F.I.T. Blog

Dec. 2020 – The BEST Healthy Holiday Eating Advice Ever!

Ladies and Gentlemen, something all of us have been wanting to hear for a long time, 2021 is right around the corner!

Usually, the holiday season is a time of celebration for many, followed by regret and then a renewed energy to better oneself as the New Year approaches.

I don’t think this year will be dramatically different, BUT there is a part of that I think we can act on to make 2021 truly a year of betterment!

And it starts with the word ACT. Yes, it’s going to take action on your part. Sorry no magic pills being given out…

Celebration is necessary this holiday season. We have been quarantined, isolated, some might say trapped, for the last 9 months. We all need some joy and laughter with those we love and the holidays provide that for us.

However, the holidays also involve food, usually in large quantities and quite sweet and savory. Sugar and fat are abundant in most every holiday recipe. It’s made with love, it’s often nostalgic and damnit, IT TASTES GOOD!

And that is where the regret comes in. The holidays end and the cookies, cakes, pies are all gone. You then realize you completely derailed the progress you made on your eating habits or worse, you were struggling going into the holidays and you fell off a cliff in 5 days of celebrating.

You have experienced this, correct?

Don’t worry, so have I. But I have some interesting ideas that might help change the scenario.

Here’s some things that I know (at least about the people at FIT)

  1. You want to enjoy the holidays and part of that is the food
  2. You don’t want to derail yourself over two weeks of December
  3. You like training
  4. You like learning

If the 4 things above speak to you, keep reading.

And if you don’t want to learn, just skip to the last section where it tells you exactly what to do. 🙂

State Based Nutrition

Most of the holiday foods that tend to be consumed in above average quantities consist of sugar and fat. Hence the typical suggestion to eat a large amount of protein to fill yourself up prior to going to a holiday celebration.

But, what if that protein is actually making you more complacent and lethargic, potentially lowering your inhibitions and ability to resist the holiday treats?

Neurologically, the macro nutrients: carbs (sugar in our situation), protein and fat all have different impacts on our response to them.

Fats are going to be the neutral party in this situation. It’s not that they don’t have an impact, but you will understand shortly.

Carbs (sugar specifically) will cause the body to edge towards a sympathetic response (often termed fight or flight). It is basically like adding gas to a fire. Time to go! So, neurologically speaking, we should go do something. More on that later.

Protein, on the other end of the spectrum, takes significant energy to digest. Particularly when it comes to things like dark meat of birds, fattier meats (prime rib vs filet) etc. So,when we consume protein in large quantities, it tends to put us in a parasympathetic state (often termed rest and digest). So we shut down the systems, focus our energy on digestion, causing us to want to lounge on the couch and maybe take a nap. Sound familiar?

Conclusion, carbs and protein lie on different ends of the peripheral nervous system’s response spectrum. If we consume both at the same time, we are sending the body conflicting signals. Fats are the constant in both types of foods during the holidays hence their Switzerland-like role in this discussion.

What to actually do!

This is where you need to actually take ACTION!

Here is my suggested solution to this problem. I plan on implementing this myself this holiday and I encourage you to do the same and let me know your results.

First, when you decide to eat the sweet treats, eat them. And eat as much as you want. Don’t just gorge yourself, ENJOY them: the taste, the texture, the love that went into them. It should be an experience that you appreciate as opposed to feeling like you are a bad person for eating them.

Then, when you are full of fuel being dumped on your proverbial fire, go out and DO something.

The simplest thing is to go for a walk and bring family and friends along.

What I am going to do, because I am already viewed as the weirdo who likes to workout and try strange things, is take a sandbag along and go for a walk. For those of you that have done sandbag walks, you know that doing this requires SIGNIFICANTLY more effort. But, the key is, it’s not a skilled movement.

You literally pick the sandbag up, hug it as hard as you can and walk as far as you can. Then drop it, rest, pick it up and go again. Do it for as long as you want.

My colleagues at Strongfit call this kind of exercise low WES structure training. W: low weight bearing because nothing is compressing the spine like a barbell. E: low eccentric because you don’t have to move the weight, just hold it. S: low skill because well, you pick up a bag and walk with it.

And structure because it helps you develop the structural musculature necessary to do the more skilled movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, snatches, cleans, jerks etc.

It’s the foundation we all need to continue to build as our skills develop further so we can handle the weight we are training to attempt.

And metabolically speaking, we are using the fuel we just added to the fire, training for the state we just put ourselves into, fight or flight!

Oh and if you want a video on how to make a low cost, high quality softener salt bag or actual sand bags, check out these videos.

Our own John Baron demoing how to duct tape a salt bag

Our friends at Badger Crossfit making a sandbag out of pea gravel or sand and duct tape

What about the delicious protein?

Protein is typically the main focus of the holiday meal. At least at our celebrations. Cookies and treats are out from start to finish. But, when the meal starts, you load up with whatever holiday bird or animal is the family tradition.

My advice is the same: enjoy the damn food! Seriously, you should. It’s a time to celebrate.

If you can, minimize the sugary carbs you consume with the meal though. Give the protein full access to the gut for digestion. I mean you just beat the muscles up, gotta get them the rebuilding power of amino acids!

Then, when the meal is done, RELAX! Sit on the couch, watch some sports or holiday movies and enjoy the company of family, be it in person or virtually this year. And if you fall asleep, no biggie. It wouldn’t come as a shock to me and I say, embrace it.

Putting a bow on this thing

So to recap:

  1. Eat all the sugary treats you want with intention – enjoy the smells, tastes and textures DON’T just shovel them in
  2. Go out for a walk, use the fuel to take ACTION and grab a sandbag while you are at it!
  3. Feel awesome because, trust me, you will!
  4. Have your delicious holiday meal, avoiding the sugary treats. You already had them!
  5. R-E-L-A-X and let the protein digest well
  6. Repeat as many times as you celebrate the holidays

Now, am I saying that this will make you ripped and lean coming out of the holidays, not necessarily. It honestly might but that isn’t the point.

You deserve to celebrate the holidays properly, this year more than ever. So I want you to. And, if you act on the state you put your body in with the food you consume, you set yourself up for better digestion, better sleep, better recovery and of course, a nice afterburner effect from carrying a sandbag around 🙂

Happy Holidays everyone!
Coach Jared



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