Christmas and New Year can be the most magical time of the year. Our minds are filled with thoughts of holiday treats, such as cookies, cakes, turkey, trimmings, pumpkins, and pecan pies.
Although it may seem like a perfect time to relax, athletes continue to prepare for competitions and trials. There will surely be a variance in activity level and caloric expenditure. It is necessary to adapt and make small changes to enjoy the holidays while remaining accountable to your training goals.
We've listed some weight management strategies to help athletes keep their ideal weight and body composition during the holiday season.
1. Make A Plan
Plan your training schedule for the week before and after New Year, just like any other week, to ensure that you are aware of your commitments. Stick to your plan! That way, you won't feel like you are compromising your health and training during the holiday break.
You can also use your training plan for nutrition. When your body needs to recharge its energy reserves, you can use your post-workout meals to indulge in holiday treats. But don't overindulge in chocolates! You must treat New Year like a regular rest day. Also, make sure to give your body the nutrients needed to help you get back on track for your workouts.
2. Keep Nutritious Meals
As you know, proper nutrition is essential for athletes to achieve peak performance. A balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fats provides you with the fuel needed to train and recover. It also helps you keep healthy body weight and body composition, which can further improve your performance.
You should not "save" yourself for big occasions by skipping other meals or snacks. This could impact your energy availability, recovery, and training. Keep balanced, healthy meals that include lots of color from vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, milk, healthy fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.
3. Practice Mindful Eating and Eat in Moderation
Everybody deserves holiday treats, but it's important to be mindful of what you eat. Remember that portion size is important. Focus on quality, not quantity. While munching on a few of your favorite treats won’t certainly undo all of your hard work, try to keep eating healthy and balanced meals as much as possible.
Research also shows that mindful eating can help athletes and performers to improve their performance. It also helps them overcome unique eating issues and body image.
4. Maintain Caloric Balance
Shy away from consuming too many sports nutrition energy bars, gels, and drinks, even if you're still doing strength training. They are designed for endurance. Instead, choose clean, earthy alternatives like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which are less calorie-dense.
Consuming dense carbs, more than 10 g carbohydrate/kg BW/day, does not help with glycogen restoration. This amount is only needed if your deficits are large or you need to load for a competition or exhaustive physical activity, which is not the case when on a holiday break.
Therefore, it’s best to replace them with low-calorie bread like whole-grain English muffins, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice.
5. Stay Active
If your team has taken time off for the holidays and your training schedule is less structured, why not stay active with your family or friends? Christmas and New Year are great seasons for winter walks. Get your loved ones together to enjoy quality time with nature.
Also, you can continue working on your conditioning or recovery with handy tools like vibration products, massage guns, and compression boots. Protec Recovery got you covered!
Heat can cause dehydration. We know that even just 2% of dehydration can have a serious impact on your performance, attention, memory, and more. The easiest way to monitor your hydration levels is to look at the color of your urine. The darker your urine is, the more you are dehydrated.
We know it's difficult to drink just plain water, especially during festive seasons when everyone is being handed wines, beers, or sodas. No problem! Drinking soda water or flavored tea bags can encourage you to drink more water. Freshly squeezed lime, lemon, and mint can also be a great way to get your water up.
Remember, even small changes in diet or other considerations can make a big difference this holiday season.
7. Limit Alcohol Intake
Research has shown that alcohol consumption can make you feel hungry. It's best to limit your intake during holidays with loved ones and friends. Dry white wine, light beer, and straight liquors like tequilas, gin, and rum are the best options for low-calorie alcoholic drinks.
If you really can't say no right away, stretch the liquor out a bit and make it more drinkable by adding a calorie-free mixer like soda water, lime juice, or ice.
You should keep a food diary and an exercise log. For many, it is also a good idea to keep an emotional journal. Not only will you be accountable for what you eat, but you'll also notice hidden calories and fat grams. You can easily track calories burned and calories consumed by journaling your food and activities. This helps to curb overindulgence.
9. Keep A Healthy Immune System
Heading for many holiday parties? Don’t forget to squeeze in some easy training. Re-energize your immune system right away after exercising with healthy foods and drinks. Take naps in between parties and get a good sleep after.
Drip up on hot tea, red wine, and mulled apple cider. These are great options to help boost your immune system. Do not waste your time with nutrient-poor calories. Instead, grab the whole grain crackers, hummus dip, and veggie tray.
Don’t forget about healthy proteins! Time for cheese, shrimp, or lean ham! Leave the chips and Buffalo wings for others.
Athletes can easily get distracted by the season's temptations. This is even more common because of the discipline required for the rest of each year. This mindset can make it hard to plan for the next season and maintain a healthy weight. Be realistic. Enjoy the traditions and embrace the culture. But, keep your goals in mind. These holiday nutrition tips will help you manage your weight during and even after the season.