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6 Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Avoiding weight gain during the holidays can be challenging for even the most dedicated performance athletes. Thanksgiving kicks off a six-week gauntlet of holiday parties and celebrations that doesn't end until New Year’s morning. But rather than resigning yourself to putting on weight and dealing with it as part of your New Year’s resolutions, formulate some strategies to end the year strong—and at or below the weight you began the holiday season. Here’s how.

1. Eat before the party.

Even the most casual holiday parties offer a huge spread of nutritional pitfalls, ranging from dips and chips to endless chocolate treats. If you arrive at a party hungry, you’re going to eat whatever is there. Instead, have a normal meal beforehand and limit yourself to just a little party food so as not to offend the hosts.

2. Keep training.

If you stick to your usual training program, you’ll be less likely to overindulge during the holiday season. If you’re an endurance athlete, you’ve likely discovered that the race calendar in warmer parts of the country is now packed with year-end events ranging from Thanksgiving Turkey Trots to half-marathons to run-bike duathlons to even stand-up paddleboarding events. It’s not too late to check off New Year’s resolutions made in January.

3. Don't drink your calories.

When you're hydrated, your body and brain are more efficient, says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, the vice president of nutrition and research of Athletes' Performance. Make sure you're drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day. That means consuming at least 80 ounces if you weigh 160 pounds. If you indulge in a few holiday cocktails, be aware of the calories in those drinks and realize that alcohol dehydrates your body.

4. Eat breakfast.

Whether it’s Thanksgiving morning, Christmas Day, Black Friday, or any other day in the holiday season, don’t forget your high-performance breakfast. It will set the tone for your day, jumpstart your metabolism, and give you an edge in making nutritious choices throughout the day, especially if it’s full of holiday temptations. Carlson-Phillips recommends fueling with high-fiber carbs (including colorful fruits and vegetables), lean proteins, and healthy fats. A smoothie make with 100 percent whey protein, fruit, almond butter, and raw oats, two eggs with veggies in a high-fiber tortilla with avocado and mixed berries, or a Greek yogurt parfait with fruit, nuts, and high-fiber cereal are all easy ways to fuel your day.

5. Choose a reset meal.

It’s easy to feel a bit out of control with holiday eating and drinking. But getting back on track is as easy as eating one mindful performance meal. Head into the holiday season with a snack or meal that's your “reset” meal. Whether it’s a power smoothie blended with greens, a large salad with chicken and lots of colorful veggies, or a grilled piece of lean protein with quinoa, you’ll feel better physically and about your commitment to a high performance lifestyle after that reset meal.

6. Enjoy the holidays.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without friends, fun, and family traditions. Don’t throw caution and your performance game plan to the wind, but recognize that the 45-day stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day represents just one-eighth of the year. During that stretch, you have 225 fueling opportunities (at five meals a day). So if you follow the 80/20 rule, that means you have 45 meals/snacks reserved for holiday cheer. So instead of stressing about possible holiday weight gain, maintain the proper perspective and save those 45 opportunities for your favorite holiday indulgences.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

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Tags: Health, Weight Loss