25 Tips to Survive the Holidays and Not Gain Weight
With the holiday season right around the corner we look forward to a number of constants – quality time with friends, family, and loved ones; decorated homes and cities; holiday cheer; and ample amounts of delicious comfort food. For many people this Holiday season also includes some not-so-nice byproducts – decreased activity levels, increased food consumption, and unwanted fat gain.
At Tiger Fitness we know “It’s Not a Game!” when it comes to healthy eating and building lean, strong, and muscular physiques, regardless of the time of year. While I encourage everyone to rest, relax, and enjoy themselves during this time of year, this isn’t an excuse to eat like crap and replace those dumbbell curls with 12oz beer can curls.
While a few cheat meals or even cheat days during this season won’t send you back to square one, even the most diehard enthusiasts living the fitness lifestyle find this time of year particularly challenging. The tips below will help you to indulge sensibly this holiday season without completely derailing the progress and momentum you’ve worked so hard for this year.
25 Tips to Survive the Holidays
Tip #1 – Perform Fasted Cardiovascular Exercise
Wait 8 to 12 hours after a meal and perform low or moderate intensity cardiovascular activity for 30-90 minutes. Fasted cardio prioritizes stored fat for fuel over carbohydrates and lean mass.
Many find it easiest to perform fasted cardio immediately upon waking and before breakfast. Popular activities include incline or flat walking, cycling, swimming, or using the elliptical machine.
Tip #2 – Use Fat Burner, Thermogenic, or Hunger Suppressant
Products like MTS Drop Factor, are a cost-effective way to burn extra calories, eliminate fat, and suppress your hunger. Common thermogenic ingredients include caffeine, coleus forskohlii, and yohimbine HCL.
While these supplements won’t replace eating in a caloric deficit and exercise, they can provide the extra push you need to put turn away those second helpings and drop those last few pounds of stubborn fat
Tip #3 – Round Out Your Diet with a Quality Multivitamin
It’s unrealistic to assume 100% adherence to our diet and target macronutrient goals during the Holiday season. A high quality multivitamin is a convenient and cost-effective way to cover any nutritional deficiencies arising from eating outside of your usual diet.
MTS Nutrition Machine Greens & Multi is an all-in-one greens powder, multivitamin, and probiotic blend with no artificial colors or sweeteners. It contains the Green Balance™ Alkalizing Blend, Super Fruit Blend™, ProDura Blend™ bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarius, Machine-Strong Organ Blend, and PREMIUM Multi-Vitamin Blend.
Tip #4 – Intense Depletion Session Before Big Meals
Perform a high intensity or extended-duration moderate intensity workout to deplete your glycogen stores and improve your insulin sensitivity prior to a high-calorie meal. Improved insulin sensitivity will minimize the body’s likelihood of storing these excess calories as fat and will encourage the shuttling of calories and nutrients to glycogen stores and the synthesis of new muscle tissue.
Depletion sessions typically involve one of more of the following: extended overall workout duration, shortened rest periods, increased volume, and/or increased workout density (the amount of volume performed in a fixed time period).
Tip #5 – Bodyweight Exercises During TV Commercials
Burn extra calories during back-to-back football games or television show marathons by performing bodyweight exercises during the commercials. Sneaking in compound bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, burpees, push-ups, crunches, and/or planks during these 1-3 minute time periods can burn hundreds of extra calories without impacting recovery from your regular workout.
Tip #6 – Burn Fat with Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is great way help normalize the hunger hormone ghrelin and minimize your likelihood of overeating. Pairing a 16 to 20 hour fast with a 4 to 8 hour eating window allows you to increase your meal size without having to increase your caloric intake.
If you’re eating at a significant caloric deficit this provides a huge psychological boost and increases the feeling of fullness after meals.
Tip #7 – Use a Nutrient Partitioner
Use a nutrient partitioner or glucose disposal agent (GDA) on days when you anticipate eating high-carbohydrate and/or high-calorie meals. Products like AI Sports Nutrition Glycobol, AST R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), and SAN NA-R-ALA use Sodium R-Lipoate (a.k.a. Na-R-Alpha Lipoic Acid).
Na-R-ALA is a potent anti-oxidant naturally produced in the body that has been clinically shown to increase cellular uptake of glucose in to cell membranes. This means those excess carbohydrates and calories will be stored as muscle glycogen rather than fat.
Tip #8 – Skip the Whipped Topping
You can still enjoy that piece of pie but save yourself 50 to 100 calories by abstaining from the whipped topping. Whipped topping is nutritional devoid, comprised of little more than sugar and fat, and contains 20-30 calories per 2 tablespoon serving.
Although this may seem insignificant, most of us go above and beyond 1 serving per piece and extrapolated across multiple pieces of pie this adds up to hundreds or even thousands of calories.
Tip #9 – Supplement with 5-Hydroxytryptophan (HTP)
5-HTP is a chemical naturally produced in the body as a byproduct of breaking down the essential amino acid tryptophan. 300 to 500mg of 5-HTP consumed with a meal is clinically proven to increase satiety and reduce food intake by about 60% in overweight and obese individuals.
5-HTP itself won’t burn fat but will decrease your likelihood of reaching for seconds.
Tip #10 – Perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training is an excellent tool for maximizing fat burning and preserving lean mass. Throw in 5 to 10 rounds of the battle ropes, Airdyne bike, jump rope, rowing machine (ERG), or seated bike after your normal workout or on a cardio-only day.
Experiment with 10-30 seconds of all-out work followed by 30-60 seconds of active recovery. You’ll be drenched in sweat and a fat-burning machine in less than 15 minutes.
Tip #11 – Fill Up With Fiber
In addition to keep our digestive tracts optimally functioning, fiber is an excellent macronutrient for controlling hunger. This carbohydrate, found in high concentrations in foods like beans, vegetables, and whole grains, passes through the body undigested. Increasing your fiber intake will increase perceived fullness as well as help to minimize large blood sugar swings.
If you can’t consume 10 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories of food then consider a fiber supplement like Optimum Nutrition Fitness Fiber, Muscleology Myofiber, and Myogenix Pro Fiber.
Tip #12 – Plan Your Plate
Most holiday functions offer a wide variety of delicious food. It’s important to plan your plate before piling on the comfort food. Minimize the caloric load and ensure a balanced meal by designated ½ of your plate with vegetables, ¼ with lean protein, and ¼ with a carbohydrate or indulgence of your choice.
This indulgence could range from stuffing to pecan pie. Planning your plate will ensure you eat the good stuff without overdoing the not-so-healthy items.
Tip #13 – Offer to Help With Meals
By offering to prepare, cook, serve, or clean up after meals you’ll not only gain brownie points with the hosts and other guests, you’ll also keep your body moving, mind engaged, and hands off the calorically dense snacks.
Many of us consume hundreds or even thousands of extra calories during the pre-meal Hors d’oeuvres period. Even if your cooking skills are less than ideal you can offer to set the table, box-up leftover food, or clean the dishes.
Tip #14 – Choose Dark Chocolate
If you absolutely have to fill your craving for chocolate then select dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate. Dark chocolate has more fiber, antioxidants, and a more intense flavor, which means you’ll curb that craving with fewer chocolate squares. Dark chocolate is comprised of 70% to 99% cocoa per serving.
Tip #15 – Make Your Own Cranberry Sauce
Store bought cranberry jelly or sauce from a can will cost you 110 calories, over 20 grams of sugar, and almost no fiber per ¼ cup serving. Raw cranberries are tart but naturally high in antioxidants and fiber.
Creating your own cranberry sauce or jelly allows you to control the sugar content and use fewer preservatives. A quick web search will yield thousands of recipes for creating this delicious side dish.
Tip #16 – Skip the Store-Bought Egg Nog
1 cup of store-bought egg nog can contain over 300 calories, and that’s before adding the Holiday Cheer” (a.k.a. liquor). This dairy-based beverage is little more than milk and/or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs plus your liquor of choice.
Make your own version using skim milk rather than whole milk or cream, and a sucralose-based sugar blend to shave off excess calories, fat and sugar.
Tip #17 – Watch the Alcoholic Beverages
If you’re of age and choose to indulge in alcoholic beverages this Holiday season then low-carbohydrate beer, dry red wine, and liquor mixed with low or no calorie beverages like diet soda, soda water, or light fruit juices. This could save you hundreds or even thousands of calories in just one day.
While a little “Holiday Cheer” may help you relax and unwind during this busy and sometimes stressful time period, don’t become overly reliant on alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Tip #18 – Swap Potatoes With Cauliflower
If your weakness is mashed potatoes with butter or gravy then consider swapping those starchy tubers with cauliflower. If prepared properly, mashed cauliflower has a very similar texture to mashed potatoes but with a fraction of the calories and carbohydrates.
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable high in fiber, Vitamin C, and cancer-fighting compounds.
Tip #19 – Go For a Walk
Throughout most of year we’re stuck inside buildings and behind desks. Take the breaks that accompany the Holiday Season as an opportunity to get outside and go for a leisurely walk or brisk stroll. Just 15 to 20 minutes of walking per day will burn extra calories, improve your mood, and strengthen you heart.
Tip #20 – Play Pick-Up Sports
If you’re the competitive type then skip the walk and consider starting or joining a pick-up sports game. This time of year often gathers sizable groups of friends, family members, and loved ones. Take this as an opportunity to organize and participate in a pick-up game of football, softball, basketball, kickball, or soccer. You’ll have a blast burning hundreds of calories and strengthening the relationships with those you care about.
Tip #21 – Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Filling
Pumpkin is a low-calorie variety of squash high in Vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants. Unfortunately many of the premade canned pumpkin pie fillings add sugar to improve the taste, but this doubles or triples the calories per serving.
Instead purchase the 100% raw pumpkin, sweeten with a sucralose-based sugar blend, and add spices live clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This will save you hundreds of calories and inches off the waistline.
#22 – Perform Heavy Compound Movements
Compound multi-joint exercises like squats, deadlift, bench, overhead press, dips, and chin-ups recruit multiple muscle groups. The more muscle groups involved the more calories you’ll burn per repetition. To maximize the calorie burn ensure the majority of your weightlifting workout is comprised of compound movements, keep the rest periods short, and the volume and intensity high.
#23 – Swap Butter or Oil With Applesauce
If you love to bake but want to decrease the calorie and fat content of your baked goods without sacrificing flavor then substitute butter or oil with a 1:1 ratio of applesauce. This substitution can cut the calorie count of some recipes by up to 50% while also increasing the moistness, antioxidant, and fiber content.
#24 – Don’t be the First to Grab Seconds
With the wide variety of food options offered at most holiday gatherings it’s easy to get carried away with overloading our plates and returning back for multiple helpings. Pace yourself, chew slowly, savor the food’s flavor, and give yourself time in between plates to see if you’re actually still hungry or if your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
If you avoid being the fastest eater and the first to get second helpings then you’ll minimize the likelihood of overeating and making poor food choices.
#25 – Avoid Pre-Made Pie Crusts
Premade pie crusts and extremely high in calories and devoid of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. While the prepackaged option is more convenient most contain artery clogging and cholesterol ruining trans-unsaturated fatty acids to improve the shelf life and taste.
If you’re forced to use a premade pie crust then eat only half or discard the crust completely and enjoy the filling. Alternatively a quick web search will yield thousands of crust recipes using healthier ingredients like 100% real butter and almond or coconut flour.
You’ve been armed with 25 tips to survive the holiday season; take this information and apply it next time Aunt Gertrude tries to guilt you in to having another piece of pecan pie or Uncle Ralph tries to tell you that you don’t need to exercise because your body fat is under 20%.
While some people fall off the wagon during the holiday season, the Tiger Fitness family knows you’ve been busting your butt all year long and living a healthy lifestyle is NOT a game. If you have additional tips on how to survive the holidays and prevent unwanted fat gain through diet or exercise let me know in the comments.