Holiday parties are the biggest antagonists your fitness program is likely to face. Here are some tips to make it through the season without having to say, “Bah, humbug!”
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
That is, unless you’re trying to get into shape. For most of us, all the revelry associated with the holiday season is like a giant double-edged broadsword. It has become so bad that the number one conversation you hear at most company Christmas parties is how it’s ruining the participants’ diets, fitness programs, or waistlines. And the number one culprit at these events is not all those sweets sitting around, it’s the good ol’ holiday cheer: Alcohol.
But parties are fun, inevitable and nearly impossible to avoid gracefully. You don’t want the choice to be fit and healthy to interfere with your ability to have a great social life – and that’s a rule at Openfit! The trick is how to enjoy the holidays without blowing everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Here are some tips that will help you. But first, let’s take a brief look at alcohol and how it affects your body.
Calories – Alcoholic beverages tend to contain a lot of calories. A light beer has 100 calories and a regular one around 150 or more. And it just goes up from there. Way up. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, almost twice that of carbohydrates and proteins. Plus, it metabolizes quickly like a simple carbohydrate (95 percent being absorbed within one hour). The fact that most drinks are nearly all carbs (even before the alcohol is accounted for) means that if you’ve had a few drinks, it’s going to be very hard to maintain a balanced diet without eating a lot of excess calories.
Increases Hunger – If that weren’t enough, alcohol speeds up your digestion, causing you to get hungry quicker. Plus, it lowers inhibitions and desensitizes the stomach so that you tend to eat more than you normally would. Does “I’ll take another slice” sound familiar?
Decreases Nutrient Availability – Let’s compound this some more; alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to convert food to energy, which can reduce blood sugar levels. Even small amounts rob the body of B-vitamins and minerals that are essential for converting food into energy. Plus, it depletes your body’s amino acid pool, as well as altering its carbohydrate metabolism during and after anaerobic exercise.
When you drink, especially to excess, you’re burning the candle at both ends. So not surprisingly, alcohol…
Decreases Athletic Performance – So working the party off is compromised also because it decreases your body’s ability to perform. Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration and cause the body’s cooling system to malfunction. This lowers your electrolyte levels, which effects judgment and coordination. And even though alcohol metabolizes quickly like a simple carb, it cannot be stored and used as energy, so you get a double-whammy where you are taking in a lot of calories that cannot even be used to help burn them off. Talk about the ultimate junk food!
Now, in case that didn’t scare you so much that you just rearranged your entire holiday calendar, here are some ways to minimize the effects on your social agenda:
1. Eat before you drink. Eating a high-protein and somewhat high-fat meal beforehand will slow the alcohol from entering your bloodstream. Plus, if you’re full you are more likely to drink less. (If you’re lucky.)
2. Drink before you drink. Don’t drink alcohol to quench thirst. It’s very easy to quaff a couple of beers just to wet your whistle; especially if you just got off of work. On party days, be more conscious about drinking a lot of water throughout the day and drink one full glass before heading off to the soiree.
3. Don’t mix drinks with soda pop. Sugar causes the alcohol to be absorbed even quicker, plus the carbonation decreases your body’s phosphorus levels. The result is that you’ll get drunk quicker and have a worse hangover. Sweat 2 is a real bear under these circumstances!
4. Mix drinks with water. And even better, have a glass of water between each drink. This will offset the dehydrating effect of the alcohol. You’ll drink less and feel better the next day.
5. Have coconut water available. Coconut water is full of electrolytes, which will greatly help with recovery. Care in doing this post drinking (or even better, while drinking) will far offset the fashion faux pas of walking around a party with a water bottle. Follow these rules and you will not only do little harm to your program, but also be far less likely to wake up with a hangover.
And, of course, never EVER drive after drinking. Even one drink impairs your ability to function. Better yet, become the designated driver. I mean, after reading this, aren’t you looking for any reason not to drink? Now you can be responsible, avoid the alcohol without suffering any peer pressure, and you’re a social hero!
All this information and advice is given in the spirit of wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season—and in hopes that you have the information you need to achieve your goals and get more out of life!