Getting through the Christmas period without packing on the pounds can prove extremely difficult and most of us will at least add an additional layer of belly flab for our holiday eating efforts. The problem with gorging over the holiday season, however, is not just the extra kilos that will need to be dropped come the new year, but the bad dietary habits that can be formed, which, when the time comes for developing your desired physique, can only make eating for fat loss that much harder.
So, the sensible and most obvious option would be to avoid the caloric nightmare that a relaxed holiday season schedule often encourages and eat well all year round. While there are a few who can do this and are disciplined enough (in other words, are able to force themselves to do the things they do not wish to do) to eat low calorie/fat, high protein foods while others are piling down the pizza and beer, most people tend to adopt a lenient approach to food selection (in other words, they will eat like pigs, and if they go too far in this direction will begin to resemble them as well).
Given the Christmas period is a time to celebrate the year that has passed and plan for the one ahead, it is often a good idea to enjoy a wide variety of foods and to "indulge" our taste buds with those foods that are usually off limits at most other times of the year. But the smart ones amongst us also would like to stay lean and look great during this period, especially for the beach.
How, then, do we reach a compromise whereby we can relax our eating somewhat while still meeting our training goals? The first step might be to maintain our usual diet while only occasionally over indulging. While this might work for a certain period, it is - because of the traveling, parties and food on offer and general laxity the holiday season demands - usually not entirely feasible. Not to fear.
Two further strategies can be employed to help you shed the pounds while allowing you to have a "normal" life over the silly season: substituting certain foods and using supplements to help negate high calorie eating's harmful effects. In the following article I will provide an effective supplement stack to help shift those pounds while ensuring that any further excess will not be added, while giving tips on what foods might be best substituted for ones that cause the most dietary damage.
Supplements That Can Prevent Fat Gain
While there is little research to prove the long-term effectiveness of carbohydrate blockers, these controversial supplements have proven useful for many who have sought to prevent the absorption of carbohydrates, thus preventing the caloric overload this nutrient can provide if taken in excess. Comprised mainly of bean and wheat germ extracts, these supplements are thought to inhibit the enzyme alpha-amylase that breaks down starchy carbohydrates such as bread and potatoes; these nutrients instead pass straight through the digestive system.
Thought to limit the absorption of 40 to 45 grams of carbohydrates at any one time, carbohydrate blockers are to be taken directly before meals to offset excessive caloric consumption. While marketed as safe and effective, the long-term health effects of carbohydrate blockers is not entirely clear so it is recommended that one not form a reliance on them. It is always best to use diet and exercise as primary fat loss tools, while supplements such as carbohydrate blockers can be used periodically during times where calorie intake is expected to be higher than "normal".
So, before each high carbohydrate Christmas meal, take one serving of a carbohydrate blocker supplement (as recommended on the product label) to help prevent unwanted weight gain.
Key benefits to using carbohydrate blockers are thought to include:
- Blocks carbohydrate absorption by the body.
- Drives down sugar cravings.
- Insulin functioning is increased.
- Glucose metabolism is promoted.
- Carbohydrate cravings are reduced.
- Promotes optimum blood glucose levels.
- Supports and encourages healthy blood sugar levels.
- Boosts energy levels.
- Minimizes body fat storage.
- Enhances carbohydrate utilization.
Though carbohydrate blocker supplements are also thought to reduce appetite, specific appetite suppressant supplements can be used to stave away the urge to pound down the calories this Christmas season. Among the most popular "diet pills" on the market today, appetite suppressant supplements are often used to help people get back into line after extended binging periods; they can also be used to prevent such binging periods and this is where they may especially become useful over the Christmas period, a time where the temptation of high calorie treats often proves too much.
Appetite suppressants' major function is to block certain hormones while targeting parts of the brain linked to appetite. When we are hungry, signals are sent to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which controls hunger, and we, as a result, feel the urge to eat. Some people, due to their individual brain chemistry, feel this urge stronger than others. Appetite suppressants actually prevent such "hunger" signals from reaching the hypothalamus, thus suppressing appetite.
Appetite suppressants can be obtained either with a prescription or, as with natural alternatives, bought over the counter. As with any prescription medication, appetite suppressants can pose certain risks in those susceptible and do promote a range of side effects. Natural supplements used to suppress appetite, however, have received good reviews and it is these are encouraged here.
One such product, Hoodia Gordonii, a leafless, spiny succulent plant which grows naturally in South Africa and Namibia, features in many popular weight loss supplements and is highly touted as a powerful natural appetite suppressant. It is thought to contain a molecule - P57 - that replicates the effects glucose creates in the brain to prolong feelings of fullness and to prevent hunger.
One natural supplement that not only controls hunger but also increases energy levels, thus helping to give you the motivation to you to burn off those excess calories, is the herbal equivalent of the FDA banned Fen-Phen. Any of the effective herbal Phentermine supplements on the market today will significantly promote appetite suppression without the addiction that so often results from consuming the prescription form of this product.
Guar gum, and other fiber-based appetite suppressants, will also help to produce a sensation of fullness to promote appetite restriction. The major function of fiber supplements is their ability to attract water to form a gelatinous mass which helps to expand the stomach. These also slow the emptying of the stomach, which helps promote fullness sooner into eating a meal.
With any form of natural appetite suppressant, always follow label instructions and, as with the aforementioned carbohydrate blockers, aim not to form a reliance on them. Again, focus first on diet and exercise for fat loss, and use carbohydrate blockers and appetite suppressants on occasions where excess calories are likely to be consumed.
Zero Carbohydrate Whey Protein
Whey protein, more so than any other protein source, has been shown to promote appetite suppression. Products such as Nature's Best Zero Carb Isopure will help to encourage feelings of fullness, signaling to the brain that hunger has been satiated. Protein products should form a major part of any good supplement stack, but for those who lack control over their caloric consumption, whey is the way to go.
First of all, whey protein helps to stabilize blood glucose levels by slowing the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream; insulin levels are thereby lowered and the body will have less of a tendency to store fat and more energy to burn it - hunger will also, as a result of these combined factors, be suppressed.
Further, bioactive elements responsible for stimulating the release of two appetite suppressing hormones - cholecystokinin and glucagon - are also employed each time whey protein is consumed. Whenever these two hormones are released our hunger urges are suppressed. Whichever way you look at it, whey protein is an excellent, natural way to control one's appetite. It will also allow you to build more muscle, a tissue that will help boost the metabolic rate to further enhance fat burning.
B Vitamin Complex
Of the nine different B vitamins needed to maintain optimal health and well being, almost all of them are used to transfer foods into energy, making them important for optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Whenever we eat something high in calories the efficiency with which it is broken down and used for energy is a major determinant in how efficient our metabolic rate will function.
With a faster and more effective metabolism we will not only burn more calories - both during exercise and at rest - than otherwise would be the case, but will process nutrients more efficiently. In combination with appetite suppressants, carbohydrate blockers and whey protein, B vitamins will help one to better process the quality nutrients they do receive. B vitamins will also help one to restore blood sugar levels which will, in turn, help to reduce appetite.
Healthy Alternatives To Typical Christmas Fare
Cookies And Cakes
Try Instead: Protein Cookies
While not exactly "diet food", protein cookies do provide a great tasting snack without the excess fat and carbohydrate calories found in more traditional cookies and cakes. Often "engineered" with an ideal ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats, this product can be used to round out one's daily energy balance provided one does not also over indulge with the concentrated calorie version.
Given protein cookies provide the taste buds with what they need when one is surrounded by tempting foods, an ideal time to eat them is when presented with such high calorie options. Have them handy in the event that you might be tempted to indulge.
Though admittedly a rather boring snack alternative to high calorie cookies and cakes etc, apples, if you can find creative ways to eat them (not drizzled with sugar), are both great tasting and an excellent appetite suppressant. Eat one before a large meal and see for yourself. Given a large apple contains around five grams of fiber, this will fill the stomach for up to one hour, usually more than enough time to thwart any possibility of binge eating.
Eat two large apples - very few calories for such a quantity of fruit - and you will find it hard to indulge in fatty, carbohydrate loaded foods. It is also worth noting here that although apples do contain sugars, these do not influence blood sugar levels as much as their starchy carbohydrate counterparts.
Most nuts will provide an appetite suppressant effect, but almonds tend to be most effective and are also one of the healthiest types available. A great source of healthy fats, which will actually allow you to burn a greater amount of fat than store (provided only a handful are consumed at any one time), almonds encourage feelings of fullness while providing many health benefits (improved cardiovascular function being one).
Since the appetite suppressant effects take at least 30 minutes to begin working it is best to take them this far out from a planned meal so as to offset any potential binging. Eat them just before the meal and you might just find yourself with a few more extra calories to burn off come the following day.
Soft (Fizzy) Drinks
Try Instead: Water
Probably the worst mistake anyone will make when aiming to stay in shape over the holiday period is to consume fizzy drinks, as they will encourage greater fat gain than any other product. Releasing significant amounts of insulin each time one is consumed, soda, such as Coke, will promote excessive glycogen storage to promote fat gains.
Water, on the other hand, will not only hydrate us better than any other liquid but will help to prevent hunger (thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so we will eat rather than drink). By drinking up to 15 glasses of pure, clean water throughout the day we will stay fuller, for longer and will be less likely to binge.
Try Instead: Protein Bars
Again, protein bars taste great - in many instances better than their high calorie equivalent - without providing a sugar overload with many calories also coming from fat. Of the many protein bars found on the market today almost all provide at least 15 grams of protein and less than 20 grams of carbohydrates, with few simple sugars. Keep one on you at all times over the Christmas period, just in case the urge to binge strikes.
Coffee With Sugar & Cream
Try Instead: Green Tea
While coffee, by itself, can provide an effective means to burn fat through its metabolism-boosting effects, adding sugar and milk (or, even worse, cream) can create problems especially if you, like many, consume upwards of four, or more, cups per day. Coffee, while supposedly possessing anti oxidant properties, and a diuretic effect to help eliminate unwanted water retention, can be very addictive and the more one drinks the greater its cumulative potential negative effects such as increased stress levels and high blood pressure.
Green tea is thought to be considerably less toxic on the body, and has a more powerful anti oxidant effect; it also contains caffeine, less than coffee (30 to 60 mg per eight ounces of tea compared to over 100 mg in the same quantity of coffee), but enough to promote an elevated metabolism. As a healthy alternative, green tea appears superior to coffee, with far fewer calories.
Widely regarded as a time for celebration, there is little to rejoice about when faced with post-Christmas weight gain. But this is exactly what many of us year after year set ourselves up for. With high calorie foods freely available almost everywhere we go it is often hard not to give into temptation and binge on such foods. Given these taste so good, and it is within our nature as humans to seek pleasure, fatty, carbohydrate-rich foods are easy to consume, but the result of eating them is often hard to address.
Removing any accumulated post-holiday season fat takes time and places us on the back foot, when we should be looking to improve our physiques. Follow the steps provided in this article and you will experience fewer of these problems come 2011.