The festive period is a time to relax, unwind and spend quality time with your family and friends.
As a personal training company writing this, you may be thinking this is going to be another drill sergeant speech telling you how you’ll need to trim the fat off your turkey, stick to Brussels sprouts, and steer well away from any Christmas pudding.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
It really depends on where you’re at in your journey. Have you had an excellent year where you’ve eaten consistently well, trained hard regularly and maintained a healthy body composition? If so, go ahead, enjoy yourself and live a little!
But what if you’ve had a bad year, eaten terribly and barely moved? What if you’ve just started your journey towards better health and fitness? If this sounds like you, then you might need to pick your battles.
The difference between what someone can get away with when they’re lean, versus being out of shape is tremendous.
That’s why if you fall in the latter group, following some of these tips will help keep you on track during the festive period, while still allowing some of the enjoyment that this time of year brings.
1. Stay Hydrated
While this is something you need to focus on year-round, around the festive period the need for hydration becomes even more critical.
Water will help mitigate the delirious effects of alcohol, as well as squash any cravings.
If you’ve got a potentially heavy night ahead of you, always, always go to the event hydrated, and stay hydrated throughout and after.
You’ll feel a lot better for it, and be much less tempted by the excess around you.
2. Don’t Skip Meals
One of the worst things you can do is go to a party with delicious foods around you when you’re hungry.
It’s a recipe for disaster, and will only lead to bingeing.
That’s why one of the best tips we give to clients is to focus on protein and fibre intake on the day.
Before going out, a protein shake with some nuts is a great snack to help stabilise blood sugar and reducing cravings.
3. Watch Out for Liquid Calories
We’re not expecting you to turn down Christmas drinks, but what you need to be aware of is how quickly calories can escalate when alcohol is involved.
This is why it’s best to avoid mixers and stick to clean spirits or a few small glasses of quality red wine.
Given the number of drinking opportunities you’ll have over this festive period, pick your nights wisely as too many nights of heavy drinking can quickly undo a lot of your hard work.
4. Indulge Only in Festive Foods
It’s one thing eating a little too much Christmas pudding, but another if you’re following it up with a trip to McDonald’s.
The key with this time of year is to set realistic dietary goals.
Unless you have an impending photo shoot deadline in January, totally restraining yourself from some treats will only lead to you cracking and inevitably bingeing.
A good tactic is to select the treats wisely, and pick foods only available in the holiday season, not readily available all the time.
Of course, you still have to exercise a little portion control.
5. Train Hard
No matter how busy you may become over the festive period, you absolutely must make training one of your top priorities.
Training hard will keep you insulin sensitive, burn a ton of unnecessary calories and keep your metabolism ticking.
While it may not be the time to set any personal bests, plan on doing something active every day – even if it’s only for 30 minutes.
This could be some hill sprints, a bodyweight circuit at home, or even just a fast-paced walk. It doesn’t have to be limited to the gym – the key is that it’s done.
If you are in the gym, a good strategy for the Christmas period is to focus on doing higher reps, with a full range of motion, and accumulating as much blood flow as possible.
6. Boost Your Immune System
Falling ill can ruin anyone’s fitness motivations, especially in the winter when we’re all a little more prone to it.
That’s why it’s key we’re doing everything we can to boost our immune system.
Given the lack of sunlight in the UK, supplementing with Vitamin D3 daily is a wise choice.
Another solid recommendation would be a high-quality probiotic. Keeping on top of your gut health, during a time where many new foods are introduced, will help keep your immune system functioning well.
7. Plan Ahead
The key to any fitness goal is planning ahead. The festive period is no exception.
If you’re someone looking to maintain and maybe even progress a little, you need to pick your battles.
What we tell our clients at Ultimate Performance is to grind a little harder in the days between any parties or events, and then enjoy themselves at the function.
This will help create a mini buffer so that any overindulgence (which will happen!) is counterbalanced to some degree.
Trying to avoid these treats will only lead to more stress, so finding a plan to create ‘damage limitation’ is best.
That’s why during times where you’re not doing anything social, lowering your calories through fats and carbs is a good strategy.
To sum up, how you approach the festive season really depends on your goals and where you’re at right now.
Regardless of who you are though, the key is to do what makes you happy. Following these tips will help strike a balance between your fitness journey, and enjoying yourself with a little Christmas indulgence.