With Christmas and New Year’s being right around the corner, I know that a lot of you are stressing about the amount of weight you are going to gain during the Holidays.
And I completely understand you!
But hey, don’t get me wrong. As a student going back home to my mom’s home cooked food and loving atmosphere is legitimately one of the best feelings in the world right now.
But let’s be honest, we all go through the phase of trying to forecast the amount of weight we’re going to put on, based on past experience from eating all of those delicious christmas meals and treats, and drinking those excess calories during New Year’s.
It sure as hell feels nice while you’re doing it but after that you go through a serious guilt trip.
This is exactly why I decided to share with you my 7 simple ways that will help you minimize your weight gain or even make sure that you don’t gain weight in the first place.
1. Staggering your calories
Instead of just helping you avoid gaining weight during the holidays, staggering your calories might actually help you lose a little bit of weight along the way.
Here is what you need to do:
A couple of days prior to a family/friend gathering where you know there is going to be plenty of food to indulge on, dramatically lower your daily caloric intake. Especially your carbs.
On the day of the gathering you are going to do what is known as a re-feed.
This form of meal scheduling can actually come as a fat-burning advantage as you’re giving extra calories to your body when it has been in a deficit – this can turn up your metabolism by restarting Leptin (satiety hormone) production.
2. Increase Your Training Intensity
Your workout is your best tool when it comes to combating the “holiday weight gain”. It’s going to act as a counter weight to the excess calories that you are going to eat and, to an extent, balance out your diet.
A good place to start is increasing your workout intensity, which can be done in many ways:
- Do more compound exercises: Exercises such as deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, thrusters, squats are good exercises that help active a lot of muscles at the same time and as a consequence burn more calories both while at the gym and at home.
- Supersets: A super set is where you combine two or more exercises in one set. You basically do one of the exercises then you immediately jump to the next one without resting and then you rest.
- Burn out sets/Pump sets: After a working set (with a specific weight that allows you to do only 8-12 reps) you lower the weight and pump out another 5-10 reps.
- Heart rate retention: After each set that you do, instead of resting, you do some small cardio exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) that will keep your heart rate going.
- Finishers: After your workout just have one or two sets where you completely exhaust your muscle of choice (usually the muscle that you have been training during your workout) by doing as many reps as you physically can with a certain bodyweight exercise that targets that exact muscle – for example, if you were training chest that day, at the end of your workout do failure sets of push-ups.
- Add cardio: just add a 10-15 minute cardio session at the end of your workout
These are pretty much the best ways in which you can boost the intensity of your workout. Depending on how strong and enduring you see yourself you can either do just one or all of them at once.
Another thing that you can do is to go through a HIIT (High intensity interval training) such as the Tabata workout – the infamous cardio workout that is said to not only leave you breathless but also to boost your metabolic rate for as long as hours after leaving the gym.
3. Have a Strategic Workout Plan
Make sure that you have planned everything carefully.
Ask your close ones when exactly are the gatherings going to take place and just structure your workout days and resting days accordingly.
Make sure that your training days are during the gathering and your resting days are when there is no gathering.
The reason is quite simple – during your workout days you burn more calories than on your resting days, which means that you can increase your caloric intake for that day.
If you were eating those tasty treats during your resting day, when you have been at rest the whole day, you are just increasing your chance to store body fat.
4. Train before meals
Remember the rule of thumb that I keep repeating here?
Let me refresh your memory: 40% of your daily carb intake should be before your workout and another 40% after.
Here you are going to implement a similar technique.
By having a good and intense workout 1-2 hours before the celebratory meal, will ensure that your body uses those excessive calories to replenish your glycogen storages rather than be stored as body fat.
Furthermore, when you’ve exercised and placed your muscles in recovery mode you have automatically increased your body’s daily caloric need which leaves with you with the opportunity to eat more.
Let’s not forget that after a workout our bodies absorb carbs and protein at a higher rate.
5. Healthy add-ons
While it is inevitable to have a bunch of unhealthy foods on the table during the holidays it is plausible to add some alternative healthy snacks that will help you add some fiber, good carbs, lean protein and good fats to your meal.
To, you know, compensate for all the bad empty calories that you’re going to eat.
Grab the cooked veggies or anything else that seems to be a healthy option from the table and just eat that.
You can ask the person that is hosting the gathering to cook some healthy options that you believe others will also enjoy, prior to the party. Let me tell you, there is nothing better than steamed fresh broccoli with some low fat butter on top, sprinkled with black pepper and some salt.
My mouth’s watering just by thinking about it.
6. The “If It Fits My Macros” approach
The “If it fits my macros” approach is an easy way to enjoy the holiday food without worrying too much about gaining extra pounds of body fat.
Your responsibility here is to control your portion size making sure that they fit into your daily macronutrient (protein, carbs and fats) goals.
Because it will be super awkward and annoying having to calculate the caloric content for every meal on the table what you can do is to actually speak with the host and find out what is on the menu for the gathering.
After you have that intel you can sort of calculate some of the foods (that you find most appealing) and find out what is their caloric content.
You don’t need to be 100% precise! This will basically work as a guideline that will tell you how much is too much.
There are some sneaky foods out there that contain a lot more carbs, fats or protein than they seem to do. Imagine the situation where you are eating your food, thinking that you’re well in your macros, and after the meal you decide to take a look and you notice that you’ve consumed 3,000 calories in 2 hours.
This actually happened to me!
7.Enjoy the holidays
At the end of the day you shouldn’t be over-stressing about how much weight you are going to put on after the holidays, but rather enjoy the time you have with the people you love and cherish.
If you find yourself pigging out and just eating as much as your body can physically contain, that’s fine, just enjoy yourself.
All you will have to do is put some extra work in the days to come in the gym and everything’s going to be back on track, but the days you will spend with those who matter are far more precious than those extra millimeters on your waistline.
Merry Christmas everyone and happy holidays!