holiday party people

The Cyclists’ Ultimate Holiday Nutrition Guide

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Weight gain isn’t the only potential downside to out-of-control Holiday eating. After spending most of the year eating pretty well, sudden increases in sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol throw your sleep, workout performance, recovery, and mood all out of whack. I don’t just want you to wake up on New Year’s Day without an extra ten pounds; I want you to feel good and have fun during the Holidays so you can put your best foot forward in the New Year.

You don’t have to live like a monk for the month of December. There will be a lot of good food and great wine at upcoming social events. The key is to manage your indulgences. Enjoy them fully, but manage them in terms of number and frequency.

In life as in nutrition, go for quality instead of quantity. You want to have dessert? Get your absolute favorite and really enjoy it instead of sampling a bunch of items you will forget within minutes. The same goes for wine. If you’re going to drink, have a glass of the really good stuff instead of a bottle of something mediocre.

The CTS Coaches have used the following guidance to help thousands of athletes emerge from the Holiday Season feeling great, rested, energetic, and ready to go.

Do these 6 things

  1. Step away from the buffet:
    The closer you stand to the food, the more of it you’re going to eat. You’re at the party to socialize with friends and family. Visit the food, and then find a good location away from it for people watching and catching up.
  2. Shorten your workouts:
    Just because you’re schedule is packed, that’s no reason to forego exercise. Even short workouts are beneficial. On top of burning calories to keep weight off, workouts that are even 30-45 minutes help keep your fitness from eroding out from under you. If you have a little more time, try this 55-minute indoor cycling workout.
  3. Seek healthy food options:
    Cranberries are packed with antioxidants and sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene and quality protein. Want a simple dish to take to a party? Slice sweet potato wedges, spray lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne pepper before baking at 350 degrees until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes).
  4. Stay sober:
    Alcohol has no redeeming qualities for athletes. There might be some long-term health benefits for moderate alcohol intake, but in the short term it’s not doing you any favors. The more you drink at a party, the more you’re going to eat, and your food choices will likely steer toward sugar, salt, and fat.Alcohol reduces the quality of your sleep, which hinders your recovery from training. In December you’re training hours are likely already down due to social and work commitments. Alcohol just adds insult to injury by hindering your recovery and diminishing the quality of tomorrow’s workouts.
  5. If you drink, make good choices:
    Beer has fewer calories per ounce, but wine is served in smaller quantities. A four-ounce glass of wine has about 90-95 calories. Beer has a range, since light beers are about 100 calories for 12 ounces and craft beers are about 160-180 calories for 12 ounces, which can bump up to about 240 for a full pint. There are about 95-100 calories in a typical 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof (40% alcohol) spirits. If you’re having mixed drinks, try to choose low-calorie or no-calorie mixers like seltzer/sparkling water instead of tonic water. And nurse your drink; people won’t try to get you a new drink if there’s already one in your hand.
  6. Arrange your plate wisely: Go through the buffet line and fill the surface of your plate. Spread the food out, but avoid piling it up. Research into eating behaviors shows you are extremely likely to finish whatever you put on your plate, even though eating more food doesn’t increase your level satisfaction.At the same time, people also eat with their eyes, in that what you see on your plate affects your anticipation of feeling full or getting enough. This is where the “small plates” theory sometimes fails people. You see the small plate, and even though the amount of food on it is enough to satisfy you, there’s still a sense of deprivation.One potential way around this sense of depriving yourself is to take the big plate and distribute the food more widely. If it sounds like a trick, that’s because it is. But then again, our brains trick us all the time into eating and drinking more than we should; at least this is a trick in your favor.

Don’t do these 5 things

  1. Don’t go to the party hungry:
    Having a snack or a small meal before heading out to the party will keep you from gorging yourself. The best foods for this snack are high in fiber or low on the glycemic index, because these are the most filling. Think vegetables and hummus rather than cookies.
  2. Don’t skip meals to “save up” calories:
    Some people skip breakfast or lunch in anticipation of indulging at a party. Despite good intentions, this often accentuates cravings and provides a false sense of “I’ve earned this”. Where you might have normally indulged a little bit, you end up going overboard.
  3. Don’t let stress wear you down:
    People make poor decisions when we’re tired and stressed out. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the holiday season. Find the days and weeks that will be tough because of schedules, parties, and travel; as well as the days where you can recuperate and pencil in time for yourself.
  4. Don’t take or keep leftover sweets:
    Make your home your refuge from the holiday dessert overload. If you go to someone else’s party, don’t leave with their extra pie or cookies. If it’s your party, give the pie someone else. Take treats into the office the next day, but don’t keep them in your house. If no one will take them, toss them.
  5. Don’t close down the party:
    Make a memorable appearance at the party, socialize, eat, drink, thank the host, and then find a reason to leave. The longer you stay, the more you will eat and drink, and the later it gets, the more you’re likely to overindulge, in a variety of ways.

It’s important to keep the holiday season in perspective and do your best to maintain your normal routines. Continue exercising, but don’t obsess about every calorie you put in your mouth or burn off with activity. And even if you start to gain weight, it’s not the end of the world; just keep your gains under control. Three to five pounds will melt off within a few weeks after the holidays, but it could take well into the spring to shed 15. Above all, stay safe and enjoy the opportunities this season presents to spend more time with friends and loved ones.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS


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Comments 11

  1. I can’t predict if it’s any very prevalent from the UFC. Meanwhile, miss a payment on your own card
    to Bank of America or Citi Group and you, sir, are paying
    juice at 30%. Are you tired of one’s present television situation?

  2. Although I’m slowly putting on pounds now (stress), I’ve been successful with changing my food habits cause I choose healthier versions of flavors I want. E.x. (don’t laugh) a fruit salad I make that includes pineapple, walnuts, various melons, apples, raisons, NO sugar. This satisfies my sweet tooth through most of the week. Salt urges = steamed broccoli, cauliflower (I treat this like potato), and green beans – salted. Mexican flavors – add tomato and cilantro. Chocolate urges: bananas with peanut butter (dried plus real mixed together) – has the same texture as chocolate.

  3. All work and no play make Kevin a dull boy. I eat and drink what I want from about Sep.t/Oct. to the beginning of January. Then it is no sugar (refined), yeast, dairy, wheat. Very little processed foods.

    I actually increase the frequency of eating and probably the calories too, but the workouts increase and the lbs come off.

    Enjoy life and food, you are going to die no matter what you do. Plus many cyclists are or are one step away from having an eating disorder.

  4. I just got to the liquor store in time last night before it closed. I got a bottle of single malt which I only do this time of year. Ride hard and drink some and be Happy and Safe. Happy Holidays to all!

  5. The first 6-8 months of healthy eating and eating less are the hardest because you’re used to eating large portions and eating lots of junk. Once I got through this period, the rest was relatively easy – I just couldn’t eat as much as I used to, I no longer ate until I was full, and my internal food censor steered me towards fruits and veggies and away from cookies and other sweets.

    I also figured out a formula that worked for me. We’ve all heard the old “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” saying. The problem was, when I ate a big breakfast it piled up too many calories in at the beginning of the day. By the end of the day, I was too hungry to satisfy myself with a pauper dinner and I would end up overeating. I found that eating a balanced, but relatively small breakfast and lunch piled up a big enough calorie deficit that I could eat a moderate dinner and still stay under by 1600-1700 daily calorie budget.

    This runs counter to most diet advice, but it works for me.

  6. You need to get as lean and fit as you can..to live longer. But you may as well turn your identity into a great cyclist! Counting calories is tough. So is exercising just because you’re supposed to. Choosing healthy foods and training for events is more effective and rewarding.
    1) Eat plant based foods, not processed. Follow the Mediterranean diet and snack on nuts. (The most clinically proven diet for preventing heart disease, cancer and weight gain)
    2) Sign up for an event or several and learn how to train with Chris at CTS. (I was healthiest the three years I just signed myself up for the Leadville MTB race since I was scared into getting lean and fit!)
    3) Fear not the statin. They’ve saved more lives than any stents or bypass surgeries. (I take atorvastatin 80m daily without any risk factors because they work, and I know my muscles ached as much from doing intervals way before I started the statin.)
    Cardiologist, Boise Idaho

  7. Do you have any holiday suggestions for someone whose doctor has told them that his/her blood pressure is 150/70 and either cut out the sodium or go on statins? That his/her H1ac is 6.4 and that to prevent in increasing to diabetic levels, he/she should avoid sugary food and drink? That his/her LDL is 155mg/dL and that if it increases, he will prescribe statins?

    So, no bacon, no cheese, no fired potatoes, no butter, no fruit juice, only 1alcoholic drink

    What are your recommendations?

    1. I’m diabetic, with cholesterol issues and allergic to statins. Frequent exercise, with a good dose of intensity, is the best possible thing for controlling A1c, cholesterol and blood pressure. Reasonable dietary choices are important, but cutting everything “bad” out is a recipe for disaster. You’ll feel deprived, and resentful and won’t stay “clean” for long. Then you’ll feel guilty for “cheating” and swear off the “bad” stuff. Repeat ad nauseam.

      Have the chocolate covered bacon, just not often, and not a lot. Explore new foods or new preparations of familiar foods to break the habit of a high fat/starch diet. And if a goal helps you stick to a fitness regimen, enter a race, or a gran fondo, or a big charity ride.

      Above all don’t think of the dietary and exercise changes as something you’re doing because your doctor (or someone else) said to. It’s something you’re doing because you want to, and it’s not a “diet”, it’s changing the way you think about food. It’s not “exercise”, it’s training. Either for an event, or just because you want to.

      Good luck!

    2. You have a lot going on as we head into the holidays. The majority of the advice still applies to you. Continue to exercise as this improves your body’s insulin sensitivity and will help not only your blood glucose but your blood pressure and cholesterol. Go heavy on the vegetables, as stated, making up half of your plate. Avoid the obvious high sugar items and ask your doctor for a consult to a dietitian. And take a friend or your spouse with you so you get the most out of it and someone else can understand and be supportive. Best wishes.

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