Holidays are coming up and many will face the temptation of chocolates, deserts, drinks with friends and feasts. It is a great time of year to relax and enjoy time with friends and family. It is also a great time of year to binge and set yourself back with your results. Many of my Doreen personal training clients can fear this temptation but I often encourage people to enjoy these times of year.
My opinion on holidays is this: If you put in the work to your eating and training, you deserve to enjoy times like Christmas and Easter holidays. Often, the overfeeding will actually help your results, not hinder them. The issue is when the chocolate consumption of Easter continues on until Christmas. That will be detrimental. This is something I share with all my Doreen personal training clients.
I have outlined 5 great tips to help you offset any potential issues with the over consumption of sugar and food during the holiday seasons.
1. Put The Work In Before The Holiday Season
As mentioned above, this is the best way to make the most of your holidays. If you commit yourself to training, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle for 48 weeks of the year, 4 weeks of holidays and enjoying yourself will be no issue. Keeping your body fat % as low as possible throughout the year is another great way to have your cake and eat it too. The leaner you are, the less negative effects that “junk foods” and sugar will have. Often at times, the increase in sugar and calories can actually boost lean mass and reduce overall body fat percentage. Unbelievable, I know, but many of my Doreen personal training clients have experienced this first hand.
2. Plan Your Nutrition
Holiday season entails a couple of things that are quite different than normal for those who attend the gym and eat well.
– More food and calories than normal
– More carbohydrates than normal
These things are not bad. You can use this greatly to your advantage.
Leading up to holiday times, you can structure your nutrition to make the most of your holiday feast. A great approach is to reduce calories and carbohydrates for 3+ days prior to the day.The higher your body fat, the longer you can reduce these before hand. This will deplete your body of glycogen stores which is our stored carbohydrates. Doing this will leave your muscles and organs empty of glycogen and waiting to be restocked. Come the day of the big feast, the excess carbohydrates will be more prone to being absorbed and stored within muscle cells and organs as opposed to body fat. The more muscle mass you have the better this effect will be. The boost in calorie consumption will also have a positive effect on metabolic rate and metabolic hormones too. These respond heavily to calorie consumption: the higher the consumption the higher the rise in metabolic rate. Ideally, 3 consecutive days of overfeeding is require for major metabolic changes so this will need to be considered.
3. Plan Your Training
We can also look to use training to our advantage too. We recognise that overfeeding calories and carbohydrates will most likely occur. These 2 things can be fantastic at helping us build muscle mass. By ramping up your training in the weeks leading up to your holiday, you can create a great deal of stress and muscular damage. If we follow this stress with a few days of overeating and relaxation, our body can over compensate for the stress and damage and accelerate recovery and muscle growth. This is a fantastic approach for those who are leaner and looking to gain size.
If your body fat percentage is higher and you are looking for fat loss, you can still use the above principle with good effect. For my Doreen personal training clients who are in fat loss phases, I would structure their training to be higher volume and include HIIT sessions for a big metabolic effect. These styles of training are beneficial at depleting glycogen stores (mentioned in point 1) and improving our body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. Utilising these training styles beforehand can make our body use the excess carbohydrates for fuel or replenish glycogen stores rather than build body fat.
4. Supplement Smart
There are supplements and nutrients available which can improve our response to sugar and over feeding. These include the following:
– Magnesium ( preferably Succinate or Malate forms
– Alpha Lipoic Acid
– Fish Oil (from seafood or supplement)
– Acetic Acid (Apple Cider Vinegar)
These can all have positive effects on carbohydrate use in our body. They can help steer carbohydrates towards being stored and used by our muscle cells and away from being stored as fat in fat cells. Using these nutrients in combination with the above nutrition and training strategies can yield fantastic results.
If you are concerned about having a few drinks, some of the below nutrients below can help support your body:
– N-Acetyl Cysteine (take hours before first drink and not while drinking)
– Milk Thistle
– Vitamin C
– B Vitamins
– Electrolytes and Water (Hydrate yourself properly)
– Alpha Lipoic Acid
– Multi Vitamin
5. Sleep Well
Sleep is a no brainer here. Improving your sleep quality will have a huge effect on whether your body will be more prone to storing or burning body fat. Good quality sleep will produce better results than supplements so this should be prioritised before supplement use. A good night’s sleep can help reduce carbohydrate cravings and binge eating which is a big deal if you are surrounded by endless amounts of food. It will also help insulin sensitivity which means more carbohydrates will be directed to muscle cells and stored or burnt there rather than being stored as fat. Sleep is something I encourage all of my Doreen personal training clients to prioritise.
The key point is to not restrict yourself from enjoying holiday breaks. 1-2 days of enjoying yourself is not going to ruin your results in 6 month’s time. The best thing to do is to have a plan and put in the work beforehand. If you have spent the past 10 years eating chocolate every day and skyrocketing your body fat percentage, then binging on Easter and Christmas isn’t going to help. Like many of my Doreen personal training clients, If you spend the majority of the year eating well, optimising your health and maintain a healthy body fat percentage then go for your life. Enjoy yourself. Use the above tools to your advantage if need be.
If you’d like to read more about carbohydrates, check out our article that discusses carbohydrates and fat loss in detail.