28 November 2021
Guest post by Max Roger
You want your training and performance in the New Year to be as good as possible. This means that if you pile on the fat over the holidays that you’ll be trying to lose it come January. To lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit (where you take in less calories through eating and drinking than you burn). In a calorie deficit your performance suffers as your body doesn’t have enough fuel to sufficiently support the performance that you want.
So how can you avoid this? Plan ahead. It starts now: throughout December get ahead of this. You want to have fun during the holidays, but you need to keep your bigger goals in mind – and so you don’t want to pile on the pounds as your performance (and physique) will suffer as a result.
The problem is that the holidays means 2 things:
1. More sitting around as you relax, spending time with family and friends.
2. More food and alcohol (it goes hand in hand with being with family and friends).
In more detail:
1. It’s not that spending time with your family is the problem – it’s that this invariably means that you are less active than usual. If you’re less active (less general activity, walking to the coffee machine or up flights of stairs in your office building, etc.) then you’re burning less calories every day. That’s part of the equation of what leads to gaining fat.
2. Increasing your food and alcohol intake increases your total calorific intake (the other part of the equation for gaining fat). Here’s a simple breakdown of the calories that the basic food groups contain: 1g of protein = 4calories (cals)
1g of carbohydrate = 4cals
1g of fat = 9cals
Alcohol = 7cals (plus the ‘carrier’ it’s in – ie. beer or wine has additional calories).
Not only this, but alcohol negatively affects the quality of your sleep, which in turn negatively affects your hormone balance: you’ll end up with less testosterone, and more cortisol. This means that you’ll feel more stressed, store more fat, and make poorer nutritional decisions the next day as a result, starting a negative snowball effect.
“If the food that you’re looking at doesn’t get you really wanting to eat it, then don’t”
This information is here to help you to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Think of this when you’re mindlessly snacking – do you really need that 5th cookie (as well as those 2 mince pies earlier)?
It can help you make better decisions. For example, if there’s a homemade dip on offer, do you have to use breadsticks or chips to dip into it, which have 4cals per gram? Probably not – you could use some carrot/celery sticks. The dip is the main event anyway.
Overall, take this mindset into your nutritional choices over the holidays, with a clear focus on the bigger picture of keeping yourself in great shape so that you can hit the ground running (pun intended) in January, rather than trying to simply get back to where you were: if the food that you’re looking at doesn’t excite you and get you really wanting to eat it, then don’t. It’s the mindless, mediocre food that is just wasted calories and will take your calorie intake up way past where it normally is.