The most difficult time of year to stay fit is upon us: the holidays. For the next 6 weeks, we struggle to keep our portions, sugars and drinking in check, as parties, rich foods and large meals abound.
Stay fit this holiday season with these 10 simple tips.
Consume plenty of water, which will improve immunity, continually flush your system of fats & toxins and minimize any hangovers.
Give yourself no more than 2 "cheat meals" per week, and save them for dinner. You give yourself something to look forward to throughout the day, and you'll feel less inclined to snack before bed. Remember, food should always be consumed in moderation. Grossly excessive cheat meals (1k+ calories) will result in fat storage and can even nullify an entire week of proper dieting.
For breakfast, keep it high-protein, low-carb. Your metabolism is most active in the morning, so exploit fat loss at this time of day with high protein, healthy fats and virtually no carbs. Meat, eggs, fish and nuts are ideal for this time of day, and you'll feel full until lunchtime. Skip the toast for some almonds instead.
Choose fats or carbs, but don't consume both in the same meal. The body's metabolic pathways struggle to efficiently process both carbohydrates and fats at the same time, which results in fat storage. Most desserts (including pies) fall into this category too.* If you plan to eat dessert, eat it in moderation, and follow the "2 cheat meals per week" rule.
Skip sugary alcoholic drinks, and avoid excessive drinking. This is one of the greatest Achilles' heel of a dieter. One night of drinking can wipe out an entire week of successful dieting. Pair alcohols with club soda, and consume plenty of water. Limit heavy drinking to 1 night per week, with no more than 1 drink other nights (if you must). Moderation is important here as well.
Eat the protein portion of your meal first, then the starches. This includes pairing a protein source with every snack/meal. For example, for a meal of chicken and rice, consume the chicken first, then consume the rice. This will slow the body's insulin response to the rice, i.e. limiting the amount of potential fat storage for the starch.
Sleep. Adequate sleep has been found to significantly improve the body's metabolic function.
Remain active. Don't let the holidays and cooler weather (for those in the Northern Hemisphere) be an excuse to stop your current exercise routine. If time becomes a limiting factor, shorten the amount of days you exercise, but increase the intensity of your exercise days.
Consume a ZMA prior to bedtime. Zinc magnesium aspartate has been found to reduce cortisol (i.e. byproduct of stress) in the body and improve immunity**, especially against upper respiratory viruses. ZMA also acts as a sleep aid to, ensuring a deeper, most restful sleep. Try it out here.
Enjoy the holidays. If you take these guidelines through the lens of moderation, you can enjoy the holiday season without the guilt or the belly.
*This includes buttery starches, such as mashed potatoes loaded in butter.
**A ZMA supplement contains about 30 mg of zinc. If you feel under the weather, consume up to 100 mg of zinc per day, through a zinc supplement. Zinc is very hard on the stomach, so consume it with food, ideally in the evening.
For questions on remaining fit through the holiday season, contact the author.