With Christmas right around the corner, many of us are worried that the holiday season will ruin the momentum we’ve build up with our training and nutrition, and with our efforts to develop a lean muscular physique. In fact, there are now several articles online that have given an actual name to this phenomenon: holiday weight gain.

Of course, holiday weight gain is a natural occurrence since during the Christmas holidays when the whole family gets together to catch up, there’s always a lot of food involved. In fact, often that food is highly-palatable calorie-dense junk food accompanied by soft drinks and/or alcohol.

Obviously, this environment isn’t very conducive to your goals of developing a leaner physique, so you need to take some measures to make sure that your diet is under control while STILL being able to catch up with loved ones and enjoy the holidays.

Employ some basic nutritional guidelines

What you need to do in periods when you’re away from home and your schedule and habits are all messed up is to rely on some basic nutritional habits that will enable you to stay in control of your diet while still being able to enjoy the holidays.

Tip #1: Eat slowly and mindfully

arnold eating slowly and mindfully

The last thing you want to do when you arrive at the Christmas party is to sit down at the table and start chugging away at all the food you can eat in a 5-minute window.

It actually takes your body 15-20 minutes to realize that you’re full…

You have 2 main hormones that regulate hunger and satiety. Ghrelin is your hunger hormone and it signals your brain that you are hungry and need to seek out food. On the other hand, leptin is your satiety hormone and it signals your brain that you are full and satiated.

The problem: it takes around 20 minutes for ghrelin levels to drop off and for leptin levels to go up, so if you keep eating as fast as you can before your hormones have had the time to do their job, you’ll likely overeat before you start actually feeling full.

That’s why what you want to do is take around 20-25 minutes to finish each meal. That way your hormones can do their job properly and you can stop eating when you’re actually full – not overfed.

Tip #2: Eat until you’re 80% full

In order to lose fat and develop a leaner physique you need to be eating less calories than you’re burning on average.

The problem with doing that during the holidays is that you’re often away from home, usually visiting at a friend’s or faimily member’s place, and you simply can’t count the calories that are in the meal you’re about to eat.

Luckily, if you follow tip #1 and you actually eat slowly and mindfully, your hormones will have enough time to do their job properly. From there, all you want to do is stop eating before you’re completely full (i.e. when you’re feeling about 80% full), and chances are you’ll be eating at a caloric deficit.

Tip #3: Prioritize protein and colorful veggies

protein and vegetables

Maintaining a sufficient protein intake will ensure that you maintain a favorable body composition (i.e. less body fat and more lean muscle mass).

In general, as someone who is training regularly you need to be consuming around 0.9 g of protein per pound of body weight a day (i.e. 2 g per kg a day). Of course, since you’re at your grandma’s place, you can’t really be super accurate with those values.

That’s why you might just be better off with sticking to Precision Nutrition’s hand-sized portion guidelines, and have 2 palm-sized portions of a protein-rich food with each meal (e.g. 2 chicken breasts, each with the size of your palm, for lunch as your protein source). That way you’ll ensure that you’re maintaining that all-important protein intake high.

Protein is also the most satiating macronutrient AND it has the highest TEF (thermic effect of food) so it’ll keep you full longer and it will take more energy (i.e. calories) to metabolize – all good things if you’re in a fat loss phase.

Another thing you want to do is prioritize nutrient-dense veggies which are low in calories per gram (e.g. broccoli, green leafy vegetables, other colorful veggies). The reason why you want to do that is to make sure that you’re consuming a sufficient amount of micronutrients. Another good reason to follow this tip is because you have another satiety hormone which is released when you’re stomach stretches (i.e. when more food enters it). So you’ll feel fuller YET since colorful veggies are so low in calories per gram, you won’t be consuming all that many calories. Double win.

Tip #4: Keep it easy with the drinks

Going overboard with the drinks can sometimes be a problem during holiday get-togethers.

The reason this might be an issue when it comes to your fat loss efforts is because alcohol still contains calories – even though they’re technically “empty calories” (i.e. they don’t contain micro- or macronutrients).

1 g of alcohol contains 7 kcals – more than a gram of protein or carbs. That’s why you don’t want to go overboard with the booze – you’d have to burn those calories if you are to stay in a caloric deficit – and doing that with a hangover just isn’t going to happen, trust me.

Tip #5: Stay active

mitko kazakov bicep curl

Being away from home with your schedule and habits all messed up, it’s very easy to skip workouts and fall off the training bandwagon.

That’s why you need to take proactive steps to ensure that you’ll stay active during the holidays. If you have access to a gym, then by all means go. But even if you don’t, there are good alternatives.

Home workouts are still better than being a lazy ass, and if you have dumbbells or resistance bands at home, you’ll be able to do some pretty quality training sessions. Even if you have zero equipment though, some push-ups and Bulgarian split squats would still do you better than being a lazy ass.

Tip #6: Host the party or bring the food

As I said earlier, since most of us are usually out of town during the holidays, it can be really hard to track what gets into our stomachs.

If you can host the party though, then usually you’re in charge of the food as well! And even if you’re not the host, you might still be able to negotiate to bring the food yourself. That way you’ll be able to ensure that there’s lots of protein and colorful veggies in the meals.

Bonus tip #7: Focus on connecting with people

The whole idea of the Christmas holidays is to (re)connect with family and friends. You’re not there for the food so focus on people. Whenever you get that urge to reach for the cookies, just remind yourself of this and engage someone in conversation. Again, that’s the whole point of the holidays anyway.

In conclusion…

ripped santa

It can be tough to maintain a lean muscular physique when you’re out of town during the holidays but if you follow these simple tips I’m confident that you’ll be in a good spot to crush it both during the holidays AND in the upcoming year.

– Mitko Kazakov

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *