Holiday eating can freak a lot of people out, me included. Whether you're a competitive athlete or just trying to keep off those exrta lbs. Going to parties and get together's can be a daunting endeavor when you're trying to resist all the foodie goodness you're sure to find. Fortunately, with the right knowledge (down below) and a good head on your shoulders, you can enjoy the holidays and maintain the gains you’ve been working for.
The holidays are packed full of goodies, and let’s face it - we all want to take part. If like most of us, you are visiting family or friends, and are planning on resisting the temptations of all the homemade sweets waiting for you, I can tell you already that you're either going to fail or be a very miserable person to hang around.
Instead of cutting yourself off completely from partaking in the festivities, understand how the food you affects your body, and then regulate your portions and intake time accordingly.
Sugar (glucose) is the easiest form of energy for our body to breakdown and use as fuel. Unfortunately if we don’t need the fuel, our blood sugar levels stay high, massive amounts of insulin are dropped in the bloodstream to try to find space to store the glucose in the liver or muscle tissues, and when that fails because they are already full, it converts sugar to fat and stores it in fat (adipose) cells instead. This obviously makes people gain weight.
The easiest way to combat this series of insulin drop to glucose conversion to stored fat is pretty simple, deplete your muscles of glycogen (stored sugar/energy) so that when you then consume sugar it goes to the muscles and aids in recovery, instead of causing all sorts of hormonal and cellular damage before being stored as fat. If you’ve heard of Carb Back loading it’s pretty much the same idea.
How it works:
Anytime you workout and exert yourself your muscles will become depleted of glycogen. If you have the time, try to hit a quick and dirty metcon about an hour or so before you are going to faced with the best of your families holiday treats. When the time come to eat, don’t feel guilty, feed your sweet tooth, and your muscles will thank you.
If you don’t have time to workout there is a second option that will also do the trick. No matter what, during the day your body uses energy, your muscles are used, and you deplete glycogen stores. If you stay away from processed carbs and sugar during the day, by night time you’ll be in position to refuel the muscles and liver and treat yourself to some treats.
Overeating, especially overeating of carbohydrates can be very significant in holiday (or really any time of the year) weight gain. The problem with carbs is that they are sugar, and when sugar enters the bloodstream everything that was discussed above happens, as well as an eventual blood sugar drop which ironically tells your body it needs more fuel. You end up eating more and so the vicious cycle continues.
The good news is that there are other forms of available energy out there and a great one is FAT. Yes Fat.
Fat is satiating and has no influence on blood sugar levels, obviously. When blood sugar levels stay neutral and consistent the body doesn't knows it doesn't need any more energy and so it doesn't ask for it. In other words you are full and your body knows it, aka your appetite is curbed.
How it works:
Start your day off with a meal that is high in fat and extremely low to no sugar. Bacon, eggs, and avocado is a great choice. Another good one would be a cup of coffee with heavy whipping cream in it.
You’ll get calories from the fat that will aid you throughout the day and keep you full until it gets closer to evening, when hopefully your muscles are ready for some sugar and you can appease them.
Don’t stress. At the end of the day the Holidays are a time for celebration and reuniting with family and friends. One of the things that humans instinctively bond over is the making and sharing of good food, and that is something that will never and should never change.
If you’re worrying about gaining a few pounds or missing workouts, you’re probably not enjoying yourself as much as you should be. Not to mention stressing out results in cortisol release which ends up making you hungry as well as down regulates growth hormone and testosterone (among a few others) which will obviously not help in you maintaining weight or take advantage of holiday gainz.
Have fun, be as active as you can be without seeming insane, and just be smart about what you’re eating and when. Life's too short and holiday treats don’t come by that often ;)