By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
This is the time of year where we tend to gain that extra weight and usually get sick too. The goal of this article is to help give you some simple advice to help survive the holiday party season while avoiding sickness and gaining weight. You should be able to enjoy the holiday cheer with out any of the detriments of over indulging.
With the holiday season comes holiday parties, which means a whole bunch of sugar and other pro inflammatory goodies.
1. Eat a small balanced meal before your holiday parties: The more you snack on refined sugar, the harder your stress handling glands have to work to pick up the slack. If your body is continually thrown into a fight or flight state, the sympathetic branch of your nervous system becomes over active, which will have a negative affect on your immune system.
Before you go to your holiday events eat at least a small meal ahead of time. This would include some high quality protein, fat and carbs (primarily from vegetable sources. Doing this simple thing can help stabilize your blood sugar, even if you decide to eat some unhealthy holiday snacks too, your blood will be in damage control mode.
The protein and fat you eat ahead of time decreases the glycemic load of the sweets, essentially decreases the speed at which the sugar in the food enters your bloodstream. I typically don’t recommend eating a lot of sugar after a protein and fat based meal, but if it’s a special occasion I am ok with that.
Following these instructions will decrease your chance of having significant cravings and having an all out binge too. The more you can do to keep your will power in check, the better choices you will make.
2. Replace this for that: Most people are gluten sensitive and don’t even know it. Gluten can create a great deal of silent inflammation and is a strong stimulator of leaky gut and autoimmune conditions.
I typically don’t recommend my patients to eat gluten free junk food but if the other options are junk food with gluten, then I would choose a gluten free option every time.
Research has shown that gluten can perturb your appetite and actually cause you to overeat. Switching to holiday cookies, cakes and pies that are gluten free, especially from a rice or ideally true gluten free source such as coconut flour, almond flours or crushed nuts can be a great alternative.
What I personally do is bring my own desserts to the holiday party. This gives my friends and family a chance to taste how good a healthy version of their holiday favorites can taste. This also guarantees me an excellent selection of health dessert options too.
My personal favorite desserts:
–Paleo Apple Crisp with stevia sweetened coconut ice cream.
–Paleo chocolate pudding.
-Fresh organic berries with coconut ice cream.
-Steamed sweet potato with grass fed butter and cinnamon on top; I know it sounds weird but don’t knock it till you try it.
-Coconut macaroons: See the whole foods gluten free sections for these.
-Chocolate chip cookies: See the whole foods gluten free sections for these.
3. Get your metabolism primed: Performing a circuit style work out that involve 3-4 compound movements, consisting of 10-15 reps, performed back to back can help boost your metabolism. This style of exercise is shown to increase your metabolism over 20% for almost 2 days. These movements should consist of squats, lunges, pulls, presses and bends. These movements involve more muscles than your typical body building exercise routine.
Doing a Peak 8 or Tabata style of work out that involves burst training using any modality (sprinting, biking, swimming etc.) can significantly increase your metabolism as well.
Your muscles are the largest storage place of glycogen in the body. Glycogen is nothing more than the storage form of sugar (glucose) in your muscles. The recommended exercises above will decrease your muscle glycogen and will allow more storage of sugar in your muscles when you cheat at your holiday parties.
Any sugar that isn’t soaked up by your muscles gets stored in your fat cells which is the last thing your want. The day after the party you can do a similar type of work out to help ensure your metabolism is primed to clean up any sweet remains. Remember, the more muscle you have, the more glucose your muscles can soak up.
Conclusion: My goal is for everyone this holiday seasons to have the best of both worlds; enjoy great food and memories with family and friends; stay healthy and lean while avoiding the common cold or flu. The more the above recommendations are applied the better chance of success you’ll have. Good luck!