8 Top Tips To Enjoy The Holidays And Stay Fit For Christmas Without Undoing All Your Hard Work.
Staying healthy and fit for Christmas doesn't have to be as believable as Santa himself. Find out how to stay on track over the holiday season and not turn into a Human Mince Pie…
If you hadn’t realised already, Christmas is just around the corner. And the thought go trying to stay fit over the Christmas and New Year period might be a little bit of a mind f*ck! Well it doesn’t need to be. With just a few simple tips, staying fit for Christmas can be a reality…
Thinking about staying fit for Christmas, might have you in two minds. On the one hand you think “f*ck it” and are prepared for the complete blow out. On the other hand, you might be thinking about being so strict you skip dinner altogether and stick to your trusty Tupperware. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle.
Either way temptation is at every turn and that a calorie deficit could be the hardest thing to maintain. So that's why I've got 8 top tips for you to stay fit for Christmas. Follow these and take the worry out of the festive season. Trust me, they’ll stop you turning into a human mince pie and keep things on the rails over the next couple of weeks.
So let’s start unwrapping this early Christmas present…
Is Staying Fit for Christmas Even Possible?
They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. But that couldn't be further from the truth for a lot of people. And you could be one of them.
Because it can be an unsettling time for you. Especially if you’ve spent months working hard to get in shape. The mere thought of all that food and drink is enough to send you into a panic.
You can't help but feel your hard work could be undone in a matter of days. Essentially, you feel you're in danger of going back to square one.
So how do you you stop that from happening and stay fit for Christmas?
Can you really enjoy the holiday period without trashing your diet completely? Can you tuck into all that good food with everyone else and not be the loner in the corner reheating their chicken and rice and eating out of Tupperware?
The answer is YES.
What Type Of Person Are You?
Before we leap head first into this goldmine of tips, let’s talk about you.
Because, everyone is different. And everyone will approach the holiday season from a different point of view.
For example, some people will be super lean already. Maybe they’ve just finished their dieting phase and absolutely smashed 2018. Others may be a couple of weeks into making a huge lifestyle change.
So, you see those two people have very different mindsets when it comes to managing the potential indulgences of Christmas.
To me, there are three types of people in this scenario…
The 3 Types of "Fuck It"
Firstly you have the “fuck it” person. The f*ck it person could not give a shit about consuming a few extra calories on Christmas Day. They feel like they’ve earned this. And goddamn it, they’re going to enjoy it!
Next up you have the semi-fuck it person. The semi-fuck it wants to enjoy themselves, but would feel guilty about a complete blow out. So they’re approach is to “fuck it” but with control… Let’s call this the “controlled fuck it.”
Lastly, we have the “fuck no” people. These are the people to whom Christmas dinner means swapping chicken for turkey in their meal prep for the day. No indulgences. Nothing off track. It’s military precision or nothing.
So the question is, which one are you?
It’s fine to be either. But it’s important to know.
Because if you go down the “fuck no” route, but realistically have no chance of making it happen, you’ll be left in the… “oh fuck, what have I done?” group.
For the vast majority of you, complete restriction is just not going to work. Let’s face it, your willpower isn’t that strong. Plus, it’s not much fun, right?
To me, the restrictive option should be the reserve of those who are prepping for a competition or some sporting event. Nutrition probably needs to be well controlled. And so it makes sense to be careful and meticulous.
So with that said, these tips are directed at you if you’re planning a complete or controlled fuck it…
p.s I’m realising I’ve said fuck quite a lot already (sorry Mum…).
The basic strategy…
Whether you are planning for the complete or controlled fuck it, the approach is going to broadly be the same.
Part One is about the lead up… Getting the steps in place to ease the pressure on yourself, so you can enjoy the occasion.
Part Two is about the day itself and managing the carnage.
So to guide you through everything, I’ve split the strategy into Training and Nutrition.
And we’re going to kick things off with training…
Staying Fit for Christmas: Training
Getting your workouts in over Christmas is always tricky. Because most gyms will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day (except mine, which is open every day). More often than not, they'll run reduced hours on some of the surrounding days too. In addition to that, you might also be travelling to see friends and family. Basically, finding the time to hit the gym can be a struggle.
So how should you work around this?
Well, the first thing is, you don’t have to. That’s right, the most important thing to remember is a few days off is not going to make your muscles waste away.
You are not suddenly going to regress to the physique of a 15 year old girl because you didn’t smash out some deadlifts on Christmas Day.
In fact, an entire week of rest is never a bad thing.
Plus, your workouts aren’t going to be the primary way to prevent body fat from creeping up.
But if the mere thought of a week off training is bringing you out in cold sweats here's a few tips to alleviate the anxiety.
1. Plan a de-load week
Strength training can be taxing on the body. So planning a regular de-load week is actually a good thing. Ultimately, it will help keep minimise those niggles and pains that you might otherwise get. So as a minimum, de-loading every 12 weeks or so is a good practice to get into.
But in this scenario, we’re using it as a means to take the pressure off trying to stick to your routine religiously.
“And what does a deload week consist of?” I hear you cry…
Well, a typical deload week will mean following your existing training programme but reducing intensity (and volume if needed). So in these particular sessions, halve the weight you normally lift. This will mean the session will feel super easy but don't be tempted to push it.
Don’t get stuck in the “go hard or go home” mentality. Deploy some rational thinking.
Here's the benefits of deloading.
- Your muscles and joints will have a well-earned break from the intensity of strength-based training.
- It allows you to fully recover from the previous training phase.
- Importantly, it also offers you a mental break. Because training with high intensity can be mentally draining. So taking this more relaxed approach to training recharges the mental batteries. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll walk into the gym a week later ready to break down walls as your newly re-energised motivation is through the roof.
How to apply a deload over the Christmas period.
If you want to plan deload week as part of your plan to stay fit for Christmas here's what you need to do.
Simply modify your programme to work around gym opening hours and your schedule. Fit it in when you can. And don’t forget, a rest isn’t a bad thing either.
2. Adjust your training split
Another simple strategy is to modify your training split. If you typically train 4, 5, or 6 times per week then scale back your workouts to work around your schedule.
For example, if you can only get to the gym 3 times in the week, go for a push, pull, legs training split or 3 total body workouts. You'll still keep things ticking over. And you’ll be making a little extra room for those big dinners on the horizon.
If you’re not choosing to deload at the same time as adjusting your split, just make sure you choose exercises giving you the most bang for your buck.
Here’s a sample push, pull, legs routine that would be a perfect Christmas adjustment for your training:
Cable Chest Fly
Overhead Military Press
Close Grip Bench Press
This routine hits the chest, shoulders and triceps and will be a challenging workout. In fact, I'd say it's a good workout any time of year not just if you're trying to stay fit for Christmas.
Deadlifts or Rack Pulls
Seated Machine Row
T Bar Row
Rear Delt Fly
DB Preacher Curls
On day two you’re mainly looking to work the back from a variety of angles. And after that you're finishing off with a good ol' fashioned gun show. Because everyone loves those vanity exercises, right? And hey, it’s Christmas!
Seated Leg Curls
So I’m going to assume that you already have a dedicated leg day in your training split. And there’s really no need to change this around. So simply stick to your leg day routine as normal.
And that’s it. Stick to this routine and you’ll alleviate those anxieties while still keep your training intensity high.
3. Extra Cardio
Now we come on to the dreaded C word. No not ‘See You Next Tuesday’. I mean CARDIO!
Cardio can be used as a tool in the lead up to Christmas as a means to burn a few extra calories. And it can also be used as a substitute for your regular routine if making it to the gym is not an option.
Maybe the call to be with family and friends outweighs the call of the gym? Or maybe you’re slightly under the thumb and have been forced to take that rest week you didn’t want.
Whether you can’t get to the gym at all, or you just want to increase your calorie burn temporarily, cardio is a good option.
First off I'll say that I'm not a lover of cardio. But I do realise that it has its place. And it does have some positives if you're trying to stay fit for Christmas.
So here’s what I did…
To get over my ingrained dislike for cardio I invested in a cheap exercise bike for the home. Now, most of the time it sits in my dining room gathering dust. In fact, right now it’s making for a good coat and hat rack. But it really comes in handy at this time of year.
So if you have the budget, do the same, and it will definitely come in handy.
Because you can throw in a few sessions of cardio in the run up to those big Christmas Day and Boxing Day dinners.
And take advantage of opportunities over the next week to throw in a little cardio at the end of your workouts. Ok. It won’t be much. But it all adds up and it all helps.
After all, it’s all about building up a bit of a buffer so the indulgences don’t have a massive effect.
This is damage limitation.
Cardio on the day…
For the extreme sadists out there, you might want to add some cardio in on Christmas Day itself.
Again, a few extra calories burned on the day can help you create a little extra room to enjoy the day that bit more.
Personally, I would do the cardio first thing in the morning.
Not because fasted cardio is better than fed cardio. Because both are the same in terms of fat loss. But it’s more the psychological aspect. Getting it done first thing in the morning, means you're more likely to actually do it. Because let's face it, who's going to jump on an exercise bike after Christmas dinner? That's just taking being fit for Christmas one step too far!
4. Go for a walk
So I realise that everyone hasn’t got the luxury (if you can call it that) of exercise equipment at home.
And if that's the case you can still burn some valuable calories by other means.
For example, in the run up to Christmas make a conscious effort to increase your step count. A few thousand extra steps can make all the difference to your progress. And if you push a bit harder now, you won’t feel as guilty when you’re tucking into your turkey come the 25th.
And step count can be a useful tool on the day itself.
You can take a walk in the morning or maybe with the family after that big dinner. That is if they’re not all drunk and snoring on the sofa (definitely not referencing my Dad there).
And although it might not sound like much, it certainly helps. Because a 30 minute brisk walk will burn up to 220 calories for the average man and around 160 calories for a woman. So, do that on Christmas Day and you'll certainly make another dent in those extra calories.
So there you have it. 4 ways to modify your training and stay fit for Christmas. Now we move on to nutrition.
Staying Fit for Christmas: Nutrition
So you’ve got your revised training plan in place for the next week or so. And now you need to support that with managing those calories.
Most people drastically underestimate the amount of calories they eat on Christmas Day.
Have a guess at what the average is.
3,000?, 4,000? 5,000?
In fact the real number is closer to 6,000. And that's just the average. So there's quite a lot of people eating way more than that.
In the face of those stats it might seem impossible to stay fit for Christmas!
So how do you stop these two days becoming a complete blow out? And how do you reign in the temptations of turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, Christmas pudding, wine, beer, and nuts?
Here's 4 strategies that you can use to manage the tsunami of food heading your way. Staying fit for Christmas is about to get a little bit easier.
1. Plan Your Week
This is a big one… Planning for Christmas is a lot like planning to eat out at a fancy restaurant. There’s a lot you can do in the run up so you don’t feel huge amounts of guilt AND you get to enjoy yourself.
Essentially, you’re trying to create a calorie buffer for the big day. You want to save up a bunch of calories, so the 6,000 calorie feast doesn’t send you into despair the next day.
And you can do that by cutting calories in the days prior to Christmas Day.
Save yourself 100-300 calories more per day for the next week and you could have up to 2,100 calories extra to add to Christmas Day. Gotta be worth considering right?
2. Plan The Day
Ok. So we know Christmas Dinner is going to be a calorific feast. And let’s not even pretend you’re going to track it. That would just be crazy!
But you can still think about what happens for the rest of the day.
For example, you can skip breakfast completely. Or at least have a light breakfast. Because this is going to save you a bunch of calories. Again, giving you more to play with come the main event.
If you do opt for breakfast, go for something high in protein as it’ll make you feel full for longer. And that helps you avoid the snacks and temptation later in the day.
For example, a great option would be some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Often a common breakfast on Christmas Day and that won't get the day off to a boring start.
But let’s assume you skip breakfast, which is normally 400 calories. Add that to the 2,100 you saved in the lead up and you’re already adding 2,500 guilt free calories to that big meal…
3. Make Smart Alcohol Choices
Most people like a few drinks on Christmas Day. And so there's not too much point in giving you a lot of advice here. But I would say that pacing yourself and opting for lower calorie options is a good move if you care enough.
Low calorie beers, gin and slimline tonic are all good choices. In fact, most spirits typically have less calories than ciders and beers. Avoid the high sugar mixers like cola and lemonade. Do that and you should find you’ll get plenty drunk enough without piling on the calories.
4. Don't treat Christmas Dinner like a competition
Christmas Dinner is the king of all dinners. And it's certainly my favourite meal of the year. In my family it was always a bit of a competition between my older brother to see who could eat the most. And as you can imagine, this led to plates piled high with several repeat visits.
So if that's the modus operandi in your household then make sure this year you leave yourself out of the competition. Because you can still enjoy all the trimmings of Christmas dinner without feeling like a stuffed pig by the end.
Essentially, have what you want, enjoy the taste of Christmas, but exercise a degree of portion control.
Here's a couple of tips for controlling your urges and keeping those fit for Christmas goals on track:
- Drink 500ml - 1000ml of water before the main meal. This has been shown to reduce your food consumption at meal times.
- Eat the least calorie dense things first. Start with your veggies and work your way up to the calorific stuff. Because you'll fill up before you reach the stuff that's going to do the damage.
- Put your utensils down and sip water between bites. Take the time to enjoy your food and the conversations with the family.
- Opt for a smaller plate. Psychologically you can satisfy your desire to have a plate piled high with food, whilst still controlling the amount of food
So that's your 8 Top Tips to stay fit for Christmas. But before you go, I've got one more tip for you...
Staying Fit for Christmas: Don't Have a Strategy At All!
One bad meal isn't going to ruin your physique. And you shouldn't have to feel guilty about enjoying yourself. You've worked hard for the last 12 months of the year and there have no doubt been a lot of sacrifices along the way. Whether that's your diet or nights out with friends. You've earned it!
So if anxiety over eating too much on a couple of days of the year doesn’t bother you, then go and enjoy yourself. You’ll be back on your nutrition plan soon enough and any excess weight you put on will no doubt melt away.
So just relax and enjoy yourself.
Alternatively, if all of that isn’t enough, then leave all of your Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. You’ll burn 6,000 calories rushing around the shops like a headless turkey!
Staying Fit For Christmas: Guiding You Through the Minefield
Whether you're trying to stay fit for Christmas, a summer holiday, a wedding, weekend away, or a night out on the town, managing your nutrition and training can feel complicated and daunting.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve created 3 simple guides to show you how to;
>> calculate how many calories you should be eating to achieve your goal.
>> combat cravings and keep temptation at bay.
>> create the ultimate training programme if you’re a complete beginner.
To grab your free copies of the guides, simply go here…
For now, I’ll just wish you a Merry Christmas. And I’ll see you back in the Iron Paradise real soon!