December can be a hard month for staying on track, sticking to a fitness plan and maintaining a balanced diet with parties, festivities and over indulgence. We asked Coach and Nutritionist from RG Active, Phil Paterson, his festive tips for staying on track during the Christmas holidays.
Hey Phil, what advice do you give to clients about how to manage diet, exercise and festive parties during Christmas.
Managing your energy intake, the amount of calories you consume, can be difficult enough as it is and when the festive season approaches. With the increase in parties that usually accompanies it, you may find yourself stressing about your diet. Ideally, we want to find a happy balance between joining in with the fun without going overboard and undoing months of hard work building a healthy eating regime. With a little foresight and planning you can ‘buffer’ the effects of some over indulgence by cutting down on kcal for a few days before a day you know you’re likely to over indulge. For example; if you know you have a big night on Friday, where you might overeat by 800-1000 kcal, which is very possible with food and alcohol, you could reduce your daily intake by 200 kcal from Monday to Thursday which would bring the overall weekly intake down, and you’d barely notice 200 kcal a day missing from your diet if you took it out over small amounts over the day. However, this is not a recommended strategy for the long term, since optimal nutrition and performance comes from consistency.
Alcohol can be the biggest contributor to weight gain during the festivities, any advice on how readers can control their intake and make sure their training schedule doesn’t suffer?
Alcohol can be a difficult one to monitor when you’re trying to stay on track with your kcal intake. When we drink socially, especially around the festive season, it may be sustained over a number of hours, which means that overall kcal intake can creep up. I’ve heard tips before like advising certain types of drink because they’re lower in kcal. But what if you don’t like those other drinks? We work hard and train hard and when we want to let lose we at least want to enjoy what we drink, right? Probably the biggest thing that’s going to help you here is good old discipline. Enjoyment without overindulgence. Plan to allow yourself a fixed number of drinks, e.g. 4 or 5, they can be whatever you like, but stick to that limit. You’ll probably make better choices and appreciate it more.
By the end of the day we’re often a little more dehydrated and thirsty, so to avoid knocking back your first drink too quickly, have a large glass of water before you drink anything else. Every couple of drinks, have another glass of water too. It’ll prevent you from getting too dehydrated and you’ll thank yourself the following morning. My final tip is to leave a water bottle with an electrolyte tablet in it, in the fridge before I go out, so I’ve got something to have when I get home.
On average people consume between 3000-4000 calories on Christmas day, what could you do to burn those festive calories?
For a while now I’ve had a little Christmas morning tradition of getting up for an early morning run. I keep it really short, 20 minutes or something and nothing structured. It’s lovely going out, in the dark on a crisp morning just as the sun’s coming up and running around the deserted streets. If you’ve not got to rush back for the kids, you could always go a little further. You’d be surprised how many other people I see out, doing something similar either running or walking the dog, getting a little solo time before the busy day ahead.
This might not be for everyone, so another option is the classic post Christmas dinner walk with the family, a little calorie burning before falling asleep in the afternoon no doubt. Try not to stress too much about those Christmas day kcal, as long as they’re not representative of your normal intake, the effects of the overindulgence will be short lived. Get back into your normal eating and training pattern as soon as you can after the festive period and you’ll be back on track in no time.