The holidays can be a daunting time for the health-conscious individual. Not only is there a ton of food and drink around you, seemingly at all times, but the traditional spread isn’t exactly what one would consider “healthy.” There’s a reason most bodybuilders and athletes use the winter as their bulking season. Typically, the calorie-dense, carb-rich holiday foods are a major stumbling block for people trying to lose weight or even just maintain a decent reading on the scale.
But now that the holidays are over, those looking to bulk – or gain weight – need to be mindful of the choices they make to stay in top shape, lest they risk added some significant fat along with that muscle. So how can you eat better now that the holidays are over? Here are five simple ways.
Track it – Thanks to the little computers we all have in our pockets at all times, it’s now possible for you to maintain a pretty accurate record of what you’ve eaten. More importantly, you’re able to see what that means in real terms – approximately how many calories you’ve taken in, how many calories you need, and the macronutrient breakdown of those meals. This will give the power to make informed decisions about what you eat and keep things under control.
Focus on protein – As mentioned, traditional holiday fare involves a pretty high amount of carbohydrates – which isn’t great for appetite control. Since this vital fuel gets used up pretty quickly, it tends to leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry for more. The rapid fall in blood sugar associated with high carb intake doesn’t help the situation either. Studies have found, though, that protein has pretty much the opposite effect on satiety. In fact, one study allowed people on a high protein diet to eat as much as they wanted and found that they still lost more more than people on a calorie-controlled high-carb diet.
Stick to your favorites – That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t indulge a little bit. It’s important, though, that you know what you want rather than tasting everything and wasting calories on foods that you don’t even like. At a holiday party, for example, there might be a ton of little appetizers available like crackers and cheese. But why chow down on them when you can have a perfectly prepared homemade pie later on? Make these decisions early on and stick with them.
Don’t change your diet – People sometimes deprive themselves all day out of anticipation of a large evening meal later on. This is a very dangerous strategy. Going into a calorie-dense, socially driven meal voracious can make it extremely easy for you to make bad decisions and overindulge. Instead, eat healthy, high-protein, high-fiber meals throughout the day to keep your appetite at normal levels.
Pay attention – Lastly, resist the urge to eat mindlessly once the festivities begin. Once you get a few drinks in you and conversations start, it can be easy to just start chowing down on everything that passes your face. Don’t do that. Pay attention to what you eat and progress through the meal slowly to give your brain time to register the signals from your stomach that control your appetite.