The holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes all sorts of parties, indulgent dinners, and sweet treats.
And, with every annual holiday season comes the inevitable weight gain brought on by a combination of increased calorie intake and decreased physical activity.
If you have a tendency to eat too much and gain weight during the holidays, here are 7 tips to help you keep your diet and training on point so that you can start the new year leaner than ever!
Eat Your Protein!
No matter what your goal is -- muscle building, fat loss, maintenance, body recomposition -- consuming enough protein each day is essential.
For starters, protein supplies the body with the essential amino acids it needs to repair and build muscle tissue.
But, that only begins to scratch the surface of the power of protein.
Protein also helps support neurotransmitter synthesis, hormone production, tissue & organ repair, hair, skin, & nail growth, and immune function.
Protein even helps you to stay leaner (especially during the holidays).
Protein is incredibly filling. In fact, protein is the most satiating macronutrient, even more filling than carbohydrates or fats.
This is one of the reasons why high-protein diets are recommended when cutting. Since eating protein helps you feel fuller for longer, you are less likely to snack and/or overeat at mealtime.
Moreover, protein increases levels of the satiety hormones, including leptin, GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin, while also reducing your levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.[1,2,3,4]
Holiday meals are notoriously high in carbohydrates, fat, and calories while being fairly low in protein (save for the giant turkey or ham, you may or may not eat).
By replacing some of the carbohydrates and fat you eat during the holidays with protein, you're helping keep your hunger levels in check while also supporting muscle recovery and growth!
Eating a higher protein diet may also help you to burn more calories during the day as well. This is due to the fact that protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fats. What this means is that the body expends more energy digesting and absorbing protein than it does fats or carbs.
So, not only does protein help fill you up more than carb or fats, it also increases how many calories you’re burning throughout the day!
If you’re heading to a holiday get-together, it’s a good idea to have a protein pre-load. This way you’re guaranteed to have some protein in your system, regardless if the party has protein offerings or not.
Protein shakes are an incredibly efficient way to help you hit your protein intake needs for the day while also leaving you with plenty of calories to enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats. They’re high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fats.
Simply mix up a scoop, drink it, and go enjoy yourself at the party knowing that your protein needs are satisfied.
Beyond protein, there are several other tips and tricks you can use to ensure that you still enjoy the holidays while staying on point with your nutrition and physique goals.
The holidays are a time when many individuals completely go off the rails with their diet and exercise program. They eat everything in sight and stop training completely, and yet they wonder why they gain weight?
Yes, the holidays are a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy time with friends, families, and loved ones.
But, that doesn’t mean you need to abandon the healthy habits you’ve been fostering the previous 11 months.
Maintaining your training program during the holidays can help put those extra calories you’re eating to good use to help build muscle or reduce the amount of weight that you may possibly gain.
Focus on Fruits & Veggies
Eating more fruits and veggies can help keep you feeling fuller on the holiday party circuit. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
On a gram per gram basis, fruits and veggies are more filling (and contain less calories) than cookies, crackers, and whatever other sorts of packaged goodies you’ll find on the potluck table.
If you’re looking to further augment your intake of fruits and veggies, you can also take a scoop of Day2Day during the day.
Focus on Socializing, Not Food
When you go to a party, don’t hover by the food table. This will inevitably lead you to mindlessly munching on food as you chat with others.
Instead, make yourself a reasonable plate, but then go and mingle. The focus of holiday parties is to spend time and share laughs with loved ones, not see how many trips to the buffet table you can make.
Be OK Saying “NO”
Many times we feel pressured to eat beyond our limits simply because we’re trying to be nice.
Understand that it is ok to say “no” (politely) if you’re feeling pressured to eat more than you would like. If you don’t feel comfortable saying “no”, you can always ask for a serving to go and eat it later, or drop it off to a neighbor.
Staying sufficiently hydrated can help prevent overeating because many individuals often mistake hunger for thirst.
To ensure that you’re consuming enough fluids throughout the day, it helps to have a glass of water before each meal.
If you’re not a fan of plain water or are looking for some ways to infuse some flavor into your beverage, you can try adding in some fruit slices (cucumber, lemon, strawberry, etc.) or mixing up a scoop of Electrolyte or EAA Max and sipping on it throughout the day.
Enjoy in Moderation
At the end of the day, it’s the holidays. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself.
If you want some cake or pie, then enjoy it without remorse or regret. The key is to be mindful of how much you’re eating.
You can certainly have some pie, fudge or cookies and not turn into Jabba the Hutt. It’s all about moderation.
One meal (or snack) is not going to undo all of your hard work throughout the year. However, a two week bender where you gorge at every meal will.
As such, exercise some moderation and restraint when you’re enjoying the holiday cheer.
You don’t need to be a monk with your diet, but you don’t need to be a glutton either.
- David S Weigle, Patricia A Breen, Colleen C Matthys, Holly S Callahan, Kaatje E Meeuws, Verna R Burden, Jonathan Q Purnell, A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 82, Issue 1, July 2005, Pages 41–48, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.1.41
- Lejeune MP, Westerterp KR, Adam TC, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jan;83(1):89-94. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.1.89. PMID: 16400055.
- Hannon-Engel S. Regulating satiety in bulimia nervosa: the role of cholecystokinin. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2012 Jan;48(1):34-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2011.00304.x. Epub 2011 Apr 13. PMID: 22188045; PMCID: PMC4625980.
- Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):211-20. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/83.2.211. PMID: 16469977.