If you are anything like me then you know how insanely easy it is to gain a few unwanted pounds of fat this time of year.
This is the norm with most folks as the average weight gain around the holiday season is about two pounds. Doesn’t sound like much but when you add it onto last year’s two pounds and the two pounds from the year before you can see how things can get out of hand.
This year has been especially tough for me since so far this month I have been to four parties and there are at least two major blowouts coming up with Christmas and New Years. These events are all the same- carbs, carbs and more carbs! And then to wash it all down we have (you guessed it) booze!
From a dietary standpoint three simple words can describe the Holidays- Total Freaking Disaster.
But what if there was a way to turn the tables this Holiday season? What if there was a way to make it so that all of these indulgences caused us to gain more muscle instead of more fat? Would you be interested?
Turning Mash Potatoes into Muscles
In years past I was always that guy. You know the one- the guy who would eat nothing but dry turkey and broccoli at Christmas dinner for fear of gaining an extra pound or two.
Thankfully, in recent years I have learned that such monk like sacrifice was unnecessary if not downright counterproductive. In fact, I discovered that if you do things correctly not only can you indulge over the Holidays and not ruin your physique- you can actually end up looking better than ever. Here is how it’s done;
The Days Before The Big Meal
Time to create a calorie deficit. Let’s say that you have a party planned for Saturday and you know that you are going to indulge. On the days leading up to the event start reducing your calories- especially your carbohydrates (breads, pastas, potatoes, rice, desserts, treats and the like). The goal is to get your body into a calorie deficit and out of a maintenance or (gasp) surplus. If you are a person who exercises regularly then do this for 3 days prior to your event. If you are not a regular exerciser then aim for at least 5 days.
The Day of The Big Meal
On the morning of your high calorie day complete a whole body workout. If you don’t have access to a gym then simply perform a circuit of squats, pushups, lunges (or step-ups), renegade rows and burpees. Choose exercises that work the large muscle groups and perform each exercise for 30 – 60 seconds in a circuit fashion one after the other. Repeat this for a total of 3-4 rounds. This shouldn’t take you longer than 15 minutes or so.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to some exercise equipment then you can perform a more intense workout. This is my preference- to perform a hard workout using moderate to heavy resistance. I will do barbell squats or dead lifts, pull ups, barbell shoulder presses, weighted step ups, dips and bicep curls. Because of my training experience I prefer to keep the weights heavy and lift in the 6-8 rep range for multiple sets. In this type of workout I prefer to use super sets (two exercises back to back with no rest in between) instead of circuits as described above.
If you are a cardio junkie and don’t want to do any of the above then perform interval training using sprints (either on the road or treadmill). If you can do them on a hill or an incline setting on the treadmill it is even better. Sprinting works the legs hard and will have a similar effect to the exercises above. 6-10 hard intervals of 30 seconds sprint/30-60 seconds walk should do the trick.
All of this exercise serves to deplete glycogen and activate Glut 4- a glucose transporter that helps to shuttle nutrients into your muscles instead of your fat cells.
Food & Drink
While there are no limits to what you can eat on this day there are some food combinations that will “work” better than others. High carbohydrate foods such as bread, potatoes, stuffing, rice etc are best paired with high protein selections- not high fat. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have any gravy on your turkey- just don’t go having the whole gravy boat full. Always select the foods with the highest nutritional value (sweet potato over white potato for example).
As for beverages because your calories and carbs will be high don’t go having copious amounts of fruit juice. Fructose is easily converted to fat during these high carb blow outs. Water is always best but don’t be afraid of having a glass or two of red wine as well.
For me this is always the best part. I absolutely LOVE leftovers! The trick is to only take home those foods that you know are healthy. In other words say “yes “to the turkey, veggies and sweet potatoes and “no” to the stuffing, gravy and desserts.
Don’t hit the couch!
It is inevitable- once the meal is done someone is going to end up on the couch and catching some zzz’s. Don’t let this be you. After eating a massive meal your body will shift a significant amount of its energy resources to the job of digestion and this can make you feel very sluggish. Resist the urge to crash. Stay awake and try to perform some very light activity such as a walk around the block. This will further assist in digestion and burn off a few of those delicious calories!
The Day After
Now this is an awesome day for muscle building! All of your glycogen stores will be filled and your body will be primed for some serious muscle growth. Take advantage of this window of opportunity by performing another high volume, heavy workout. Your bodies muscle building hormones will be amped up today and you will experience some tremendous “pumps”. Don’t know what “the pump” is? Perhaps it’s better if I let Arnold explain…
Wishing you health, prosperity and muscles for 2013!