Christmas Holiday Nutrition and Training
It is that time of year when all the festivities are happening, the beer is flowing, and food is in abundance at every party. Many people who train hard all year stress their heads off at this time of year worrying that they will ruin all their hard work that they have done throughout the year. I now have new ways I go about it and I’ll share them with you today.
I have experienced both sides of the fence when it comes to holiday nutrition and training. And anyone who knows me will tell you I do things to the extreme. When I was younger I would not train at all for our 2 week break from training and I would eat and drink whatever I wanted. If there was a party, I was there. This was good mentally to freshen up but once I got back to training and was dragging arse it wasn’t so good. All that work done before the break felt like a waste. I also went the complete opposite and trained throughout my break, training Christmas day, new-year’s day, if it was programmed in to train, I did. I felt good doing this as I knew no one else was training and I felt like I was catching up or getting ahead of my competition. The problem is that you are a bit isolated from family and friends at a time of year when you should be enjoying their company and you can also burn yourself out for the new-year.
As I got older, trained consistently harder throughout the year, paid more attention to my nutrition throughout the year, and learnt more about health, training, nutrition, supplementation etc. I found a much better balance. The best advice I can give people is to just let it go. When I say this I mean if you are having a party with family and friends and want to have a beer or eat some crappy food then do it. What I do with clients is sit down and plan what days they will eat or drink whatever they want and we use these as their refuel days. Most of the time this is Christmas eve, Christmas day, Boxing day, new-year’s eve, and new-year’s day. The reason I do this is that it help them relax and enjoy the day as it is now “part of the plan”. Some people have a really hard time if it is not on the plan. I used to be like this but have learnt to adjust.
With the nutrition choices they can have whatever they choose. No limitations. For me personally I still try and stay away from gluten and some other inflammatory foods as I feel depressed after eating them and don’t enjoy the following day as much as I should. So to be happy around family and friends I choose the foods that won’t make me angry and depressed. I always start my morning with meat and nuts still, this doesn’t change for me, I have to feel good starting my day. It is just a matter of knowing what works for you. If you can get away with eating anything and feeling good them do it. If you do feel crappy with joint pain, start farting your arse out, or have brain fog then you can’t piss and moan about it as Charles Poliquin says.
You can read this great article from Charles on holiday nutrition to help find what is best for you:
With training I would have 5 to 7 days off. In this time just go surfing, play tennis, cricket, basically just be active and then after that get back into your strength work. I don’t like to plan sessions on this break. I rather go by feel and do more right brain type workouts. If you are on holidays and don’t have access to a gym you may just go to a park and so some chin-ups, push-ups, dips, jumps, and sprints. If you do go to the gym mix it up a bit and do exercises and rep schemes you don’t typically do. Keep the duration short, rip in, and get out and have fun.
If you are an athlete then I feel you need to stay a little more structured. This is especially true for rugby league players. The Christmas break is in the middle of pre-season and most clubs have only been back to training for 5-7 weeks. It is important to build as much strength as possible in the off-season because once the competition rolls around it’s just about maintenance, not the building of strength. So if you miss that opportunity to build strength its tough luck. The off season for a rugby league player is September and/or October depending on if you make the finals and where you finish up, this is when
you can follow the above advice. If you feel burnt out because your club has been running you into the ground with excessive conditioning work then I would say drop that to a very low volume or brush it altogether but continue to work in the gym on strength, dropping sets, not intensity.
If you train hard and eat well all year, then 2 weeks off shouldn’t affect you too much. It is what you consistently do. If you eat shit and train with no intensity all year then you are screwed anyway, the Christmas break is just a good excuse for you to use to convince yourself that the break is why you are fat and weak.