The Athlete’s Top 11 Tips for Holiday Eating

Holiday Eating for Athletes

The holiday season is upon us, and while this is a fun and festive season, it can also be challenging to stay on track with healthy eating and training, which can lead to weight gain and loss of fitness. Read on for my top 11 tips for holiday eating for athletes.

As Jan 1st rolls around, we will resolve to lose the weight gained, clean up the diet, and make up for lost training time. But it doesn’t have to be all indulgence or deprivation, nor spending January and February unwinding the mess we made during the “happiest” season of all. So lean in as we lay out the top tips to help you navigate this holiday season, so you greet the new year ahead of the game, with the resolution to continue eating balanced and healthy, getting more fit and ready to smash your 2019 goals.

athlete's tips for holiday eatingTip #1: Food Boundaries
One of the biggest pitfalls we make during the holiday season is turning a single food event into a month-long indulgence. By stringing one party into another – we find ourselves making excuses to splurge every day. Rather than letting one feast carry over into tomorrow’s breakfast, create boundaries for intentional allowances. Remember, is it what we do 80% of the time that makes the difference so we can allow some flexibility 20% of the time

Tip #2: Eat Breakfast
Never skip breakfast (or meals/snacks) in an attempt to bank calories for the big food event. This will only lead to overeating. Start your day with lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fat (aiming for all macronutrients to be present) to avoid the low blood sugar crash, hormonal rollercoaster, uncontrollable food cravings and all-out binge fest that will result from a good intention gone off the rails.

Tip #3: Be Mindful – Self Aware
Research shows that emotional eating is the number one reason we overeat followed by external cues, then taste and finally hunger. The holidays can bring out a rollercoaster of emotions thus lead to self-medicating/celebrating with food/alcohol. My suggestion this holiday season is to eat mindfully and slowly, pay attention to hunger/fullness cues never letting your self-feel starved or stuffed. At holiday parties, focus on the company and conversation and not on the food. If it helps, socialize away from the tempting food, which will ease unneeded temptations.

Tip #4: Load up on veggies
When taking inventory of the buffet or the Hor d’Oeuvre platter, look for fruits and veggies that aren’t smothered in cream sauces and fill at least half your plate with a colorful array. 

JoyTip #5: Abandon Negativity
While enjoying the foods that you love, avoid feelings of guilt or self-criticism. Give yourself permission to have the treat guilt-free then resume your regular healthy eating regimen at the next meal. In that light, avoid comparing yourself to others – we are all on our own journey and where others are on their path has no bearing on you. There is plenty of success to go around.

Tip #6: Get your Zzz’s
Navigating work, holiday parties, shopping, and the mile-long to-do list makes it easy to skimp on sleep. But, consistently getting 6-9 hours (varying from person to person) nightly helps regulate hormones, promotes recovery, reduces cravings, and gives you more energy to get that to-do list checked off. Aim to get off the technology at least one hour before bed and instead, read a book or have quiet time so you can adequately unwind the body and mind.

Tip #7: Out of sight – out of mind
When food is visible, we tend to eat more than double what we would eat if the food were either not visible or more than 6 feet away (we have to get up to get more). One way to make chocolates or candies less tempting is by not putting them in dishes around your house or at work. In fact, move them to where you can’t see them or to your coworker’s desk. Out of sight, out of mind. If you are at a party and there is a food buffet, choose a smaller plate and fill up on fruits/veggies first.

Tip #8: Drink in moderation
Alcohol reduces inhibitions, and therefore we tend to eat more when drinking. Plus, alcohol provides nutrient void calories. If you choose to drink, eat healthy foods first and drink plenty of water, so you are less likely to overeat and overdrink. Prioritize what is important and make wise decisions.

Holiday Eating for AthletesTip #9:  Choose wisely
We all have special holiday foods that we look forward to all year long. There is nothing wrong with that. If you can’t live without pumpkin pie, then by all means, have your piece of pumpkin pie but give up the chocolates, chips and dip and all the indulgences in place of your special holiday treat. It will make your treat even more special, and you won’t have the additional unneeded calories.

Tip #10: Carve out some time for training 
While the very nature of the holiday season chips away at our available training time, prioritizing key workouts, even for a portion of the duration, goes a long way in maintaining aerobic fitness, range of motion, and technical improvements. Trust me you don’t want to find yourself on January 1st starting from square one. Remember, something is always better than nothing.

Tip #11: Post Season Fueling
It would be amiss to leave out guidelines for fueling in and around workouts during this time of year. If you have completed your races this year and are in the post-season training phase, this applies to you.

  • Prioritize a post-workout snack immediately following every workout. Ideally go with real food (some carbohydrate, protein and a little fat), unless you’re on the go and need something convenient.
  • There is no need to fuel during a workout that is 75 minutes or less. Just be sure to hydrate during the session and include a post-workout snack.
  • During an easy, aerobic ride lasting 2 hours or more, forgo the sugary sports fuel/drinks and replace with real food – such as banana, orange, or granola bar, etc.
  • Want more details on Post Season Fueling? Check out Post Season Eating Guidelines.

I hope you find these holiday eating tips for athletes helpful. Got questions or tips of your own? Share them below!

Happy Holidays and Bon Appetite!

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