The Yuletide season draws near, and across the land, people are filled with Christmas cheer. But for all the merriment of the season, the fitness fanatics among us are likely also experiencing an uneasy sense of anxiety in the pits of their stomachs.
What does a period of near-unlimited feasting and closed gyms mean for those precious gains? Does Santa give with one hand only to take with the other?
Don’t sweat it, Scrooge. Here are some tricks to help you hold onto those gains while getting festive.
Find 10 minutes here and there for a HIIT session
You’re not likely to want to make the time for an hour or two of normal training during the holiday season, even if you’re able to find a conveniently situated and open gym during that time. Christmas is a time most of us spend visiting family, meeting with friends, and indulging the primal desire to be lazy.
So, here’s a compromise instead. Rather than shooting for a conventional workout, try and dedicate just 10 minutes or so each morning to a high intensity, bodyweight, Tabata-style workout.
In case you were wondering, Tabata training involves doing circuits of various exercises back-to-back, with only very short rest times at the end of each circuit and no rest at all between exercises. A Tabata-style workout could be something like 20 pushups, 20 squats, 20 crunches, and 20 burpees, done for 10 rounds.
It also just so happens that HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts such as Tabata have been linked by various studies to dramatic fat loss and cardio conditioning benefits, not to mention muscle growth.
Over-eat on the protein rather than the sugar
Christmas time is generally full of sweet treats for the discerning celebrant to enjoy. The only issue is that a lot of sugar is likely to lead to a good deal of weight gain.
Added protein intake, on the other hand, has been linked to improved preservation of lean body mass in dieting individuals.
Now, you’re obviously not about to be dieting your way through Christmas (seriously, you’re not, are you? Don’t be silly). Nonetheless, if you’re worried about maintaining your strength and size gains, and would like to stay relatively lean, you could do a lot worse than overeating on the protein and let the sugar take a back seat.
Try a bit of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has been a pretty hot diet trend for a while now. All in all, it’s probably best not to stick to it long-term, as at least one 2017 study has linked skipping breakfast to a greater risk of heart disease.
At the same time, though, intermittent fasting might just be a great short-term habit to pick up over the holiday season.
The reason why it may be a good idea? Well, various studies have found that intermittent fasting — as in, eating all your daily meals within an 8-hour window — promotes greater fat loss and muscle preservation than a normal diet.
What this means for you is that skipping breakfast, and maybe having a late lunch can allow you to enjoy guilt-free feasting throughout the afternoon and evening, while staying lean, mean, and keen at the same time.