article by Barry Murray of A1 Coaching
The Christmas bulge will affect many of us and in most cases people seem to just accept that it is going to happen. That’s how to set yourself up for failure in any walk of life as your “acceptance” is almost pre programming you to give in. Maintaining your weight and staying fit and healthy can easily be achieved over the festive period without you having to make big sacrifices. The first step is to pre programmed yourself to take this path so that you actually pre-empt your eating and exercise plans. The next step is to use a few simple that strategies to keep you on the straight and narrow while still being able to enjoy your mince pies and mulled wine
1. Manage your Carbs
Carbohydrate foods such as breads, pastries, cakes, puddings, biscuits and boxes of chocolates are in ample supply over the Christmas period. These are the foods that raise blood sugars and cause insulin spikes. The constant high level of insulin is what causes you to store more food and switch off your fat burning process. So it is best to limit these foods and choose alternatives that keep insulin levels lower. For example, instead of going for platters of breads and pastries, choose to eat from the platter of cold meats, cheese and smoked salmon. With main meals, limit your mashed potato and have more fibrous vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts instead. Finally, put the selection box to the side and instead enjoy some dark chocolate (70-80%) instead.
2. Intermittent Fast
As I discussed in a previous article, fasting can help with weight loss as well as improving overall health. The festive period is an ideal situation where you can use fasting to your benefit. You can almost use it to offset some indulgences and partying that is going to be inevitable. For example, let’s take a night where you are drinking mulled wine, constantly nibbling and treating yourself to several Ferrari Richer. The late night results in a late morning. Instead of having breakfast straight away, choose to wait a few hrs until lunch and enjoy a nice brunch as your first meal of the day. Your dinner in the evening will then be your second meal of the day. This kills two birds with one stone. The first is that you have fasted from maybe 11pm the night before to 1pm the next day. That’s a 14hr fast that will help the body’s metabolism to burn more energy and not store as much. The second is that the reduced number of meals eaten on the fasting day i.e. brunch and dinner may allow you to have a lower overall calorie consumption (as long as you don’t treat yourself to the selection box just because you skipped breakfast!)
3. Choose your indulgence
As mentioned above, carbs are the main governor when it comes to fat storage. Eating carbs and fat together is even worse as the carb switches fat burning off, so the fat you consume is unable to be burnt and it becomes stored also. The other part of the festive diet that blocks fat burning is alcohol. So combing carbs with fat and washing it down with alcohol is a sure way to gain weight. This would be the equivalent of eating Yorkshire pudding with your beef, cream with your mince pie and washing it all down with a few glasses of wine. It is best to choose your poison and stick to it. For example, if you want to enjoy some booze, than reduce your carbs and leave out the Yorkshire pudding and desserts. If you really can’t live without your pastries and desserts, then limit your fats and choose turkey over beef and use natural yoghurt instead of cream with your dessert.
4. Keep exercising and improvise
Family commitments travel and simply enjoying the lazy mornings in bed and watching daytime movies mean that many put their exercise regime on hold. However, apart from good nutrition, doing some sort of daily exercise is key to keeping your metabolism switched on and your insulin sensitivity in working order. This will also help offset the indulgences so apart from the physiological benefits, it helps remove some of the guilt! So if you can’t get out for your normal runs, cycles of gym classes and are limited with time, try doing some short workouts at home. All you need to do is 10-15mins of bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and star jumps. You can employ a Tabata type workout which involves doing an exercise at high intensity for 20secs, 10secs rest, for a total of 4mins. This type of exercise has been shown to help fat burning, muscle building as well as enhance your aerobic fitness. So this type of exercise is a perfect substitute even for those who like long runs and cycles, and all it takes is a few minutes. No excuse!
Barry Murray is a Performance Nutritionist with a BSc in Chemistry from University College Dublin and an MSc in Sports & Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University. Barry specializes in endurance sports and has been consultant to professional cyclists for several years. He was worked with the BMC Pro Cycling Team and Orica-BikeExchange team as well as working as private consultant to many individual professional riders, triathletes and runners. Barry has been columnist for the Irish Independent newspaper, has featured on several national radio broadcasts and has presented seminars to various sports teams and corporate businesses. Barry’s uses a modern approach to nutrition for optimizing both health and performance. He has developed his own system over several years of his own research and practice that improves endurance, power/weight, recovery while also improving the individual’s overall health. This works for any level of athlete from beginner to professional. In fact, he finds those who are just looking to get fitter and improve their health make the most gains. Barry is also a competitive endurance athlete himself and races in ultramarathon events. He races competitively in ultra mountain marathon events and represented his country at the 2011 World Ultra Trail Championships. He has won several ultra trail marathons as well as many top placings in some of the toughest ultra marathons in Europe.
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