Christmas should be a time to savour and enjoy. A time to relax, unwind and indulge yourself a little. This two-part series will provide you with some short and sweet little titbits to help enjoy Christmas without derailing your training and body composition goals.
Today’s batch of tips focus on what you can do over the festive period as whole.
- Use a high volume training cycle over Christmas
The goal of high volume, hypertrophy-type training programmes is to build muscle and burn fat – just what the doctor ordered for the festive period. As it’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll be consuming more calories than we need, we might as well try and channel these calories into something productive. Don’t neglect strength though, simply start with some heavy 1-6 rep sets before hitting the volume work.
- Be more active
Activity does not equate to training – and nor should it – you should always be trying to lead as active a lifestyle as is possible outside of the gym. Even short periods (30 minutes or so) of sedentary ‘activity’ will impair parameters such as insulin sensitivity and metabolism. Instead of sitting down with the family to watch Shrek for the hundredth time, why not take them out for game of football (or rugby if you’ve brought them up properly)?
- Consider an intermittent-fasting-come-carb-backloading-type approach
Countless studies show the potential benefits of short periods of calorie restriction and, whilst I’ll forgo the specifics, it may offset the potential damage caused by big feasts. If fasting approaches aren’t for you, try backloading the majority of your food intake (and carbohydrates in particular) towards the end of the day. Start the day with smaller meals – and high proportions of protein and fat – before feasting big later in the day.
- Plan where your cheat meals will be
Think of Christmas like mini periodisation cycle – treat your big Christmas events like you would a match or a tournament and then plan around them. Put the more demanding, higher volume training sessions on days when you’re likely to eat big. Go into a big feast off the back of a few days of lower carb or calorie restriction. Add a conditioning session the day after. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Poor quality and/or insufficient sleep kicks off a whole host of hormonal imbalances, perhaps most notably the elevation of cortisol and depression of growth hormone. As you’re much more likely to make poorer food choices and to consume excess calories when sleep deprived because of some of these hormonal changes, try to maintain a regular sleep pattern over the Christmas period. If you’re always chopping and changing the times when you go to bed or wake up, sleep quality will suffer and may well be putting on unnecessary pounds.
- Perform sprint conditioning sessions
Nothing like some high intensity interval training to kick-start your metabolism and put your body in fat burning mode. Performing short, sharp sprints will ensure that you’re not eating into too much muscle, so perform 5-6 repetitions of 10-30 seconds and call it a day. Hill sprints are a great option here – these will take some of the stress off the often troublesome knees and hamstrings but still leave you knowing you’ve had a good session.
- Relax and enjoy!
It’s scientific proof that the odd cheat is good for you so as long as you stick to your plans for 90% of the year you’ll be fine. The worst thing you can do is to start obsessing and worrying about what you’re eating or about what you’re not training. Hopefully we all know that stress = cortisol, and that excess cortisol = fat gain and muscle loss. Relax, enjoy, be festive!
Stay tuned for part two coming over the next few days – this will focus on some specific Christmas eating tips that you can employ on the big day itself!