The silly season is well and truly upon us! Not only are you likely to have a full social calendar between now and the end of the year, but also potentially end of year reporting, looming deadlines, the pressure to plan for 2020, get your summer bod and more. For many of us the festive season brings holidays, celebrations, spending time with good company whilst enjoying great food and drinks. It can also mean time away from home or your usual routine and be mentally tough; a period of heightened stress and anxiety for many.
Despite the festivities at this time of year and whether you are travelling away or staying put, there is no need to let you health and fitness progress, routine and goals completely slide. Yep, I’m saying that you can basically still have your cake and eat it to, without throwing all your healthy habits out the door… after all, habits don’t take holidays.
So, here are my top tips for surviving the silly season with your goals in check:
You may find that your training naturally tones down over this period, be it due to less time available, hangovers, travel etc. Don’t let this be a source of stress for you. If your training normally involves heavy lifting or high impact activities periods of rest help to provide a chance for your joints to recover. Periods of lower intensity exercise or reduced training load assists in rebalancing hormones allows adequate time for muscles to repair and further aids in recovery.
Our body has adaptive mechanisms that respond to the ways in which we train. If you undertake regular exercise for periods of time your body adapts to the forms of training, the energy systems targeted and you may notice a plateau in your strength, fitness, and weight loss or performance goals. This is also the case when overtraining. Taking a period to ‘tone down’ your training allows your bodies adaptive mechanisms to reset; ridding the body of fatigue and recovering fully. Research has shown that periods of de-loading followed by a return to training results in increased weight loss and supports strength and fitness gains. And the good news? Muscle memory is a thing! Whilst you may feel you lose muscle tone or mass during periods of decreased training, rest assured that when you commence your normal training routine again muscle memory will assist in restoring your gains, as opposed to starting from scratch. You shouldn’t be too worried about losing significant fitness if you break you’re your regular cardio training routine is between one to two weeks. From about 14 days is when you will start to see your cardiovascular fitness declining. Generally, you lose your fitness more quickly than you lose your strength gains. Over this time you will lose some conditioning in your muscles and aerobic system but your pre-inactivity fitness will return quickly.
In saying that, the ‘sit back & do nothing’ approach isn’t the way to go during the holiday season and times of decreased activity. Always try to incorporate some form of movement or daily activity. If you are a normally a gym goer and can be found in the weights room it’s not hard to find ten minutes to fit in some bodyweight exercises. Those little movement sessions will make a huge difference to both your mental state and aesthetic or performance goals. HIIT and Tabata style training can help you burn more calories in a shorter period, while also providing an EPOC effect to continue expending energy even after the workout is over.
Food is Fuel
It can be easy to overindulge at this time of the year. When loading your plate upon take a moment and try to look at your food as the fuel that it is – protein, fats and carbs & have a balanced selection of each macronutrient on your plate (plus plenty of colour for those much-needed micronutrients).
Generally speaking, if your training load has decreased your overall calorie intake should also – easier said than done. Reducing your carbohydrates and being mindful of your overall calorie intake are effective ways to maintain your body composition. Incorporate fats and protein into every meal. The combination of these two macronutrients will leave you feeling satiated after eating and will more stable blood sugar levels that will help keep cravings and moodiness at bay. Eating adequate fat and protein while reducing carbs during your periods of lower activity can lead to happy hormones, fat loss and maintained body composition, and improved metabolism and energy levels in the long run.
Travelling can mean a lot of time sitting around – be it at airports, on the road or sitting around socialising, yet it also means that there are new places and fresh scenery to explore. Being summer in the southern hemisphere get up early and get outdoors to go for a walk or run and explore the area (and beat the midday heat), or head to the local beach for a surf, SUP or the swimming pool – exercise doesn’t always need to be structured. Organising to catch up with family or friends in the form of exercise serves two purposes – movement and connection.
Where possible book or request self-contained accommodation when travelling. This ensures you have all the facilities you need to cook your own healthy(er) dinners and keep it simple with your regular breakfasts or lunch. It can also save you $ on eating out which is a bonus.
Pack Your Essentials
If travelling with friends take it in turns to cook and always take your pantry staples with you be it oats, protein powder, vitamins, chia seeds or snack bars. If you’re road-tripping and the accommodation doesn’t have one I’d even suggest taking your nutribullet or blender so you can incorporate a daily smoothie – one guaranteed way of getting a daily dose of goodness. Go shopping when you arrive and keep it minimal but healthy: basic salad stuff, some lean meat for a good source of protein, grains and dairy.
Get Your Buddies Involved & Get it Over with Early
Chances are you’ll be spending lots of time with loved ones over the silly season so you don’t have to go it alone. Get your buddies involved and before hitting the beers each day hit the beach for a surf or splash of HIIT, take to the pavement for a run or hit the trails for a hike or morning mountain bike ride. You can maintain a base level of strength AND fitness by incorporating just 15 minutes of HIIT every other day.
What about alcohol? Limit it where and if possible (yes, I get that it can be hard at this time of year), so you don’t need to give it up completely. Avoid pre-mixed drinks completely, instead opt for white spirits mixed with soda water or diet mixers and mid-strength or lite beer are better for your waistline than full strength. They contain less alcohol, therefore have a reduced amount of calories compared to the full strength varieties.
To help metabolize any alcohol consumed, kick-start the next day with a short HIIT session. It may be the last thing you feel like doing but one of the best things you could do to eliminate the toxins – alcohol is metabolised first. If you choose to drink you need to be mindful of the number and type of calories you are consuming throughout the day. You still need to eat, so be aware that alcohol is dense in calories (7calories/g) compared to protein and carbs (4calories/g). Try to make sure your alcohol consumption doesn’t contribute to a large portion of your daily energy intake!
Also, be sure to:
- Drink plenty of water
- Prioritise sleep – both quality and quantity
- Don’t forget to pack your exercise gear!
Don’t let all your hard work fall away during the festive season. Life is about finding a balance for long-term sustainable health, so everything in moderation. Apply the above tips and I’ve no doubt your health and fitness will survive the silly season!
Brooke Turner (@balancefitnessandnutrition) is a nutritionist, exercise scientist, personal trainer, writer, presenter and mother of two with over ten years’ experience in the health and fitness industry. Brooke is the founder of Balance Fitness and Nutrition and creator of her online and face to face six-week STRIVE program – the complete LIFESTYLE guide and Happy, Healthy Pregnancy eGuides. She believes in striving for a balanced approach to health and fitness and aims to inspire and empower others to see that healthy active living need not be a hindrance but a habit. Visit her website or her Facebook for further info.