Let’s be honest. When we smell the melted brandy butter on that steaming pudding, no amount of pre-empted promises, bargains we make with ourselves or sheer willpower will be able to pry our hands and tastebuds away from it’s beckoning call. Christmas pudding, candy canes, shortbread, eggnog, stuffed turkey and stuffing ourselves. Work functions, Sunday sessions, cocktails and Peroni’s on tap. This is what constitutes a regular Silly Season. No time to fit a workout in as we head from the office straight to after-work shenanigans. No inclination to do any sort of workout in the morning with a raging hangover.
I may be in the fitness business, but I get it. I’m under no illusion we’ll have the approach we may otherwise during this crazy period over the holidays. The hard work that we’ve dedicated our time and energy into however, doesn’t have to get undone over these next few weeks.
Here is a fool-proof 5 Point System that works and won’t leave you feeling deprived, allowing you to hack your way through the holidays, have fun and have your pudding too without sabotaging your waist line.
1. The Consistency and Type of Training You Focus On
Literally only have 20 minutes you can allocate to a workout before you hit the bar? It’s all about maximising the fat burn post workout and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is your ticket. This means intervals of 90 percent max effort with interchanging rest periods. Ideally, aim for at least 3 x 30-45 min sessions a week to see your body transform, making sure you’re executing all exercises correctly to reap the benefits. Here’s a 20 min workout to try next time you’re short on time. Technique is crucial with this type of training to maximise the benefits, avoid injury and streamline results. Not sure about an exercise or workout? Ask for the right set up and movement.
2. Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity
Want to tone up and drop fat? The way you body uses insulin is a big slice of the body composition pie. There are lots of factors that contribute to how insulin sensitive we are in the foods we eat, how often we train, the type of exercise we do and lifestyle factors like the quality of our sleep, stress levels and our alcohol intake.
When our bodies are insulin sensitive it means we only need small amounts of insulin to decrease our blood glucose levels. When we eat carbohydrates, this macronutrient triggers the most insulin. Hence, by minimising our carbohydrate intake initially, especially for those that have a BMI of > 35 it promotes an increase in insulin sensitivity and how well our bodies respond to and process carbohydrates.
During the Silly Season, it’s so easy to skip meals or fill up on cocktail food going round at the post-work function like deep fried spring rolls and pastries.
- If you don’t get a chance to eat before you head out for after work drinks, try and steer clear of the high carbohydrate snacks and opt for the higher fat protein options like meats, nuts and frittata as well as any cut up veggies with hummus. Step away from the cheese and crackers.
- Another good option is when you know food may not be an option, taking some extra leftovers or lunch to work and having a light meal before you head out so you’re not craving those fries on your way home. Favouring lean protein, nuts, seeds and vegetables is a great strategy for further promoting insulin sensitivity.
- The last piece of the puzzle, the most craved and often the most underrated but enjoyable, our ZZZ’s. Getting good quality sleep will help promote healthy levels of leptin which help control our appetite, hunger levels and feelings of satiety and levels of willpower come 3.30pm.
3. Good Drink Choices vs Great Drink Choices
Consider this my dear readers. An average night out can be the equivalent of an extra 2,000 calories, an average day’s worth.
By all means, this doesn’t realistically mean we should stop drinking, hanging off the chandeliers and having a good time but we can make some better choices when it comes to our drink of choice.
If our priority is to have a flat tummy or less fat around our mid section, avoiding beer and champagne as well as sugary or creamy cocktails are your best bet to strategically hack your festive season whilst still having fun.
Here’s a good guide for the superior drink of choice for your next hootenanny;
- Champagne, although lovely and bubbly, is the poorest drink of choice. Drink this occasionally and sparingly and here’s why: champagne, or sparkling if from anywhere other than the region in France, contains both sugar and yeast. That’s also why it goes to our heads and champagne hangovers are the WORST, due to the high levels of sugar, yeast and preservatives.
- Drinking a wheat beer can equate to eating a few extra slices of bread…per drink. If we consume 4-5 drinks, that’s nearly an extra loaf in calories we’ve consumed in liquid form without even thinking about it.
- Pina coladas. Shamefully these were my drink of choice in my early 20’s. That was, until I found out that a single one of these contained all my calories for a week! This goes for all those delicious creamy cocktails like toblerones, grasshoppers and anything cream and liqueur based as well.
- Daiquiris, mojitos and caipirinhas taste great because they consist of a sugar based alcohol such as rum or cachaca, a sugar based liqueur, sugar syrup, sugar which is sometimes fancily listed as “gomme” along with a flavoured syrup. Fine to have as a treat but be aware of the quantity and components of one of these. If you opt for this, consider asking to omit any extra favoured syrup but don’t even think about asking to take the sugar out. Take it from me, this tastes disgusting and you may be thrown out of the bar.
- Sweet liqueurs like Midori, Blue Carucao and anything pre-mixed is mostly sugar. Avoid especially if you don’t want to lose street cred.
- All drinks are not created equal. A pre-mixed rum and coke contains 1000kJ. That’s like eating a packet of confectionary lollies per drink.
- When mixing spirits with drinks remember that fruit juices have as much sugar as coke and sprite.
- Gin is a great spirit option and be aware that tonic not only has more sugar than coke but also contain formaldehyde, the substance used to preserve dead bodies. This will give you a serious hangover.
- Red wine is definitely a better option than white wine as it is lower in calories, has nutritional benefits and a much lower sugar content.
- Vodka, cognac, scotch, gin and red wine are your best options. If you’ve had a few drinks already, why not opt for a vodka soda with fresh lime or vodka or gin martini. You probably won’t appreciate anything else so you may as well minimise the calories.
- Avoid dessert wine at all costs. This is basically over ripened grapes in a syrupy concentrate like form and take it from me, there are no positives from drinking it. Opt for a nice cognac or scotch instead as a digestif.
4) Eating Sensibly on Days You’ll Drink
Now that we know what to choose when it comes to nights out on the town, its a good idea to minimise the damage and use this drinking hack. Firstly, consider this: when we drink alcohol, we’re slowing down the process of our body burning body fat. Even if we opt for vodka soda with fresh lime and think we’re consuming zero calories, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Our body will always try and get rid of the alcohol in our system first, treating it as a poison that needs to be eliminated first. Hence, whatever we’ve eaten that day will be second in line to be processed. This means that on the day we know we have an event or party and we’ll be drinking, I remind my clients to be careful with their nutrition and stick to smaller portions throughout the day with a good solid breakfast and aim to eat a lean source of protein with each meal and veggies and salads to accompany it. This way you’ll be giving your digestion the best advantage of burning off your meals without also adding the calories from a burger and fries into the mix.
5) Eating a High Protein Breakfast Everyday
By doing so, neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetyl-chlorine will send off signals to your brain signalling how much energy, focus and willpower you’ll have when 3pm rolls around and a few left over candy canes from your kid’s Santa stocking start to look appealing. Eat a protein high breakfast instead. Things like salmon, lamb or steak with some salad, avocado, tomatoes or mushrooms will regulate your blood sugar levels, lower your insulin, regulate your mood and increase your mental clarity.