As the temperatures plummet and the days grow shorter, we know that the holidays are rapidly approaching us. And of course, with the holidays come increased family gatherings, religious events, office parties and much needed vacations. However, as a coach or trainer this can present a problem. How can you keep your clients from ruining all the progress they made in the months prior when they more than likely will be celebrating by drinking alcohol, consuming all kinds of high calorie foods, and taking extra days off from the gym?

Of course, you cannot expect to keep even the most dedicated clients 100% on track during the holiday season. And to be honest, everyone deserves a break from the grind now and again, especially at a time of year when we are expected to be our most “festive.” However, it is your responsibility to provide your students with some simple strategies to help minimize the fitness lull that can easily result from going off program, so that when they return, they are no more than just a few steps back. Ultimately, it is up to them whether they wish to take your advice and keep things in control or ignore it and end up back at square one.

Damage Control Dieting

Goal: Cut back somewhat on overall calorie intake; enhance insulin sensitivity so carbs have less of a chance to be stored as fat, and increase proteins to boost metabolism and the thermic effect of food.

  • From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, cut the daily carbohydrate intake in half, and replace 50% of those calories with lean proteins like egg whites, whey isolate, lean fish, chicken and turkey breast
  • If the following day is going to involve eating a lot of junk/high calorie foods from morning till evening, then cut carbohydrates to near zero (the day before). Additionally, increase protein consumption from lean sources by about 50% and healthy fats (walnuts, almonds, olive oil, avocado) by 25%.
  • If one large cheat meal is scheduled with family or friends on a particular day, try to plan an intense weight training workout right before (the meal) so many of the extra calories will be shuttled primarily towards muscle cells and less towards adipose stores.
  • Reduce overall sodium intake in the daily diet to help offset the large quantities that will likely be ingested at the cheat meals. This will prevent holding too much water under the skin (subcutaneous), which not only blurs muscle definition, but can also be quite uncomfortable when excessive.

Damage Control Training

Goal: Optimize cardio toward max fat burning (in minimal time) and to use weight training to burn more calories/enhance metabolism, while maintaining muscle mass.

  • Make a concerted effort to start each day with fasted cardio, which is generally the optimum time to burn body fat for fuel.
  • Utilize HIIT cardio rather than Steady State to burn more calories in a minimal amount of time.
  • When weight training use mostly free weight, compound exercises, as these types of movements involve more muscle groups and require balance/stabilization – the result of which is a greater caloric expenditure during the workout and in the hours afterward.
  • If you wish to cut back on days spent in the gym around holiday time, try training just three non-consecutive days per week – using a full-body routine. This is an excellent time to utilize a circuit-style program so you can get finished much more quickly, and even get a cardio-type workout as well.
  • If you still want to be in the gym 5-6 times per week but need to train in an extra timely manner, try cutting your rest between sets in half. While you will likely need to reduce the poundage a bit on each movement, the more rapid pace will force the muscles to work extra hard, producing a unique and effective type of stress.
  • Another option for quicker workouts is to utilize supersets, tri sets, or even giant sets. Again, while you may need to lower the weights a bit, the intensity will more than make up for it.

Damage Control Supplementation

Goal: Utilize specific supplements around the holidays that will speed the metabolism, enhance calorie/body fat expenditure, reduce appetite, provide vital micronutrients and increase energy and focus.

  • Fat Burners: If a client can tolerate stimulants, these products can be quite effective for increasing the metabolism and overall calorie expenditure, which can help to offset some of the extra indulgences. Just make sure to follow label direction and never exceed recommended doses.
  • Pre Workouts: The high calorie/high carb foods we often eat during the holidays can produce a severe feeling of sluggishness, which can hamper efforts in the gym. By using a quality pre-workout about 30 minutes before hitting the gym, you can boost energy, drive, and focus so that training intensity can remain on point.
  • Multi Vitamin/Mineral: Because you may not be taking in as many healthy, high quality foods around holiday time, your body can become deficient in vital micronutrients. By using a comprehensive vitamin/mineral formula you can make sure that your bases are covered.
  • Whey Isolate Powder: This is perhaps the best option for supplementing your whole-food-based protein intake, as whey isolate is very low in sugar and fat, extremely high in amino acids, digests easily and is rapidly assimilated. Since it is easy on the stomach, it won’t add to the burden of the digestive tract, and in fact, has been proven to reduce appetite as well.

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