Holiday Health & Fitness Tips
by Bobby Best
During the holiday season there are plenty of opportunities to intake a lot of calories, and in a hurry! With holiday parties, work get togethers and Christmas stockings filled with sweets, there is an overabundance of calories at every corner. Not to mention with the cold weather and short days, it is pretty easy to find yourself bundled up in bed by a fire after work as opposed to at the gym doing a workout. While getting to the gym and eating right can already be difficult in the fast paced hustle and bustle that is life, when the holidays come around, sticking to a diet or exercise regimen can almost be a herculean feat.
The goal of this post is to give you some advice and tricks you can use during the holidays to stay on track with your workouts and eating even with the added pressures of parties, dinners, and baked goods at every corner. So read up and heed this holiday fitness advice.
Eat to Perform (Don't perform to eat)
One of the biggest mistakes that someone can make when the holidays come around (and in general) is that they workout out really hard on the days leading up to a holiday meal.
While this is in no way a bad thing, most people believe that one workout will help abolish the huge surplus of calories they will eat at Christmas dinner or at the bar with friends.
The key with training, at any time of the year, is that you want to EAT to PERFORM not perform to eat. So what does that mean exactly? For most people it means going to the gym with a fitbit or heart rate monitor and tracking how many calories are burned that day. Then presto, that’s the excuse to eat a surplus of that many calories in snacks and treats. The problem with this view is that if you workout only to make a deficit in your daily calories so that you can eat more later, than you never end up with a negative calorie count, which is fine if you don’t mind plateauing in weight loss or even gaining weight. Not to mention this mentality is not healthy in general, as working out only becomes a means to eat, when eating should be a means to move and workout!
For example, if you know you are going to have a big workout in the morning, you need to eat the nutrition that will fuel your body. That means that eating plenty of food with good carbs and proteins is a must. During the holidays this is even easier because you have dishes like turkey, yams, green beans, stuffing, etc. However, eating a bunch of high sugary foods like a whole pie or lots of wine will only crush your energy levels the next day due to the sugar spikes the night before, your insulin sensitivity will be haywire the next day, and you will feel sluggish and lethargic.
So what’s the takeaway from this tip? During the holidays, by all means, eat plenty of food, and foods that you don’t usually get to eat like cornbread and stuffing, but manage the super sugary foods and alcohol as they will ruin your recovery and prep from workouts.
Plan For a Workout with Friends & Family
During the holidays, friends and family usually come in to visit. As everyone celebrates we usually go to bars or out to dinner to catch up, but there are alternatives to going out and consuming mass quantities of calories and alcohol to reminisce with loved ones. You can work out. Now days, getting together with people you haven’t seen in a while and doing a workout is pretty common. With the group exercise classes I do, I see old faces and new ones from people visiting out of town to get a workout in with friends. And if a class or group training isn’t your bag, just go on a run or walk, moderate intensity allows you to talk and catch up but at the same time burning calories as opposed to taking them in!
The purpose of trying to plan a workout with friends/family is two fold:
1) It allows you to maintain your activity level during a busy and stressful holiday season.
2) It allows you to do an activity with friends and family that will actually benefit your health and fitness regimen as opposed to side tracking it.
Make Realistic Diet Goals
I am always weary of using the word “diet”. The reason being that you shouldn’t do some fad diet just because a celebrity endorsed it or all your friends at work are doing it. But that’s a talk for another post. What I am talking about is just naturally trying to control your caloric intake, or restrict certain food groups that might be highly caloric that you are used to regularly eating. Changing your diet from 2500 to 2000 calories is doable, but if you are making that change during the holidays with high calorie meals abound, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Now I am not saying that trying to manage a diet is bad, not at all, but doing so during one of the most meal happy times of the year might set you back and deter you from trying to manage your diet later on. So just play it smart and make sure to eat healthy, not gorge, and also don’t overly restrict your calories.
Another good option for managing calories if you are trying to reduce your caloric intake while still indulging in holiday meals and libations, is to create an overall caloric deficit before your meals and then eat without guilt come feast time. Now, this is not in opposition of what I said earlier about eating to perform. I am not saying to keep blindly eating your day to day meals and do your normal workouts every day leading up to a big turkey dinner. I am saying plan for the meals that you are most likely going to have a surplus of calories. In the days leading up, eat 200-500 less calories each day, and stick to your workouts and maybe add little steady cardio to create an overall caloric deficit. Then, on the day of a big meal, do a small workout to increase your metabolic rate and feel free to indulge in the holiday festivities.
Now, to be clear, what I have just discussed for planning for a big holiday meal, is for those of you trying to maintain or lose weight. If you’re trying to gain weight or strength, keep your normal diet plan, and workout schedule. Eat big meals and even some extra desserts, after all the goal is to increase muscle mass, and you can’t do that without calories. However, as far as alcohol consumption goes, you want to keep that to a minimum. For those of you trying to lose weight, alcohol won’t greatly inhibit weight loss as long as you keep a caloric deficit, however, if you are trying to gain some size or strength, alcohol will directly impede that.
So, as far as dieting goes during the holiday season:
- If you are trying to lose weight, consume less calories the days before a big meal and make sure to not skip a workout and add a little bit more steady state cardio.
- If you are looking to gain muscle or strength, just stick to your workout regimen and consume all the calories you want, however, minimize holiday drinks two 2 or 3.
Parting Holiday Advice
So to summarize, the holidays are a festive joyous time of year when we get together with friends and family, and we all celebrate by enjoying robust feasts and drinking together to be merry. To try and tell you not to partake in the holiday spirit would be absurd, but I am saying that there are some tips and tricks you can use to not fall out of your health and fitness regimen. Just to recap:
- Make sure you eat your calories for the purpose of maintaining workouts, make sure you eat good meals with good carbs, proteins, and some fats, and moderate alcohol consumption so it doesn’t sideline your exercise program.
- Plan a workout with friends and family, group exercise and outdoor activities can be a good way to spend time with people and catch up.
- Manage your diet goals so that if you are trying to keep off weight you create a caloric deficit the days leading up to a big celebration, and if you are trying to gain muscle or strength you eat what you can and minimize alcohol consumption.
Use these tips and you should be able to get through the holidays with some fond memories and a little less extra pounds, and no worse for the wear as far as your health and fitness regimen goes. Happy Holidays!