With the holiday season right around the corner, many of you might be feeling a bit nervous about whether or not you'll be able to maintain your workout and diet programs.
Regardless of whether you're currently trying to shed that last layer of fat or pack on some new lean muscle mass tissue to take your body to the next level of development, staying the course both at the gym and in the kitchen will be essential to you seeing results.
Unfortunately though, at times during the holiday season it can seem as though everyone is out to make this anything but possible for you to do.
Holiday parties get booked, filling up every spare weekend you have, Christmas baking starts showing up at the office, and with all the additional shopping and volunteer work you might be doing, finding time to squeeze in a workout becomes even more challenging than it already was.
Luckily for you, with some advance planning, you can survive the holidays with your diet and workout pretty much intact. While it's a good idea to allow for some leeway over the holidays - no one is perfect after all, doing what you can do to make the most of it will put you in a good position to make a New Year's Resolution other than dropping all the weight you gained over the coming months.
Here are some quick tips that you should start doing right now to keep yourself in line. Remember too that knowledge is only good when it's put to use, so be sure not to just read about these tips, but practice them.
Your Controlling Craving Game Plan ///
While you might get the odd craving for pizza, hamburgers, wings, and other junk food during the year, never will your cravings likely be so strong as during the holidays.
There is something to the old saying, 'out of sight, out of mind', but during the holidays, it's d@mn near impossible to get everything out of sight. Therefore, you need to find an alternate way around your cravings. Here are the steps to take.
This is one area that you can control, so eliminate possible diet traps so they don't trouble you while you're at home.
Right now, pick two days of the week you are going to let yourself give in to your cravings. Set those two days and try your best to stick to them. They can change from week to week, but predetermine them the week ahead of time based on your schedule (parties coming up, work dinners, etc).
By mentally knowing that you're going to allow for a small indulgence on these days, it will make sticking with your diet that much easier the other five. On top of that, it should help you with portion control at the time, since you know next week, you're going to be allowed two more indulgences.
To put this into perspective too, if you are eating 250 extra calories on each of those days, that will be about one pound gained over the entire season. Not too bad at all. Obviously it may go over 250 some of the days, but if you try and stick to that, you're doing quite well.
The third way to prevent against cravings is to look for substitutions. If the food is present in the room, chances are you're going to crave it. But, by packing something that you could use as a substitute for that food, it may help.
For example, if chocolate is the problem, consider a chocolate protein bar, shake, or a low-sugar pudding made with skim milk. If chips are a problem, consider some of the high-protein chips available, rice chips, or whole grain crackers.
If candy is an issue, prepare yourself some sugar-free jell-o. It will help give you the sweet taste without any calories.
Finding Time For Workouts ///
Next up we have getting those workouts in. For many of you, this is an everyday challenge itself and now the problem is only amplified.
Your best strategy, unless you know that time isn't going to be an issue for you is to simply change your workout slightly so that it doesn't take as much time in itself.
If you know that your workouts typically take an hour and twenty minutes four times a week but are only able to make it to the gym thirty minutes three times a week, chances are you may just give up altogether.
But if you tailor your workouts down so they work better with your schedule, you're one step ahead of the game and won't be so stressed with it.
The first thing you should do is reduce down the number of sets you're currently doing. So, for example, if you typically do four sets of squats, followed by four sets of deadlifts followed by three sets of leg extensions, try two sets of squats, deadlifts, and one set of leg extensions.
You can reduce volume considerably when it comes to maintaining strength provided the intensity stays the same. That means though that while reducing the total number of sets lifted, you do want to be sure you don't reduce back on your weight. Keep that weight constant - that will help insure you don't lose muscle or strength over the holidays.
If you focus on getting in two good sets of each of those five exercises, two to three times a week, you're going to do well. That right there would probably only take you thirty to forty-five minutes tops, which should fit into your holiday schedule much more effectively.
Finally, the last step to take is with regards to your cardio training. It may be difficult to get into the gym for a full forty-five to sixty minutes for a complete cardio workout, so try breaking that up over the day. Take a ten minute walk to work.
Do fifteen minutes of bike at the gym after your lifting, and try and walk more often around the office at work during the day. Every bit of movement you do adds up so don't think it all has to come at once. Maintaining your weight over the holidays can be as simple as consciously trying to move around more often.
Video Tip Of The Week: Move More Often!
Watch The Video - 0:22
Strategies To Prevent Weight Gain ///
Next up, there are certain nutritional strategies that would be beneficial for you to take during the coming months to help further reduce the chances that you experience weight gain.
By making a few slight adjustments to your diet at certain points, you can help prevent unwanted weight gain, while helping ensure you retain your muscle mass if you are away from the gym.
Since protein is critical for muscle maintenance, it's not a bad idea to eat a bit more over the holidays to really preserve your muscle tissue. If you aren't applying as much of a stimulus (at the gym) which helps to keep muscle on your body, at least you can help out nutritionally.
Further, protein in itself is one of the more satisfying nutrients; therefore, it's going to help prevent overeating from taking place.
When you know that you have a holiday dinner come up later in the day, it's a smart move to reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly earlier on during the day to 'bank' a bit of additional calories for that meal.
You don't want to go so far as starving yourself, as that will very likely backfire on you, but by decreasing carbs slightly and bumping up protein and dietary fat, you can help ensure that you're not ravenous but aren't going to completely destroy your calorie budget for the day.
This is one tip you've likely heard before - and for good reason. Having a small snack of protein about an hour before the dinner is a smart move.
It will help tide you over until mealtime and give you more self-control over your choices at the meal. Plus, it will also help you reach your total protein intake for the day, which as pointed out in the first tip, should be slightly higher right now.
Finally, the last tip to help you maintain your diet and nutrition program is to just take it day by day, keeping a constant eye on how much you're eating.
This will be a solid 'base' of calories that you should try and follow each day, and then add to that foods you choose that day (at meals out, etc).
When you have a day where you eat a great deal more than what's on your 'base' diet, cut back the next day and try and eat that base diet and only added lower calorie foods (vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, etc).
Since you know that base diet has your needs covered and is low-calorie this will help to balance the effects of the previous day's high calorie eating to help you maintain your weight over the long haul.
Dealing With Social Pressure ///
Another big issue that many people face when the holiday season comes around is social pressure - essentially people trying to press them into eating treats or skipping their workouts for other activities.
Social pressure is a huge factor for many people since often times many of us do get caught up in trying to make others happy. Here are some tips to deal with some of the social pressures you may be feeling.
Always keep in mind that it will be impossible to impress absolutely everyone, so it's not worth your effort to worry about doing so. Instead, try and find a compromise with someone when something comes up that you do want to be a part of but will crowd out your workout or sway your diet.
Whether this means showing up slightly later so you can go to the gym or offering to bring your own dish to a meal that you know will be prepared healthfully, don't be afraid to try and compromise to make it work for you as well.
While obviously there are some things you simply can't opt out of, when there is something going on that it's not necessary for you to be there for, simply remove yourself from the situation.
For example, if someone is bringing in a big take-out meal at lunch at work and it's not a scheduled Christmas event, get out of the office that day and run some errands.
Most people will respect the fact that you have other things to take care of and you won't be put into a situation where you're stuck eating unhealthy food you don't really want anyway.
The third way you can deal with social pressure is by choosing to surround yourself with people who are more focused on healthy living like you are.
This doesn't mean you have to go cutting people out of your life if they don't workout regularly, just try and spend more time with those who do around the holiday period.
Or, an alternative approach is to suggest - to those who don't usually workout - more active types of things to do over the holidays (go for a walk and look at lights, take your kids sledding, window shop at the mall, etc).
Doing this rather than sitting around visiting - with food everywhere - will help to keep the number of holiday indulgences down. Plus, all those little activities will add up over time, helping you maintain your weight over the season.
Supplements To Make Things Easier ///
Finally, the last topic to consider is the supplements that you can take to help make the whole holiday period go that much more smoothly.
While you should never rely on supplements as a means to replace a proper diet and exercise program, as without both of those in place, a supplement is not going to make or break the results you get.
Supplements can definitely help you with your workout and diet efforts though, provided you take them in the right way and with a proper mindset. The main ones to focus on include:
Caffeine is a very cost-effective supplement to take and can help give you that energy boost you need when you're feeling like you'd rather just stay home than go to the gym.
With all the holiday obligations draining your energy, this can be particularly helpful when trying to get up in the early morning hours to squeeze in your workout or coming home at the end of the day and forcing yourself to stop off at the gym.
In addition to using caffeine, you could also look into some of the energy supplements that are available. Many of these will have caffeine right in the ingredient list, but then will also have added ingredients that further enhance your energy.
Since you'll likely be trying to watch your calorie intake, getting too many from an energy product may be something you'll want to avoid. There are a number of light or low-carb options to choose from though, so just be sure you have a thorough look before choosing.
The next supplement you might want to consider making use of is protein bars or shakes. These are great for not only helping to reduce cravings, but also to carry along with you when you aren't going to be able to prepare a meal or snack in the kitchen.
By having these on hand you will reduce the chances that you opt for something less than healthy - that passing plate of turtles, for example.
Finally, the last supplement to consider are meal replacement shakes. These will help you out in a way similar that protein powder and bars will, only they are designed to be a more complete meal, balancing out protein with the macronutrients of carbohydrates and protein as well.
If you're going to use a supplement to replace a whole meal, this is likely a better option to choose.
Before You Leave///
So, keep these tips in mind this coming holiday season. While there will be some cases where you just will not have control over your schedule or what you are eating, for the most part, you can keep on top of things with a little more effort and advanced planning.