We're well into December now, which means plenty of public holidays, family and friend gatherings, and mountains of delicious (and diet-ruining) food. Part of the reason why so many new year's resolutions include ‘joining a gym' or ‘getting fit' is because of the damage we do during this period. While it's great if you're bulking, for those who are concerned about having abs - it can be a nightmare!
But there is hope - and that doesn't mean having to skip out on all the wonderful food and dessert - there are some simple tweaks you can perform to your diet and training to minimise fat gain and maximise your enjoyment during the festive season.
We've all heard of intermittent fasting - that's where you go for a set period of time (usually 12-16 hours) without any food. This maximises the body's ability to burn up the food rather than store it, and minimises fat gain. Now while everything you pile into your face isn't necessarily going to get used up and avoid your adipose tissue, by essentially being in starvation mode for the 12-16 hours before a big feast, you've created a nice caloric deficit which you can fill with some tasty treats.
While the sugar and fat content in most festive spreads can be daunting for your pancreas, there are several foods you can add to the mix that will help to reduce the insulin response, and therefore storage ability, of your body to those foods. Try adding citrus, green tea and cinnamon to your feasts. This can easily be done by drinking a cup of green tea with lemon/lime, and sprinkling cinnamon on your morning coffee, or even on your desserts.
While it's clear that your body is most-probably going to store the majority of the foods you'll be eating over the holiday period due to sheer weight of calories, there is an easy way to ensure that at least some of those calories are stored in your muscle and not fat tissues. By working out, and more specifically intensely lifting weights, the GLUT4 receptors in your muscle cells are activated. This attracts the nutrients from food into the muscle, rather than to be stored in the fat cells. If at all possible, save the feasts for immediately post-workout!
It seems strange that we'd recommend resting as a way of avoiding getting fat, but hear us out. A common reason for fat storage is elevated cortisol levels, mainly from poor quality foods, high stress levels, over-indulgence of caffeine and lack of sleep. Now we're going to assume that your stress levels will be naturally lower during your days off work, and that the food quality might improve somewhat since many festive meals are home-cooked. If you take it fairly easy on caffeine (which you shouldn't need as much with your sleep-ins), that just leaves sleep.
Make sure you get extended, good quality sleep, especially after the big eats. The longer you sleep (within reason, that is), the more growth hormone is released, which helps grow muscle and burn fat. Whatever you do, don't set your alarm an hour early to go and do cardio on your days off!
Ok, this isn't exactly a ‘do 18 pushups followed by 10 pullups, then two minutes of ab work followed by 45 minutes of steady-state cardio' type tip, but it certainly will have an impact on your physique come January. We mentioned stress in the previous tip - and it really is important enough to mention again. Stress is a physical and mental killer - and has its place amongst all the major diseases we face today. Take the time to enjoy yourself during the holiday period - don't stress over work, financial issues, missing the odd training session, your food choices etc. and just enjoy the company of family and friends. Or if you don't enjoy their company, go to the movies or the beach and enjoy someone else's company. Just enjoy yourself.
Click here to read our Disclaimer