you have to do it carefully. Here are five steps to help your members who are athletes safely and successfully lose weight during the in-season.

1. Lose weight gradually. Athletes should lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week. Any more than this and performance will start to suffer. Pay special attention to decreased energy levels, illness and a decrease in performance. Start by determining their calorie needs to maintain their current activity level, and then reduce that amount by 10 percent for 1-2 weeks and then reduce to 20 percent if the athlete is performing well. Do not reduce their calories by more than 20 percent of their maintenance level.

2. Don’t cut calories by skipping meals. Want a sure-fire way to sabotage an athlete? This is it. Do not skip meals with the intent of losing weight quickly. This method of weight loss will slow the metabolism, which reduces fat loss and depletes energy levels. This will lead to injury and poor performance. Advise athletes to eat 4-6 times a day to promote a faster metabolism and provide continuous calories to the working muscles.

3. Eat the proper foods. There are certain types of foods that actually improve energy consumption and fat loss. First, have athletes stay away from or limit junk foods and refined sugars. Next, have them choose a lean protein and a vegetable at each of the 4-6 meals a day. Not only do these foods provide valuable nutrients, but they also require more calories to digest them so they are a great fat-loss food.

It is also very important for athletes to consume enough carbohydrates to fuel their bodies, so have them choose whole-grain carbohydrates as well as plenty of vegetables and fruit. These foods will provide your athletes with natural sugars that the body utilizes very well.

4. Reduce portion sizes. A great way to control portions is to use smaller dishes. Instead of a large dinner plate, suggest they use a smaller plate. A good guideline to follow is that one quarter of the plate should be lean protein, another quarter of the plate should be a nutrient-dense starch and half of the plate should be vegetables and fruit. Have your athletes eat like this, and they’ll find that they are not only eating fewer calories, but they are still satisfying the requirements of an athletic diet for proper energy.

5. Watch the drinks. Most people, athletes included, don’t realize how many calories they can accumulate through the fluids they consume. It is important for athletes to consume some type of sports drink, but have them do it wisely. These types of drinks are not intended to be consumed throughout the day. If an athlete is exercising for longer than an hour and/or the conditions are such that there is excessive perspiration, a sports drink should be consumed during the activity.

Most athletes will do fine consuming 16-24 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. This simple modification can reduce some athletes’ diets by as much as 1000 calories. Sometimes calories from fluids are the main culprit for a stalled weight loss because they are so easily consumed.

These tips will provide you and your staff with guidance to help keep your athletes out of danger and help them perform to their potential while safely losing weight.