You may be thinking this is going to be another drill sergeant speech telling you how you’ll need to steer clear of the Christmas pudding, trim all the fat off your turkey and stick to a diet based on Brussels sprouts.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve trained hard and maintained a healthy body composition, go ahead and enjoy yourself. But if you’ve just started your journey towards better health and fitness then you might need to pick your battles.
Either way, follow these tips to help keep you on track during the festive period.
1. Drink more water to kill off hunger and cravings
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. Then ensure you stay hydrated throughout the night and after your event too. You’ll feel a lot better for it, and be much less tempted by the excess around you.
Why? Because water fills you up, which really helps to prevent the urge to overeat, which can cause you to gain weight. Drink one or two large glasses 10 minutes before you eat your meal, and you will find yourself far better able to stick to your healthy eating regime.
Read our article ‘water and dehydration: 4 facts to improve your health’ for more actionable tips.
2. Don’t skip meals which can leave you hungry
Going to a party with delicious food around you when you’re hungry is a recipe for disaster. One of the best tips we give to clients is to focus on protein and fibre intake earlier in the day. Protein and fibre are both known for their satiating effect, so you feel fuller and less likely to overeat.
You might want to eat lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, beef or fish, alongside generous portions of fibre-rich green vegetables, whole grains, or beans and pulses.
Right before you go out, you could consume a protein shake with some nuts will help stabilise blood sugar and reduce hunger cravings that can derail your progress.
3. Avoid alcoholic drinks with a high calorie count
Your calorie count can escalate fast when alcohol is involved. Many alcoholic drinks, like cider, beer, and cocktails, can contain hundreds of extra calories – especially if you are having a few drinks.
Not just that, but when you are under the influence of alcohol, your decision-making can become impaired around food. Science also shows that your appetite and food intake can increase when you’ve been drinking.
It’s best to avoid drinks with mixers that can be high in sugar and excess calories. Stick to clean spirits or low calories mixers. A few small glasses of good-quality red wine can be a good option if you must have a drink.
Pick your nights wisely, because too many nights of heavy drinking can quickly undo all your hard work.
4. Pick your Christmas treats wisely
The key with this time of year is to set realistic dietary goals. Unless you have an impending photoshoot deadline in January, there’s no need to totally restrain yourself from some treats.
But it’s always a good idea to try and enjoy your indulgences in moderation. Don’t go overboard, set limits, and select treats wisely. It’s a good idea to pick foods that are only available in the holiday season if you want a little treat.
But it’s important to exercise portion control when you do treat yourself, or things can quickly get out of hand. A few Christmas chocolates, rather than a whole box. A handful of nuts, rather than a whole packet. You get the idea.
Be inspired by U.P.’s Healthy Christmas Dinner HERE.
5. Keep training and stay active over the holidays
No matter how busy you may become over the festive period, you absolutely must make training one of your top priorities.
This will keep you insulin sensitive, burn a ton of unnecessary calories, and keep your metabolism ticking over.
Here are three guidelines to follow that will keep you on track:
- Plan on doing something active every day, even if it’s only for 30 minutes.
- Don’t limit your exercise to the gym. Try hill sprints, a bodyweight circuit at home, or even just a fast-paced walk.
- Focus on higher-rep workouts. If you’re in the gym, go for a full range of motion, and accumulate as much blood flow as possible.
6. Boost your immune system with key supplements
A healthy immune system will keep germs, viruses and diseases at bay so you can ensure you feel and perform your best over Christmas when many people can fall ill.
This means doing everything you can to support good immune system health – sleeping well, eating a whole-food diet, and staying active and exercising regularly.
Supplements can help too. Supplementing with vitamin D3 daily is a wise choice. Another solid recommendation would be a high-quality probiotic, because keeping on top of your gut health will help keep your immune system functioning well.
7. Plan ahead with your training and diet
What we tell our clients at Ultimate Performance is to push a little harder in the days leading up to any Christmas parties or events. We suggest training harder, adding in an extra gym session, being more active or getting more daily steps in, while tightening up your diet in the run-up.
Why? This can help increase your calorie deficit and create a ‘mini buffer’ which can allow you to enjoy yourself a little more while you are out at your Christmas party.
Cranking up your exercise or reining in your diet in the days before gives you a handy counterbalance to a little festive over-indulgence. A good strategy can be to lower your calories by cutting back on fats and carbs during the day of your event.
Everything is okay in moderation. If you plan ahead and pick your battles, you can strike a balance between keeping your goals on track and enjoying yourself over the festive period with family and friends.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Learn how Ultimate Performance trainers work out over Christmas to stay in shape HERE.