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How to maximize bad eating habits during the silly season

  |   Diet, Programs, Training   |   19 Comments
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Fitness advice is often shrouded in irony.

You spend all year training hard and refining your physique, and when it comes time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour with some much needed rest and time with the family, we are told that it’s ‘not ok’ and that you shouldn’t be letting your guard down.

The ‘proof’ is in the media

Just flip open any one of your trashy mags (I know you have some) and you’ll be sure to find any number of articles written on subjects such as ‘How to prevent gaining fat this Christmas Period’ or ‘The Top 20 ways to avoid becoming Santa’.

Just recently it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, an alternate perspective on the situation was needed.

Can’t we make the ‘most’ of this time, rather than succumbing to pudding, turkey and egg-nog abstinence?

Bad eating habits and caloric surplus abounds us this time of year

Name the only time you EVER want to be in a caloric surplus? (I bet you can).

That’s right — it’s when you’re trying to add ‘muscle’ to your frame.

Maintenance and fat-loss a flawed approach?

Whilst a lot of people will be trying to ‘maintain’ their current shape and weight, others will be desperately trying to lose fat during the lead up to the extended beach and pool time over the festive season (I’m talking to those south of the equator here).

Whilst both of those goals are completely fine to have, they can be potentially unrealistic this time of year.

Maintenance is probably the easier of the two (especially if you don’t drink alcohol), but losing body fat during this time (if you have an active social life), can be next to impossible for those that are lacking even one tiny iota of willpower.

Switch your training to hypertrophy

It ‘sounds’ easy enough doesn’t it? Eat more, gain muscle.

If only that was the case.

Whilst you need to ingest more calories than you expend in order to gain mass, it’s critical that a few key factors are adhered to:

  • Train in a muscle-promoting fashion – This means higher reps (8-12) and shorter rests (45-60 seconds).
  • Keep your carbs and protein relatively high on training days (which shouldn’t be too hard during the month of December).
  • Be careful with your alcohol consumption – this is the biggest problem that you’ll be faced with during the festive season. If you’re going to increase your calories via the food you’re ingesting, you’re going to need to cut back on the calories coming from alcohol. Alcohol does bad things to your body in regards to fat-gain, and I’ve written a bunch on that topic in my book, as well as this article >
  • Train consistently (try for a minimum of three days per week), with maximum intensity at all times.

What about for women?

This idea is gender agnostic and will work for both sexes. I’ve written about the difficulties women face in regards to building muscle due to hormonal profiles numerous times before (and it’s a discussion for another article).

However, rest assured that the farer sex will have a pretty hard time becoming a huge, muscle-bound gorilla with some minor ‘tweaks’ to training (especially over a one-month period that I’m suggesting).

Why 8-12 reps?

The 8-12 rep range is considered to be a ‘moderate’ rep range (with 15+ being considered the ‘highest’ range).

It’s the rep range that’s been proven to offer the most bang for buck in regards to building muscle. The increased time under tension will stimulate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (muscle growth) especially when coupled with shorter rest periods (as mentioned previously).

christmas ham

Who can resist the Christmas Ham…

Keep the protein and carbs moderately high

This part should prove to be a no-brainer. You’re probably going to be susceptible to canapes and finger-food throughout the month of December (due to office Christmas parties and the like). Add these ‘extra’ calories to your ‘already solid eating plan’ and you should have no trouble reaching your macronutrient requirements each day/week.

Note: Make sure to lower your carbs on non-training days, and replace them with ‘good’ fats. No need to re-fill the tank of your car when you aren’t driving anywhere right?

Alcohol consumption

Alcohol intake is arguably the deciding factor that will tip your surplus of calories from ‘muscle gains’ into ‘fat gains’.

It is for this reason, you’ll need to find a ‘balance’. By that I mean — if you KNOW that you’ll be drinking copious amounts of red wine during a Christmas party, then abstain from eating heavily throughout the earlier part of the day.

Perhaps try Intermittent Fasting. Skip breakfast, eat a mid-afternoon (small) meal around lunch time, then you’re good to go.

Sure, you have a good chance of tipping your caloric intake into ‘more than a surplus’, but at least the negatives will only be ‘slight’ and you’ve given yourself a fighting chance.

train with intensity

Push yourself to ‘the limit’ to make the most out of your caloric surplus

Train consistently and with intensity

What often follows closely behind parties and family gatherings, is a sudden lack of motivation to train or time to do so.

I’m not saying that taking a week off here and there is a bad thing (not by a long shot) — rather that you can still push through this period and fit in some form of resistance training at least three days per week whilst being in a caloric surplus.

Maximise your intensity in the gym

When you DO have time to train, make sure you’re training yourself with maximum intensity. Half-assed workouts will doing nothing for muscle growth, and will more than likely have you pack on ‘pounds’ in the form of fat rather than muscle.

Not ideal.

To wrap it up

I’ll probably be lambasted for even trying to promote such a mindset — Telling people to potentially over-eat and drink to excess.

I’m not suggesting that at all.

I call it ‘making the most of a less-than-ideal situation’.

Get real…

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know that I’m a realist in every sense of the word — and at this time of year I’d rather be rewarding myself rather than ‘feeling guilty’ (naturally without undoing all of the year’s hard work :)).

Sure you may add a little bit to the waistline come December 25th, but hopefully you’ll have added some muscle at the same time. You can always switch to ‘fat burning’ mode during January right?

Life’s too short after all.

Over to you…

What are your goals for the impending ‘Silly Season’?
Think you’ll switch to muscle-gain, fat-loss or maintenance? Comment below.

AUTHOR - Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

    • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

      Thanks Alexander. I’m glad you’ve found it both interesting and useful :)

      • http://www.ironwarriorsfitness.com Alex Garbuz

        I wish you wrote this a year ago :)

        • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

          Hah ! Better late than never hey ;)

  • http://superbootcamps.com George

    Good read Clint,

    I like the reversal of the regular paradigm, and I think that with your approach, or the opposite, people should be able to stop their bodies from going to crap over the festive season.

    For me, it’s a case of using fasting to get me through; I’m taking a week holiday and won’t be hitting the gym at all during this time. I will go for a few decent walks in the hills though, and will combine this with both 16:8 fasting (my regular approach, I use this every day now, breakfast only rarely), and some longer fasts. I’ll also make sure I get some walking in after the biggest meals. Last year I went for a solid hour of hill walking after the Christmas dinner, and everyone else had gone to bed (my dad lives in a good hilly town). The dogs thoroughly enjoyed it, and I felt soooo much better afterward.

    Do you plan to ramp up the training volume as well as modify the rep ranges for your own training?

    Cheers
    George

    • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

      I think I’ll be a little under the weather on Xmas day to be doing any form of exercise. Kind of a tradition to eat and drink in excess on that one particular day.

      In regards to shifting my own training around – I’ve been ramping up my own rep ranges and will probably aim for mass over this period as well.

  • Maria

    Hi Clint! Nice article. I’m a woman and I train 3-4x a week. I keep hearing conflicting stories on what to lift and how many times. This article maintains that building muscle will come with reps in 8-12 range (which means lighter weights?) I’ve also heard heavier weight in the 4-6 rep range will build muscle. Help!

    • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

      8-12 means ‘lighter weights’ but only in comparison to what you’d lift, for say, within the 4-6 rep range. 4-6 reps will have you gain considerable strength and potentially some muscle density, but it’s chances of building size are pretty slim.

  • Drew

    Not much different than I am doing now. I am planning on getting your program after I finish Visual Impact

    I really want to cut and shape my abs. I have six pack but unfortunately it is hard to maintain. It goes away after a big meal and is not really visible in daylight. ;(

    I been working on carb cycling. Sunday – Keto Monday – Low Carb Tuesday 150 carbs, Wednesday Keto, Thursday 150 carb, Friday low carb, Saturday Keto.

    i find this has been pretty manageable.

    • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

      Nice one :)

      I used carb cycling quite heavily around 5 years ago with some great results. I’ve found it harder to adhere to long term however.

    • http://revealthesteel.com/crudefitness Clint

      I’d suggest a lot of people have “too much going on” at thus time of year to be able to step it up a notch. Props to you for being able to do so.

  • Анна

    I was long addicted to junk food which caused a lot of extra pounds. I
    knew that in order to lose weight I had to change my eating habits and lifestyle.
    I started going to the gym. I must say, it was very hard at the beginning since
    I was not accustomed to doing any sports from my childhood. I strongly needed
    some additional force to kick me off the sofa each time. I was thinking of some
    energy drinks, but finally decided to go the natural way. I’ve tried a
    nutritional supplement called Navy Seal Formula by Military Grade. The result
    was felt very quickly. I take it before going to the gym and in 1 hour I am
    full of energy. Now I’ve started losing my pounds and keep working on healthier
    nutrition.

  • Анна

    I was long addicted to junk food which caused a lot of extra pounds. I
    knew that in order to lose weight I had to change my eating habits and lifestyle.
    I started going to the gym. I must say, it was very hard at the beginning since
    I was not accustomed to doing any sports from my childhood. I strongly needed
    some additional force to kick me off the sofa each time. I was thinking of some
    energy drinks, but finally decided to go the natural way. I’ve tried a
    nutritional supplement called Navy Seal Formula by Military Grade. The result
    was felt very quickly. I take it before going to the gym and in 1 hour I am full
    of energy. Now I’ve started losing my pounds and keep working on healthier
    nutrition.