First lets go through the basics and then take a deep dive into some of the newest research and the finer points to keep your waistline through this holiday season!
We’re already past Thanksgiving and heading straight into all of the holiday parties… which means tons of baked goods, cakes, pies and treats all around the house, office and set out at holiday parties calling your name.
The Exercise Routine:
First, let’s talk about your basic exercise routine…
Cardio counts as a brisk walk, jog, bike ride, elliptical or row machine. If you have a heart rate monitor don’t try to kill this part of the routine – we’ll talk about your intense workout right after this … keep your heart rate from about 110-140 beats per minute. We want to burn all fat and increase our fat burning enzymes in our mitochondria to keep them healthy and working during the rest of the day.
2. Okay next you’ll want to do your intense strength and/or anaerobic workout routine 3 x a week.
So the goal of this is to spike your testosterone, to keep that lean muscle torching through calories and to give your body some room in the muscles and liver to store those extra carbs that you’ll likely be eating. For this you can do some intense body weight high-intensity-interval training for 20+ minutes, a crossfit workout for time or as many rounds as possible at your local crossfit gym, or to just go to your local gym and do some heavy lifting mixed with some super sets to keep your heart rate elevated. An example of this would be doing 5 sets of 5 reps heavy bench press, followed by 15 plyopush-ups (or push ups where you clap, or come off the ground etc…) or you could do the same thing with 5 rounds of 5 heavy squats superset with 15 jump squats immediately following each squat set before moving on to the second round.
Here’s an easy series of tons of at-home workouts that i’ve made to fit the bill:
Moving onto diet, you’ll want to be eating super-clean around the parties…so the simplest way to do this is to make 1/2 your plate at each meal as non-starchy veggies, then a serving of meat or another complete protein and a serving of some healthy fat like olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, coconut oil etc…
Alright now lets get to how to manage the holiday parties! It’s not just food that’s the issue, it’s also the cocktails, spiked eggnogs and mulled wine! In fact, in a recent research study alcohol consumption was found the be the most closely linked with weight gain and specifically fat gained around the mid section. The reason for this is due to the differences in hormonal sensitivity and hormone secretion from visceral abdominal adipocytes (aka fat in your belly).
If you want a custom meal plan, check here :):
How To Drink Like a Fit Person:
(And Keep Your Social Events, Your Fitness, and your Abs this season)
In fact, excess alcohol consumption (over 1 drink for women and over 2 drinks for men) affect your hormones, your gut microbiome and your mitochondria in ways that ensure you put those pounds just where you don’t want them. Alcohol is so readily burned as energy after being consumed as a means to keep the toxic properties of alcohol at bay, essentially it shuts down the liver’s blood sugar regulating function and forces it to go into overdrive converting alcohol to glucose in order to detoxify the body, which is the liver’s secondary function. Alcohol also increases overall systemic inflammation which stops your body’s ability to oxidize, burn and release fat…In addition to this the liver is needed in the conversion of endogenous proteins (proteins from your diet) to complete proteins so that you can build muscle after your hard lift or crossfit WOD. Then since the liver is no longer regulating blood sugar, your blood sugar drops and you get those late night muchies! Oh, and one more thing, it decreases the secretion from fat cells that are your satiety signals, namely adiponectin and leptin.
Okay so now that i’m done bashing on alcohol… there’s no reason to completely avoid having fun with your friends and drinking if that’s something you really look forward to this time of year. Perhaps you just like a drink or two to help you get those walls down so that you can get the convos flowing with coworkers, new friends or maybe someone cute that you’ve been wanting to talk to. So here’s how you do it with the least metabolic damage possible… Eat a small-moderate sized meal with a normal serving of protein (like a chicken breast), then some fibrous non-starchy veggies like broccoli, green beans, carrots, or cauliflower …and if you want add some healthy fat in the mix – maybe 1/4-1/2 an avocado and then you’re ready for your first drink…sip on it slow and enjoy the company and the flavor. Personally, i love dry red wine. If you want to go that extra mile choose dry red because of the catechins it has that actually helps you burn fat (also seen in green tea and cacao powder or quality chocolate).
Anything with no-added sugar is going to really be your friend here. If you’re a liquor type person why don’t you try mixing it with a sugar-free mixer or sparkling water and lime. Any sugar that’s mixed with the alcohol is going to go straight to fat since your liver is about to be shut down, and with it, it’s ability to convert that sugar to glycogen…the only storage form left is …you guessed it…FAT
Okay, so you’re going to be alternating one alcoholic drink with one glass of sparkling water all night -do sparkling water so that your friends don’t give you a hard time about not drinking ….lol. So if you’re a girl… i’m gonna suggest you keep your drink total to 2-3 and if you’re a guy 3-4, but take your time…the point is to get connect to the people around you, so focus on that…not the drinks!
Oh…and keep this drinking to ONE NIGHT A WEEK. You’re hormone sensitivity after drinking or a really big sugar binge takes 3 days to get back to normal. That means that you’re metabolism is going to be a little slow and you won’t be burning fat like normal for 2-3 full days.
If you want to short cut this, a long-slow cardio workout is going to be the quickest way back to revving back up your metabolism, getting that insulin sensitive back and dipping into those fat stores for energy. A close second would be a concurrent training workout with strength and cardio mixed into circuits and intervals – think your normal crossfit WOD for time or for as many rounds as possible.
What’s with the 5-10 lbs of Weight Gain after a Binge:
Alright now let’s take a second and explain the weight gain that you experience after a classic holiday binge – we’re talking about just food, not alcohol. As far as a singular holiday binge, the weight that you gain is almost all water in the form of water in various parts of the body.
- First, glycogen from the carbs is stored in the muscle and liver, which is 3.4g of water per 1g of carbohydrate.
- Next, that extra food in your intestines itself weighs quite a bit and tends to draw water with it into your GI tract.
- And last, if it’s an excess of processed foods, oxidized fats and simple sugars then you better know that your entire body is going to get puffy from an increase in overall inflammation (It’s easiest to notice this in the face or if you always wear a ring and notice it’s fitting a little snugger than usual)
That water should be gone along with the inflammation in 1 day, and 2 days at most assuming you go back to your normal clean diet and exercise routine.
As far as the calories, it takes 3500kcal to make one pound of fat in your body, so rest assured that you did not gain more than a lb of fat in even the most heinous of binges… and your body has what is called a ‘set point’ that it likes to keep you at. Due to this …your body will likely rev up your metabolism a little bit at night…think about those post turkey day night sweats. In research this effects is normally consumes 50-300 extra calories burned off as heat but this is largely dependent on genetics.
What to do after a Holiday Binge:
Oh, and when you do binge like that…because let’s be real…it happens… you’ll want to walk IMMEDIATELY. One particular study found a significant amount less weight gain, a blunting of the spike in blood sugar and a maintenance of insulin sensitivity if you just walk 20-30 minutes immediately after a binge.
If you want to go the extra mile this holiday season and even perhaps even lose a little weight – you’ll want to do a fasted brisk walk, jog, bike or any for of cardio in the morning for 30 minutes-60 minutes certainly after drinking nights or binges, but also for a total of 3 x a week!
Alright so let’s break this down:
10 steps to maintain this holiday season
- Maintain an exercise routine of at least 3 x a week of cardio 30+ mins and 3 x a week of concurrent strength training, crossfit, or HIIT workouts.
- Eat your normal, clean healthy diet around the holiday parties
- Focus on connecting with people rather than the drinking
- If you do drink, do so moderately with dry wine or beverages without added sugar.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water
- Keep total drinks under 3 drinks for women and under 4 drinks for men.
- Only drink 1 night a week at most to maintain hormone sensitivity
- Don’t munch at night after drinking
- Do fasted cardio at least 3 x a week 30+ minutes and especially after night with alcohol or food binges.
- Walk IMMEDIATELY after a large meal 20-30 minutes