You know you're going to do it. You know you want to do it. It's what makes the holidays the holidays. What is it? Eating piles of holiday food.
This article is not about how to minimize holiday weight gain. That topic has been addressed many times before and will no doubt be addressed many more times to come. What I'm talking about here is how to use your increased holiday eating to your advantage in your training.
For many trainers (myself included), it's just no fun being good at the buffet table all the time. It's very easy to take the joy out of the holidays by restricting yourself too much.
I propose something different. Rather than forcing yourself to eat plain potatoes and dry turkey when your whole family is sitting down to a big holiday dinner, join in. I'm going to tell you how to make it work for you, not against you.
#1 - Forgive yourself in advance
If you're the type who feels guilty when you eat foods that aren't the greatest for you, try to set that aside. This is going to be a positive, guilt-free experience.
#2 - Reduce your calories BEFORE your big meals
By reducing your caloric intake before the big meals, it's much more likely that your body will use those excess calories to rebuild depleted stores rather than add to the ones that are already there. Don't starve yourself or your body will panic and try to store everything it gets as fat - just reduce.
#3 - Do a hard, heavy workout as close to mealtime as you can
Immediately after a hard workout, your body is desperate for raw materials to rebuild with. This effect lasts for about 3 to 4 hours. During this time, your body is primed for muscle growth. By doing your workout just before a big holiday dinner, all that food is going to go towards helping your body rebuild and recover from the workout. Very little, if any, of the excess calories you eat will be stored as fat under these conditions.
#4 - Try to focus on foods with some nutritional value
Feel free to load your plate with turkey and mashed potatoes. These foods have a great deal of nutritional value to a trainer. Don't hold back on them.
#5 - Increase your training volume
What this basically means is do more sets for each muscle group. You may have to decrease your rest periods or perhaps increase the number of training sessions you do in order to increase the volume but doing more sets (at least temporarily) will give your metabolism a kick-start. It will be especially effective if you're doing a fairly low volume training program before switching. Your body will be desperate for food to rebuild with and a big holiday meal is just what the doctor ordered.
#6 - Don't go to sleep after you eat
I know it's going to be hard but you're better off not napping after a big holiday meal. If you sleep, your body is more likely to store excess calories as fat, not muscle. It will also slow your metabolism down and you'll digest your food a lot slower. Relax, but if you can help it, don't sleep right away.
#7 - Schedule another heavy workout for the day after a big holiday meal
After loading yourself up with carbs, fat and protein, your body is a nutrient-filled growth machine. Take advantage of your loading by doing another high-volume, heavy workout the day after.
#8 - Take all the leftovers people are willing to give you
Stick to the more nutritious foods when you do this, such as meat, potatoes and vegetables. It beats cooking big meals for yourself for the next three days.
#9 - If you bring home desserts, save them for post-workout meals
Like I mentioned before, your body is primed for growth after a workout. Most desserts are filled with sugar. After a workout, your body will suck up this sugar just like any other carb and not store it as fat. In fact, it will increase your insulin levels and help you store protein in your muscles!
Putting these tips to work won't necessarily mean you won't gain some fat over the holidays but they can certainly help to minimize fat gain and maximize your muscle mass gains. Putting your overeating to work for you may not be pretty but it can be very effective!