One of my most important rules for clients and their continued fitness success is to always enjoy holidays, events, and special occasions without worrying about food and beverage intake. You should enjoy yourself during events with family and friends. The stress relief from relaxing and spending time with loved ones will have huge benefits for your health and fitness.
However, if you’re in the early stages of a health and lifestyle transformation, it’s important to be cognizant of what you’re doing to avoid backsliding. A day of eating and drinking whatever you please won’t hurt, but an entire weekend might. So, when my clients have events or holidays on the calendar, we might try a few things to avoid fitness setbacks.
Here’s a handful of examples (strategy depends on the client) that may help you keep your fitness on track:
- Going with a “weekend warrior” calorie intake leading up to an event. This might look like 1,200 calories/day for M-F to allow a person on a 1,500 calorie protocol to eat 3,000 calories on Saturday while staying on track.
- Fasting around an event. Let’s say the event is on Friday night. You might fast from Thursday night until the event and then post-event until noon the next day. The fast would include water, coffee, or calorie-free liquids, of course. This is similar to an Intermittent Fasting protocol, which you can learn more about here.
- Increasing training intensity around the event/holiday. Nutrient partitioning (how you digest and absorb nutrients) is improved by training hard. Adding in extra volume to training sessions or adding extra “fun” sessions prior to an event allow for extra calorie consumption and better use of excess calories and macronutrients.
- Going for intermittent walks around the event. Adding in 30-minute walks can add a calorie cushion and have similar (although minimal) nutrient partitioning effects to that of strength training. It is worth mentioning that walking post-meal has been shown to have a positive impact on digestion/absorption.
The following require some effort on the day of an event but don’t involve the actual event:
- If the event is going to be alcohol-related, you could increase protein and decrease fat/carb intake on the day of.
- If there is alcohol involved, stick to liquor over beer and mix with low or zero-calorie liquids. (I wouldn’t know anything about this, but I’ve heard Sprite Zero and Fresca mix well with just about anything.) Tequila is great, but margaritas (even the “light” versions) tend to be sugar bombs.
- You could go with a protein shake and nuts fast for a high-carb event with desserts/cake. This would simply look like protein shakes and a small serving of nuts (satiating) for every other meal on the day of the event.
- You could use the nutrition and lifestyle skills you’ve learned (if you’re a client or reader) to make the best decisions possible. For example, if grilled burgers and hot dogs are on the menu, you could double up on the meat and skip the buns and sides. You could choose beans and vegetable-based dishes over cream-based dishes. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself during these times, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to binge or go crazy just because.