I’ve always felt bad about over indulging at Christmas from being around 16. I often worry about the bad food binge ruining my years’ worth of hard worked gains.
For me, it’s the hardest thing not to do and every year, without doubt, I have a few additional festive feasts. But it is Christmas after all, so it’s okay to overeat right? Yes, it is! I’m not going to tell you how to avoid gaining a few pounds or lose any weight, but how to use the overindulging (that, let’s face it we all do) at Christmas your advantage.
I know that if I was to restrict myself to certain foods, it would ruin Christmas. I’m human after all and love a treat. It’s just no fun to behave at a huge Christmas buffet. So hopefully a few things I’ve learnt from over the years will make you feel more comfortable with jumping straight into that big Christmas dinner.
1. Be prepared to eat ‘guilt free’
Try to put any feeling guilt about eating meals which may be worse for you than your regular diet of chicken, greens and sweet potato to the back of your mind! If you’re going to eat something you usually perceive as being a ‘treat’, at least enjoy it. Plus you probably deserve a rest from your usual diet.
2. Don’t snack before big meals
This will make your body much more likely to use the excess calories to rebuild depleted stores rather than add to ones already in existence. Likewise, it is hugely important not to starve yourself before big meals! If your body goes into starvation mode it will panic and try to store everything as fats. Just reduce the amount you eat before a planned meal. That way, you’re also much more likely to savor the foods and enjoy it.
3. Workout before these big meals
After a workout the body is desperate for fuel to rebuild and recover. 0-1 hour after a workout is the optimum time to get these raw materials in for muscle growth and repair. Through doing a workout before a big meal will contribute towards helping your body rebuild and recover. You will also restore the energy you’ve just burned.
4. Use the knowledge you already have about different foods and focus on foods with good nutritional value.
Don’t hold back on the good foods which are laying around at Christmas. I’ll be loading my plate with Turkey, greens and potatoes for example as these provide great nutritional value to accompany my training schedule.
5. Don’t sleep your dinner off
This for me proves difficult. However, it is important to remember that sleeping allows your metabolism to slow down and digest your food slower. If you’re tired then sleep! But if you can help it don’t have a nap straight away. Not sleeping during the day is also more likely to help you get a good nights’ sleep that night.
6. Try to do more exercise
For this, you could do more strength sets, decrease rest periods, do a longer workout or train more often. This is only temporary, but I find that putting a morning jog in over the Christmas period gives my metabolism a kick start. I’m currently in a de-load phase of programming so adding additional activity to this will mean that a big Christmas portion is just what the doctor ordered.
7. Smash the gym the day after
All the excess protein, carbs and fat create a nutrient filled gains machine. I will be taking full advantage of the unnecessary loading by doing a high volume or heavy lifting session on Boxing Day.
8. Try to save desserts for post-workout meals
With your body being primed for growth after a workout, desserts could be good for your gains. Most desserts are full of sugar and sugar is a carb. The body needs carbs after a workout to aid muscle growth. In fact, I have read that this sugar intake may increase insulin levels and aid the body storing protein in the muscles. Plus having a desert relieves all of that Christmas stress.
Putting these tips to work won’t necessarily mean you won’t gain some fat over the festive period but they can certainly help to minimise fat gain and maximise your muscle growth. This isn’t a license to go and eat friends and family out of house and home, but more of a guide to Christmas eating habits from my experiences. Attacking the Christmas buffet may not be pretty but it can be very effective!