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by Colin McGlone


For many people, the holiday season can be the busiest time of the year.  Between gift shopping, parties, gatherings, and tending to normal responsibilities, fitness routines can fall to the wayside.  Although we are encouraged to “eat, drink, and be merry,” we must not take a health hiatus.  Healthy living is a lifestyle.  It’s a process.  


We all know that summertime bodies are forged in the darkness of winter. Instead of giving up and subscribing to a philosophy of despair, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to stay healthy.  If our diet isn’t perfect, that’s okay. If we aren’t training as frequently as before, that’s okay.  However, if we simply throw in the towel and quit, we are only sabotaging ourselves.  Instead of joining the multitudes in the aesthetic rat race that begins after New Year’s, let us give ourselves a head start by adapting our diets and training regimens accordingly.  


In our quest to live a healthy lifestyle, we must be honest with ourselves.  Far too often, when the holidays come around, we masquerade our efforts under the guise of “bulking”.  If your body fat percentage is rising steadily over 10%, then you can assure yourself that you are not going to see abs the coming season, and you may be hurting your health markers.  There is a huge difference between increasing caloric intake to maximize muscle gain, and binging carelessly.


When we look in the mirror, or when we speak to our doctors about our blood work results, we need to be self-accountable.  By maintaining a base level of physical activity and engaging in dietary vigilance, we can gain momentum towards achieving our goals.  Set goals that are realistic and stay positive.  Believe in yourself.  After all, if you are stressing yourself out over your regimen or your diet, you are only hurting your progress.  Stress raises cortisol levels, which in turn can wreak havoc upon your body and add fat to your waistlines.


How can we stay healthy while we train less and ride the caloric rollercoaster?  First, we must stop being fearful.  Our muscle is not going to atrophy overnight.  Our body fat percentage is not going to skyrocket after a few drinks and some of Grandma’s famous apple pie.  If we are going to the gym less frequently and are putting in less training hours, we must train differently.  


Try interval training, such as the Tabata method, to maximize fat burning in short amounts of time. Dr. Izumi Tabata recommends alternating between 20 seconds of intense movement and 10 seconds of rest, for 8 rounds. Forms of high intensity interval training, such as the Tabata method, have shown to increase anaerobic performance while simultaneously burning fat.  If you only have 20 minutes to train, try a full body circuit with shorter rest periods.  When it comes to holiday feasts, we must learn to “Earn ‘em  and Burn ‘em”.  


Earn these feasts by treating them as luxuries and pre-emptively training beforehand.  Burn these feasts by scheduling our physical activities for the following days.  Nobody likes a food prude during the holidays.  Take this time to indulge in forbidden, devilish treats.  We can temporarily abandon our Spartan-like discipline, for a little common sense and some strategic cheating.  


Drink alcohol in moderation.  The majority of your caloric intake should come in the forms of proteins and vegetables.  More savory, less sweet.  Instead of demonizing these high caloric binges, use them to help you lose fat and gain muscle.  That’s right.  The natural ebb and flow of caloric intake during the holidays creates the perfect environment to follow a cyclic ketogenic diet, or a carb cycling diet.  In these types of low carb diets, we intermittently consume high amounts of carbs to replenish glycogen stores, offer a psychological break, and upregulate hormones and thyroid activities that are suppressed during dieting.  


Temporarily boosting your caloric intake can be tremendously beneficial for your leptin levels, which will keep your metabolism humming along.  Many holiday foods are extremely nutritionally dense.  Simply schedule your high carb or high calorie days, on feast days, followed by low or no-carb days.  In this flexibility, lies our advantage. 


By using common sense, maintaining our commitment, and getting inventive with our dietary and training regimens, we can gainfully move forward towards achieving our goals.  Remember, with health and wellness, there is no hindsight. If we slip, or we fall, we get back up and keep moving forward.  Attempting to live a healthy lifestyle is a process that is individualistic in nature.  You only compete against yourself. Although we may be spending more time at the dinner table and less time training, our goals need not be ignored. Maintaining is gaining.  


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