The Holiday Season has begun, and with it the temptation of a bounty of less-than-healthy and physique friendly foods. We work extremely hard all year eating and training only to deviate from late November (Thanksgiving) until the first of the new year (New Years Day). Right in the middle we have the grandaddy of them all…Christmas. What if I were to lay out a strategy that would not only minimize the dietary damage done over this time period, but actually allow you to get leaner or make some great muscular gains. Impossible? NO!!! With the right strategy you will be amazed at the progress you can make and actually use this time period to your advantage, all while enjoying the feasts associated with these special days.
For two months we are faced with family get togethers, office parties, co-workers treats in the breakroom, neighbors gifts, etc. We are bombarded with tons of great tasting and incredibly unhealthy foods. In the spirit of the season it is hard to say no to what is offered. We find ourselves in situations that can be less than optimal in maintaining our normal nutritional protocols. I have a plan that can actually use this to our advantage…but it does require some discipline. The reward for that discipline is periods of unrestricted eating so you can enjoy those delicious foods popular this time of the year. I look forward to all of my Holiday favorites and enjoy the guilt free eating allowed with this plan.
The first step is planning ahead and setting yourself up for success. Now is the time to set the wheels in motion by transitioning to a very clean diet. For the days and weeks leading up to the big event (Thanksgiving and Christmas) every 6-8 meals should consist of lean protein, carbs in the form of fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and a small amount of complex carbohydrates. For some , this will not be much of a change from the normal diet. For others it will take some adjustment. Training (strength and cardio) should continue with your normal routine. Training may take a backseat during the rush and obligations this time of year, but, it is imperative that you make your workouts a priority. Even if it is an abbreviated version of your normal routine do not skip training sessions. This is key in making this plan work for you.
Below is an example of a day in the clean eating plan. Adjust as needed for your tastes, weight and macronutrient needs, and activity level.
- Meal 1: 2 Whole Eggs w/ 4 Egg Whites, 1/2C. Oats
- Meal 2: 4oz. Chicken Breast, 2C. Vegetables, 1/2oz. Raw Almonds
- Meal 3: 4oz. Lean Beef, 2C. Vegetables, 1/2oz. Raw Almonds
- Meal 4: Quest Protein Bar
- Meal 5: Post Workout Whey/Casein Blend Shake (20-40g)
- Meal 6: 4oz. Chicken Breast, 3/4C. Brown Rice, 4C. Salad Greens w/ 1T. Olive Oil
- Meal 7: 2 Whole Eggs w/ 4 Egg Whites Omelet w/ Spinach, Onions, and Green Peppers
This takes us up to the big day – Thanksgiving!!!!! My only recommendation for this day is to enjoy. Do not hold back and eat all you desire. Actually, since there will be plenty of leftovers, Friday is fair game also. Two full days of uninhibited eating should leave you satisfied, so now you go right back to the previous weeks clean eating plan. Follow this plan again for the next three weeks and keep your diet extremely clean. Train with your regular routine again and if possible pick up both the volume and intensity. This takes us into the Christmas Holidays and into another two-day refeed. Take Christmas Day and either Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas and enjoy to your hearts content the wealth of food available to you. Again, do not hold back and relish the opportunity to savor the things that are normally off limits.
Now we have one week until the end of the Holiday season. The days between Christmas and New Years Eve will be back to the clean eating plan. New Years Eve and New Years Day are again free days. Eat, drink (if you do), and celebrate the coming of a new year. At this point you should have already formulated a plan for the coming year to take your health, fitness, and physique goals to the next level. If you followed this plan you should already be headed in the right direction, and motivated that you can achieve great results in the coming year.
The Holiday Season nutrition plan that I presented is one that I have used successfully for many years. It is based on the same concept of dietary restriction and periodic refeeds that I employ for contest preparation. It will allow for optimal fat burning without the metabolic shutdown by alternating periods of lower carb/lower calorie intake with a few days of very high carbs and calories. At worst you should be able to maintain your current body comp…and do not be surprised if you come out leaner and more muscular.
If you are diligent with your training and nutrition throughout the Holiday season you can very much make these days work for you and go into the coming year energized and ready to go to new levels.