As a nutritionist who has worked with hundreds of individuals worldwide, one of the main concerns I hear from clients this time of year is the fear of overindulging during the holidays. With Thanksgiving approaching, gatherings for holiday parties become the norm. Often they are filled with rich foods and alcohol, ready to sabotage your clean eating lifestyle. Now don’t get me wrong, I always encourage people to enjoy times spent with loved ones, but it is important to keep your goals in mind when making choices. The following three successful tips have kept many of my clients, not only on track, but continuing to progress towards their fitness goals throughout the holiday season. This Thanksgiving you will be giving thanks for better health and better fitting clothes. Plus, you will have a jumpstart on New Year’s resolutions!
1.Start Your Day with Exercise
When it comes to the holidays, I always try to start them just like any other day—with a workout first thing in the morning. Typically, I will wake up and do fasted cardio (cardio immediately upon waking and prior to eating breakfast) to jumpstart my metabolism and thermogenesis. Fasted cardio helps keep my body burning fat throughout the day leading into the scheduled event or meal. In this case, be sure to do the cardio fasted, followed by a breakfast consisting of lean protein with complex carbs. A shake such as Syntrax Nectar is perfect for this. It will help to halt muscle catabolism, enhance protein synthesis, and provide you with steady energy throughout the lift. However, if training with weights, I recommend eating a light meal roughly 30 to 60 minutes beforehand.
2.Follow Your Normal Meal Plan Up Until the Event/Meal
Far too often I see “cheat meals” become “cheat days,” and what I am about to share is one of the easiest steps you can take to stay on track during a holiday gathering. When it comes to eating, start your day normally by following your meal plan/macros up until (and after) the event or holiday meal. This should entail eating a balanced meal or snack every two to three hours, starting within an hour of waking. Do not try to “compensate” for the overabundance of calories you plan to consume later, as I find this can easily lead to binge eating when it’s time for the off-plan meal. By eating your normal meals, you limit the risk of having an excessive appetite at mealtime. This is because the portions are exactly what you are used to, not void of calories or macronutrients. When people try to eat less early in the day, or say “skip the carbs” with their meals prior, it can trick the body and mind into wanting even more later on.
3.Utilize Portion Control & Smart Selection
Just because it’s a holiday, doesn’t mean you should overindulge. It’s possible to have an off-plan meal with friends or family without going too overboard. Approach the meal as you would any other, selecting from what appears to be around your typical portions of lean protein, complex carb, and vegetable. For example, a great choice at a typical American Thanksgiving dinner would be white meat turkey without the skin, a small portion of mashed potatoes without gravy, and a green vegetable. No peas – they are considered a starch carb!
If using this as a cheat meal or “reefed,” allow yourself to eat what you want. Have a piece of the pie, but stop when you feel full. It will help satisfy cravings without the guilt that comes later from eating too much or letting your sweet tooth get the best of you. Just remember I said a piece of the pie, not the whole pie.
Another thing to be wary of is alcohol. Not only do alcoholic beverages typically contain carbs/sugar, but alcohol itself is a macronutrient which contains a whopping seven calories per gram (more than carbs and almost as much as fat)! That means even clear, hard alcohols, and lite beers still have calories. These calories, unlike those found in carbs, fat, and protein, are not used for any metabolic processes and therefore are liable to be stored as excess body fat. Should you plan on having a drink or two, do not allow yourself to get intoxicated. I suggest choosing clear alcohols with sugar-free mixers or light beer. Another better option is red wine, which carries a list of heart health benefits.
Holidays are the time to eat, drink, and be merry. However, finding the way to do that and maintaining your clean eating lifestyle is key. As we go into the holiday season, keep these three simple tips in mind to avoid any unwanted ThanksGAINing.