Ask The Macro Manager: When Should I Train On Thanksgiving Day?

Planning to train on Turkey Day? Get maximum benefit from your Bulksgiving feast with these holiday nutrition tips from Dr. Mike Roussell.

Ask The Macro Manager: When Should I Train On Thanksgiving Day?

National Bulking Day, Thanksgiving, is upon us! I've got a burly workout lined up. To get maximum bulking benefit, should I train before or after my feast?

Training on Thanksgiving is a great idea! So is bulking during the holidays. To transform your scrawny chicken thighs into meaty turkey legs, train before the big feast to capitalize on several different metabolic benefits. Then, to extend your bulk through the holidays, I've got a couple strategies to help you take advantage of time off and the increased availability of quality fuel.

The Big Day

Exercise has a profound effect on muscle insulin sensitivity. It increases the movement of GLUT4 receptors (the cellular gateways that allow glucose into your muscles) to the surface of your muscle cells. This exercise effect is so profound that it can temporarily improve insulin resistance with just one training session.

Your Thanksgiving feast will act as your post-workout meal. To maximize the impact of the improved post-workout insulin sensitivity, let's make sure your body has burned off some glycogen so it has something to refill. Improved muscle insulin sensitivity doesn't do you much good if your muscles are already stuffed with carbs.

Train before the big feast to capitalize on several different metabolic benefits.
Train before the big feast to capitalize on several different metabolic benefits.

To start, skip the pre- and intra-workout carbs. I know you're on a mass cycle and this seems like blasphemy, but you'll be fine. Your body has at least 1500 kcal of glycogen stored, so you'll have plenty of energy to fuel your training session. Before your workout, take 10 grams of BCAAs to promote protein synthesis and attenuate muscle breakdown.

Gobble down your Thanksgiving feast within 90 minutes after your workout. By setting up your training and nutrition in this fashion, you'll deplete your glycogen stores and then use your feast to actively refill them, putting more of those Thanksgiving calories toward recovery and restoration.

Leftovers: Your Best Friend

If you are trying to lose weight, then holiday leftovers can quickly become the bane of your existence. However, mass monsters in the making should have a different relationship with these tasty table scraps. Thanksgiving leftovers give you a great opportunity to continue your overfeeding on high-quality calories. The key is to know what to select:

Good Leftovers

  • Turkey
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes (if they weren't made with a pound of butter)
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Corn bread
  • Braised greens

Bad Leftovers

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Bread stuffing
  • Dinner rolls
  • All the desserts

Leave the bad leftovers for your relatives, but get in as many of the good ones as you can. Combine turkey with roasted vegetables or braised greens for anytime muscle-building meals. Save the mashed or roasted potatoes and corn bread to combine with turkey on meals after your workouts.

Strategic Overreaching

Thanksgiving vacation is a great time to step up your training. With the increased availability of high-quality food and time off from school or work for extra recovery, you should boost your training frequency and intensity. Schedule extra training sessions during this week, and increase the amount of quality calories. Your body will support the extra training and short-term overconsumption by temporarily increasing your metabolic rate.

This temporary boost will decrease the likelihood of nutrients being partitioned to fat. In addition to training and eating more, take time to recover over the holidays. Sleep longer and get in naps whenever possible—in addition to the obligatory post-Thanksgiving meal football nap—to help your body recover and cope with the added training load.