Eat, drink, and be merry. It’s that time of year again. So before we kick off this month and a half marathon of good times and overindulging, let me weigh in with 5 practical steps you can take between now and New Year’s Eve to minimize set backs and help you to maintain your fitness this holiday season.
It has been said that the average American gains anywhere from 5 lbs. to 12 lbs. between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Don’t be average this year.
- Maintain exercise. As busy and as stressful as the holidays are, it is important to maintain some sort of physical activity. It is OK to go for shorter duration, higher intensity workouts here such as intervals or circuits. Just get it in. 20-30 minutes is a lot better than nothing at all. Short duration, high intensity workouts can create a caloric after burn known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which allows your body to continue burning calories long after your workout is over. Up to 36 hours in fact.
- Watch your alcohol consumption. I know. No one wants to hear this one, so I’ll start with a positive. Some studies have shown that moderate drinkers (one to two drinks per day) are less likely to suffer from diabetes, arthritis, dementia, heart attack, and stroke. That’s great news if you’re a moderate drinker. On the flip side, overconsumption of alcohol decreases the use of glucose and amino acids in your skeletal muscles, which has a negative affect on muscle growth. In addition, the large influx of carbohydrates causes the body’s insulin levels to spike, which much like a high-carb diet, forces the body to burn the alcohol for energy rather than body fat. Not to mention you take in a massive amount of calories with hardly any nutritional value. 7 calories per gram of alcohol to be precise.
- Try a new healthy recipe. You don’t have to go Paleo here. Don’t be the guy that brings a bag of unsalted almonds to Thanksgiving dinner. Just try searching for some healthy holiday recipes and give one a shot. You may like what you find and you’ll thank yourself later. Click here for ideas Ultimate Holiday Cookbook: Healthy Holiday Recipes – Cooking Light.
- Don't starve yourself in anticipation of the big meal. Holding off for that big meal will most certainly cause you to overeat, going back for seconds and thirds. Skipping meals can also slow metabolism and aid in fat storage. So have a little something for breakfast. Try starting with a salad before you dive in to the main course. Enjoy yourself and enjoy the food, just keep everything in moderation.
- Don't save unhealthy leftovers. For me, this is always a tough one and takes all of my willpower. While I love my Grandma’s stuffing, and feel the need to confirm each year that it will be on the table, Grandma’s stuffing stays at Grandma’s house when Thanksgiving is over. I don’t need to be eating Thanksgiving dinner five days in a row and I recommend you don’t either if you have fitness and nutrition goals you are trying to accomplish. Stock up on the left over veggies and white meat, just avoid the unhealthy stuff like pie and stuffing.
These are just a few practical ways to keep you moving in the right direction with your health and fitness during what tends for most to be a bump in the road. With that said, the holidays are not about fitness or guidelines. The holidays are about spending quality time with family, friends, loved ones, and being thankful for those three things. This is usually best done over a good meal and a few adult beverages, all in moderation of course.
Yours In Health,
Coach Brian Donovan