The festive season usually poses problems for those who take their nutrition and exercise seriously. Whether its the big high calorie meals, the parties, alcohol or general lack of structure, it’s easy to lose your way in December.
We've put together our top tips on how to minimise the festive ‘damage’ and maintain your physique whilst still enjoying the party season.
One of the most important tips to surviving the festive season is setting realistic goals. If you plan on partying hard all summer with little regard for nutrition or training, expect to loose some size or definition. Similarly, if you’re planning to cut back on the fitness lifestyle a bit during the festive season, perhaps shift your focus away from growing muscle to maintaining muscle mass and not gaining any excess fat. Additionally, the festive period can get very busy, but it’s still important to sleep well. Try marking off one or two nights a week to have an early night to ensure your body gets the rest it requires.
Over-eating is the achilles heel of festive season physique maintenance. Not only is it easier to eat poorly when there’s massive amounts of food in front of you, but you’ll also be heading to places where the food is the focus. Now there’s no reason not to enjoy yourself and eat well at some of these festive banquets but by following these few tips you'll ensure your body doesn’t suffer. During the festive season always;
- Avoid banking calories. Don’t cut back all day in anticipation of a big meal, this will only lead to over indulging as you’re starving yourself before putting a variety of high calorie foods in front of you!
- Be careful of leftovers. Having high-calorie leftovers lying around the house will almost certainly lead to continuous high-calorie binge eating. Try giving away leftovers to guests or freezing them for another time - after all, out of sight, out of mind.
- Chew slowly. Take the time to enjoy your food. Not only will it taste better, it’ll also give your body more time to register as full.
- Pick protein. When choosing which dishes to have, go with the protein filled alternatives (such as turkey). Not only will this make you feel full faster but it will also help your muscles maintain size and even grow.
- Ditch added sugar. Be cautious of all the added sugar in those holiday cookies, cakes, and lollies.
- Wait before going for seconds. Give your body time to register what it has just consumed.
Whilst festive eating may be the achilles heel of the season, festive exercising (or lack there off) is definitely its partner in crime. When there’s presents to buy, food to eat, and parties to attend, it can be easy to push exercise to the back of your mind. For the month, there’s generally nothing wrong with that. You should probably expect to train a little less in the busy December period, but there’s no reason to let that effect your physique! Here’s our three tips for festive exercising;
- Don’t skip your strength workouts. Whilst it’s easy to surrender to the festive period and just go for a walk or something light during December, be sure to keep strength workouts in your routine. Strength workouts will help you maintain muscle and keep your body in an anabolic state. Similarly, due to the high levels of protein traditionally in festive meals, you may find you even gain muscle.
- Exercise in the morning. Throughout the festive season it’s easy to put your workouts off until you’re sitting down having dinner and accepting you probably won’t go today. Combat the festive laziness and head to the gym in the morning. Not only will exercising in the morning get your workout out of the way, it’ll also help ensure better behaviour all day. Some studies in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercises have indicated that women who train in the morning are more likely to be active for the rest of the day and less likely to respond to pictures of tempting food.
- Concentrate your workouts. If you’re strapped for time, lift the intensity of your workouts and drop the time they take to complete. An intense 15 minute workout can be very effective and is definitely better then no exercise at all. For example, using the skipping rope for 15 minutes uses about 190 calories.
Festive Partying & Alcohol
Needless to say, be wary of alcohol. Not only does alcohol contribute to weight gain, it can also increase cortisol levels - a stress hormone that destroys muscle. Alcohol also acts as a diuretic - the resulting dehydration can lead to painful cramping of the muscles which will impair your performance when working out. It can be a challenge but do your best to keep alcohol to the minimum these holidays. Nevertheless, here are a few tips for dealing with alcohol and partying in the festive season;
- Drink a lot of water. Alcohol can quickly dehydrate your body and lead to muscle cramping. Similarly, being properly hydrated can help you feel full.
- If you’re drinking beer, be sure to look for some lower calorie alternatives. There are plenty out there and drinking lower calorie beers can make a big difference in the long run.
- Eat before partying. Going to a party absolutely starving is a recipe for overindulging. The best pre-party food involves snacks that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates (low GI foods). This will help maintain a full feeling. It’s also wise to fill up on something healthy before you do your grocery shopping to avoid those unhealthy impulse purchases.
- Eat before drinking. Alcohol should be avoided on an empty stomach. Not only will you feel hungrier when you have alcohol, but you may also lose your ability to control your energy intake, a perfect combination for overindulgence.
- Be cautious of sugary mixers. When you’re out drinking with friends it’s easy to forget how many calories are in some cocktails. For example a Long Island Iced Tea can have up to 780 calories per serving, whilst a Margarita can have up to 740 calories! For the lowest calorie alternative, stick to a G&T or vodka, fresh lime & soda.