Staying on track over the festive period!
It’s our annual Christmas party this week at FX, so what better time for a post on how to manage your fitness and nutrition this holiday season! Most of us gain weight throughout December, meaning the “I’m going to make a change in the new year” becomes the “I need to get back to where I am today in the new year”. Hence- once again, nothing changes. 2019 starts with a diet, you get back to your end of October shape by mid Feb, gain a little as you take your foot off the gas, train and diet again for a while, but then it’s sunny, and BBQ season, and so on. Next year, like this one, goes by without achieving what you really wanted- your weight loss goal.
BUT, we can help, and that starts right now!
With you- not me.
Take control over this Christmas period, end the year on a high, and after a great new year and a motivated start to the year (like every year), rather than being around the same, you will be way ahead, feeling great, fit, healthy, and motivated- and “holiday ready” all year long!
I get it- it’s tough. Here’s just a few reasons why December is seen as a bit of a write off for your fitness journey:
· Who doesn’t love the excuse to have a Christmas movie, alcohol and cheeseboard at any acceptable opportunity? But let’s be honest, 3 days a week is a bit excessive.
· It’s a social thing- work, gym, family parties- If I’m at a planned party for a total of about 10 hours over 6 weeks, I may as well just stop trying to control the other 998 hours. Sounds reasonable.
· I need to relax, so I’m going to write off my training and diet for a while. I know my training actually helps me to keep a good state of mind, feel healthy and helps me to stay focused (in addition to the actual physiological benefits of training), and I have time off work, meaning fitting in a few hours to keep on top of things will be easy, I’m still going to skip training so I can “relax”. In fact, I’m going to wind down my training so I can fully relax, and have 3 weeks of preparing for that unnecessary week off by gradually letting my training and diet decline over the weeks building into Christmas.
Like I said, I get it. All perfectly logical arguments. If only it didn’t need to be this way.
If only someone could make the arguments sound a little bit ridiculous, and certainly not worthy of destroying my hard work so far!
If I’ve managed to do that, then great. I know part of you wants to succeed over Christmas, but still wants to have fun, spend time with loved ones, and relax!
So, here’s my 3 top tips to help you through the festive season, keep you on track, and set you up to achieving all of your goals in the coming year.
3 Top Tips for Managing the Festive Season
1. Keep your training schedule the same, and plan your Christmas week in advance!
Rule number 1, that everyone can stick to building into the festive season, is to keep on top of your training! We’re busy all year round, but we find time that fits around that schedule. For those with families, going the extra mile to ensure Santa manages to get all of the essentials to you and your family may mean you need to move to plan B, but it isn’t an excuse to train less, or with less intensity. Plan, and have clear training goals (for example, I want to get ** hours per week in the gym), and make sure you stick to it. Find the time, and stick to it. Also, try to set yourself a challenge. The year is not done- there’s still time to get some new personal bests- you’ve committed to spending the time still training, so make sure you show up with focus and intensity. Pick a new PB, and go for it.
For Christmas week, plan. What are the family days? When will the gym be open? Usually, between the 27th and 30th you will be able to get in to train. But if not (through choice), remember that a recovery week does NOT mean you do nothing. Plan to be active with family and friends- have fun, and move!
2. Control your Alcohol Intake!
This rule applies for any occasion during your fitness journey, but as the Christmas weeks tend to involve a lot of Alcohol related fun. But too much alcohol can be hugely detrimental to your goals- excess calories from the drinks, increased appetite, poor training due to hangovers, etc. Here’s some suggestions, in order of effectiveness, to manage alcohol intake, so select the strategy most appropriate to your goals.
Option 1- Avoid Alcohol. If you’re happy to avoid alcohol, then avoiding it all together is an effective way to avoid the excess calories, dehydration, and other negative side effects. However, replacing Alcohol with high sugar alternatives, or thinking you have a free pass because you’re not drinking will still make this choice detrimental to your fitness Journey. Stick to low calorie alternatives, and ensure you keep to your nutrition targets.
Option 2- Choose lower calorie options for your drinks. If you feel that Alcohol is necessary, aim to still control your calories wherever possible. This means sticking to lower calorie alternatives, such as Gin and slimline tonic, Vodka and soda water, or other lower calorie alternatives. Remember, drinking too much so you are more than a little “merry” is not a good idea for your goals or health.
On days where you are expecting to consume alcohol, you can aim to reduce calorie intake from carbs and fats for that day, without reducing protein intake, and whilst aiming to hit your calorie targets. This will still not be a “perfect solution”, nor will it be as effective as the avoiding alcohol approach done well, but it will hugely limit the negative effects of drinking on body composition.
3. Manage your nutrition as much as possible!
Managing your nutrition around meals out, party treats, co-worker’s gifts of biscuits etc can be a huge task, and without a strategy to control it, can lead to an entire motivational meltdown. This could completely change your mindset, so ensuring this factor is considered is essential. Assuming you have a plan to deal with Alcohol and are still training, you may find this option a hugely beneficial way to manage your diet over this period.
A highly organised diet over this period will mean that the “temptation” factor is less important. Don’t be stuck hungry in the office with biscuits next to you- have your own healthy alternative. Have the occasional biscuit, but make sure it fits into your calorie and macronutrient targets- trust me, you will have much better reasons to go off track than “I had access to a biscuit”.
In an ideal world we would track everything, but we know this isn’t practical, particularly for meals out, etc. For this, aim to plan ahead what you will have, make sensible choices, take a guesstimate of your calories, and eat normally to account for that. This may include reducing total calories for the day before heading out to give you a few “extra calories” for when youre out, but be realistic about it.
And for Christmas day- just have fun. Unless you have a very strong reason to do so, don’t track. Enjoy your food, and enjoy the day.
However, the most important bit may be this….
Although this is all about managing your fitness over the festive period- fitness is more than just physical. Enjoy spending time with family at every opportunity. Relax, and do what makes you happy. I genuinely think that people can overdo the wrong things (alcohol, junk food, etc) at this time of year, leading to a decreased happiness going into the new year, so the above suggestions are there to manage this.
Make the absolute most of the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and family at Christmas, and don’t let your nutrition and training have a negative impact on this. Use the above methods to get the best of both worlds.
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Hope this helps- any questions, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to get back to you as quickly as possible! For more information, why not check out our recent blog post on fat loss here.
Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS, Pn1