A.k.a. the longest title ever.
I haven’t written in a while and am still in the process of perfecting Parts II & III of my insulin-based nutrition saga. I’m going to Pennsylvania with the girlfriend in six days for Thanksgiving and I’m pretty excited, mostly because I won’t have any time to work out/don’t even know if I’d have access to a gym and next week coincides with a scheduled deload week. There’s no better feeling than when a natural deload occurs during a scheduled deload.
Around this time of year, every fitness trainer on the inter-web starts putting out their Top 10 Fitness Tips to Avoid the Extra Holiday Stuffing! blog post. [Said in sparkly cheerleader voice.] Want to know a secret about me? I hate these blog posts. They’re often filled with fluff and only confirm stupid nutrition and exercise myths.
In light of all this, I would like to give a list of my holiday tips/a list dispelling the common myths that are constantly perpetuated by uneducated fitness “gurus.”
So, without further adieu, here is my list:
1. Don’t eat breakfast just because some “fitness expert” says to
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter when you eat your food during the day. As Ferruggia notes, “90% of Americans eat breakfast, yet 50% are obese (and that 50% number is climbing fast),” so where is the evidence that says we should eat breakfast?
Oh, here it is: If you eat breakfast your metabolism will totally be stoked dude for, like, the whole day. You’ll burn more calories during the day, man. If you don’t eat breakfast, you’ll be, like, starving for dinner and totally eat too much fat bro and get fat.
[Cue the bro voice on that one.]
Let’s use a little bit of common sense, guys. If you stoke a fire to make it burn brighter and hotter, do you need more total firewood or less total firewood?
So if breakfast, like, totally stokes your metabolism, dude, then you’ll probably end up being hungrier during the day and eating more.
But for realz, want to ditch your 300 calorie egg white breakfast for some extra turkey? Not a problem. What you eat is more important than when you eat.
2. Don’t utilize a caloric deficit in the days/weeks prior to the holidays in preparation
Of course, anyone trying to lose weight will probably be in a caloric deficit anyway, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Don’t drop yourself further into a deficit for an extended period leading up to the holidays.
Similarly, it isn’t uncommon to see drastic decreases in carbs or (what’s even more frustrating) fats for a period of time prior to the holidays in an effort to “even it all out.”
But what’s the problem about cutting out a high number of calories? First, it’s common to see proteins as the first things to go. Things like lettuce replace things like meat and people end up with not only caloric deficits, but probably more importantly macro- and micro-nutrient deficits.
Cutting out carbs leaves you tired and irritable. And let’s face it, nobody wants to see me carb-less (Lauren can probably vouch for me on this one).
Cutting out fats leaves you with macro-/micro-nutrient deficiencies in the same way that cutting out high numbers of calories typically does. See #4 for more information about reducing fats.
3. Replacing food with alcohol
There is nothing in the world that gets me going like watching people replace food with alcohol in an effort to maintain the right number of calories each day. Here’s a fact: not all calories are created equal. If you were trying to gain muscle, would you just replace your protein with carbohydrates and call it the same thing? Probably not.
Using the same logic, you cannot assume that 700 calories from vodka shots (which is quite a few shots of vodka, actually) and a 700 calorie dinner are going to provide the same physiological response from the body.
There’s a ton of debate about whether alcohol ingestion leads to weight gain and, to be honest, I think most people are just fine with not really knowing for sure. Some studies show drinkers weighing more, some show drinkers weighing less. Since just about everyone in the world drinks to some effect, there probably aren’t many people out there advocating a no-alcohol diet.
But, the wrong way to go about it is to substitute alcohol for food.
Regardless of whether you drink or not, you need protein, carbs, and fats to continue all of the basic, daily functions of the body.
4. Don’t fall for the myths about fats
There has been a great body of research recently on the stupid decision to replace “bad” fats with whole grains/empty carbohydrates.
If you’re going to eat dessert during the holidays, use some common sense and self-control to limit your portion size (because eating too much of anything is unhealthy). Additionally, stop reaching for low-fat, sugar-free, calorie-free desserts.
Brian St. Pierre makes reference to this in relation to ice cream. Ice cream is high in fat. It’s supposed to be high in fat. Don’t be afraid of this fact and enjoy ice cream the way it’s supposed to be: NOT HEALTHY FOR YOU. But enjoy it sparingly and as a reward, as dessert should be.
If you reduce the fat in your diet, the stuff you’re filling your pie-hole with (pun INTENDED) is going to need something else to make it taste good (aka it will be highly processed and filled with artificial crap or it will be filled with sugar, which isn’t good for your health either).
5. Stop thinking that tryptophan makes you sleepy
Large amounts of food, large amounts of carbs, and large amounts of Dallas Cowboys football make you sleepy.
Egg whites have more tryptophan per 100g serving than turkey does, so there.
So there’s five new things I bet you weren’t even thinking about in relation to holiday eating. Don’t binge. Don’t try to calorie-cycle to compensate. Don’t replace food with alcohol. Just eat smart. And don’t spend guilt-miles on the elliptical afterward. The holidays come with fatty, sugary, high-calorie food items. Eat them with some common sense and you’ll be fine.
Becoming awesome is a marathon, not a sprint (figuratively speaking, because of course you should be sprinting).
Your job is not to become super awesome looking for your holiday parties, only to let it go immediately after. Your job is to be awesome all the time. Stay the course. Keep working out, keep eating right when you can, and most of all, keep doing awesome things.
But if you want to add an extra workout to your holidays, find a friend, find a hill, put said friend on your back, and run (read: crawl) up that hill as fast as you can 10 times. That way you can feel okay when you take the extra two pieces of pie that you’re going to take anyway.