Take a look at the graph below from the New England Journal of Medicine. The orange line represents weight change in the US (and I don’t think we’re much different in Canada) and you’ll notice the upward trajectory begins at Thanksgiving and it reaches its highest levels in late December / early January.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 5 tips to avoid substantial fat gain over the holidays.
1. Limit Alcohol
Booze has a lot of empty calories and it changes your metabolism. Plus if you’re drinking, you’ll be apt to eat more junk food than normal. Set a limit, allow yourself x number of drinks for the evening. Hint: Most of us can maintain and even lose with 5 drinks/week.
2. Take Less than you Want
You can apply this technique to alcohol and to food.
Take a little less than you really want. For example, you want two slices of pumpkin pie, have 1. You want the bootle of wine, drink 1/2.
The other option is to log what you’re eating. Studies have proven that loggers gain less than those who do not.
What gets measured gets managed. It’s just not a lot of fun to do during the holidays. That’s why I like the “take less than you want” technique.
Take home message: Don’t overload on calories. Eat 1/2 of what you want too.
3. Keep your Gym Appointment
Continue to train. Training will bring normalcy to this crazy time of year and it’ll help control weight gain due to additional calories you’re eating.
I’ve noticed a very strong correlation to nutrition and exercise. If you give up on one, the other will soon follow.
Take home message: Keep those running shoes in sight and make an effort to get to the gym.
4. Add Cardio
If you have the opportunity, add 5-10 minutes of steady state cardio or high intensity interval training to your regular training to help burn off the extra calories. Even better — if you have the time, do steady state cardio first thing in the morning in a fasted state. Hit the gym later that day for your strength training.
Just remember to do your cardio after strength training rather than before.
** Note: If you’re training in a fasted state, ingest BCAAs to keep the body from using your muscle as fuel.
Take home message: Burn a few more calories with cardio training to help offset the additional calories we tend to consume at this time of year.
5. Eat Protein
If you’re going to overindulge, pick protein. It boosts your metabolism because:
- the body has to work 3x as hard to digest it as compared to other macro nutritionist. You’ll burn more calories by eating it.
- It keeps insulin levels stable which will help you burn fat – your body won’t burn off fat if insulin levels are too high or too low.
- And protein keeps you feeling full longer. So you’ll end up eating less
Take home message: Fill up on turkey and ham instead of cakes and cookies. Remember to enjoy yourself, it is the holidays. Have the piece of pie, the serving of your favourite junk food.
Just avoid the f*(& it mindset & eating everything in sight. You won’t do much damage by ingesting one big meal. We run into trouble when we think “AH, I had that big Thanksgiving meal last Thursday, I might as well just eat what I want today”. Happy Holidays everyone.]
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