Q: The holidays are coming. What tips do you have so I don’t balloon by the end of the year?
A: The holidays are here, which means lots of food and not enough time to exercise. It’s possible to enjoy the festivities without adding weight. Here are some strategies to try:
▪ Don’t “save” yourself for a holiday meal. Eat four to six small meals throughout the day. Not only do smaller, more frequent meals enhance metabolic activity (meaning you burn more calories during the day), you’re less likely to gorge during the big holiday sit-down meal.
▪ Plan a workout before a big holiday meal. Our bodies are more sensitive to the hormone insulin, which helps transport sugars to our depleted muscles. Carbohydrates found in starchy holiday dishes like mashed potatoes, or sugars found in cranberry sauce or pumpkin pies, are excellent for glycogen replenishment after a grueling workout. And the protein from turkey will repair damaged tissue. Furthermore, metabolism is heightened after hard exercise, meaning we’re more effective at burning calories that might otherwise pack on unwanted weight.
▪ Take advantage of “nutritionally dense” holiday foods. Many holiday staples can actually become year-round nutritional staples. Sweet potato, pumpkin, cranberries, chestnuts and turkey are all great choices during the holidays and year-round.
▪ Offer to bring a healthy dish. If you’re concerned about unhealthy foods at an upcoming function, call the host ahead of time to see if you can bring a healthful alternative. Chances are the host will be happy to have some help with the overwhelming task of pleasing a hungry crowd.
▪ Beware of liquid calories, especially alcohol. Alcohol actually contains almost as many calories per gram as fat (7 calories vs. 9). Combine the alcohol with creamy or sweet mixtures and you get more calories. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, which means you’ll be less careful about what you eat. Instead of reaching for the bubbly, grab a noncaloric drink like diet soda, water or spritzer.
▪ Use a journal to monitor your training and nutrition. One of the best ways to track your fitness program is with a training log, and the same holds true for food intake. Our most successful clients are those who actually take the time to monitor both their training and food intake in a daily log. It not only makes you accountable to yourself on a daily basis, but it’s a great way to develop nutritional goals for yourself and determine which eating patterns improve energy levels and help enhance overall performance.