Well the #holidays are upon us, and it’s all about celebrating with family/friends and, of course, eating lots of food (sometimes more than we want to).
Between the mashed potatoes, buttery rolls, stuffing, desserts and sweet pies, and holiday drinks at all your favorite bars and coffee houses, it’s easy to “over-indulge”! But no matter how tempting one more piece of pie or that fancy drink may be, it’s important for us to continue to make smart and healthy eating choices during this time of year. So here’s my ever so humble advice:
Use smart substitutions when cooking: try egg whites instead of whole eggs; use low or nonfat dairy items; serve whole grain vs white rolls; try Splenda instead of sugar; use real baked yams instead of canned or candied yams; try using sodium free seasonings or real onions and garlic cloves instead of salt, garlic salt, onion salt….just to name a few!
Eat a healthy meal at home before you go to a holiday party.
Pace yourself and eat slowly. Remember it actually takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you are full. Tip: put your fork down (all the way on the table people …LOL) between each bite.. and complete your chewing and swallowing before you reach for that fork again..Ha!
Skip the salty pre-meal snackage.
Monitor or try 86’ing the whip cream and marshmallows on those fancy coffee house drinks.
Drink plenty of water at meal time and between cocktails. This will help from over-indulging.
Don’t stand at the buffet table, this actually promotes you eating more food than you need. Take a plate and sit down.
Take a walk after you eat or head to the gym earlier in the day. It’s important to expend more calories that you take in.
Focus on socializing! Conversation is “Calorie Free!”
Say “No” politely: “I couldn’t possibly have another bite, but it was so delicious!”
Allow yourself only one indulgence, whether it be a cocktail, a dessert or a second helping of your favorite holiday food.
Just remember… we do have to live and it’s okay to enjoy food. Just be smart. If you are a person who goes to many holiday parties, it’s best to strategize, because before you know it, those 5-10 lb of holiday weight will creep up. And it’s easier to gain weight than to lose it!
Then why would you exercise on an empty stomach…? Exercising when you are under-fueled is like running on fumes and results in sluggish performance. And additionally does not help you burn fat!
If I were to eat better, would I recover faster?
That is a complex question that now requires some deeper thought and explanation about food groups and their function…..
Energy is stored in the chemical bonds of macronutrients, as Carbohydrates, Fat and Protein. Carbohydrates and fat are your primary energy source, while amino acids from protein are used infrequently as a fuel source for physical activity. They are primarily used for structure, function and regulatory purposes.
Dietary fats are stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle.
Intramuscular triglycerides are an important fuel source especially during prolonged aerobic activity.
By weight, fats provide more than twice the amount of energy than carbohydrates or protein. Therefore this is an efficient way to store energy.
Dietary Carbohydrates are converted to glucose and stored in the liver as glycogen. Liver releases glucose as needed to maintain normal blood sugar. Glucose is then taken up by the brain and skeletal muscles. Glucose can then be used as an immediate energy source or stored in the liver and muscle tissue.
Carbohydrate is the primary fuel source during physical activity and is transformed into carbohydrate storage areas. Carbs are ultimately stored as muscle & liver glycogen and blood glucose. Because these stores are limited, it is crucial to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates on a daily basis in order to replenish your muscle and liver glycogen between daily training sessions. If you are exercising for 60 minutes or more
you need to balance water and energy output with enough fluid to match your sweat loss and enough carbs to provide energy and maintain your blood sugar levels.
Consuming carbohydrates prior to exercise helps your performance by “topping off” the muscle and liver glycogen stores.
It is recommended that you consume 1.0 g/kg carbs 1 hour before moderately hard exercise or 2.0 g/kg 4 hours before.
Consuming a small amount of protein before exercise (such as a glass of milk or a yogurt) can optimize recovery by providing a “ready-and-waiting” supply of amino acids after exercise.
Consuming carbohydrates during exercise can improve performance by maintaining blood sugar levels. During a moderate to hard endurance workout, carbs supply ~50% of the energy. As you deplete carbohydrates from your muscle glycogen stores, your body relies on blood sugar for energy. It is recommended that consuming 100-250 kcal (25-60 g) of carbs per hour during endurance exercise (after the 1st hour) can increase stamina – this can be mixed between carbohydrate rich foods or fluids (such as energy drinks containing carbs).
Consuming carbohydrates after glycogen-depleting exercise restores your muscle and liver glycogen and stimulates the release of insulin (hormone) helping to build muscles.
It is recommended to consume 1.5 g/kg immediately after exercise. If you’re not hungry it is recommended to consumer a high carbohydrate drink. Consuming carbs after your workout helps enhance the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis because the muscle cell is more likely to take up glucose, and because the muscle cells are more sensitive to the effects of insulin during this time, which promotes synthesis. Therefore eating the appropriate foods and fluids can affect your recovery.
Adding protein to a post exercise carbohydrate meal may enhance glycogen repletion. It creates better muscle refueling and building response and reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle. Having amino acids from protein readily available, enhances the building and repairing of muscles as well as reducing muscle soreness.
It is recommended to consume 10-20 g of protein after exercise!
Now this is not a “one size fits all” set of recommendations because everybody’s body shape and size are different. Not all individuals work out at the same rate of intensity, nor for the same amount of duration. These are basic recommendations and can obviously be “tweaked” to fit your individual needs!
Happy eating and exercising!
Randi Drasin, MS, RDN
Nancy Clark “The Science of Eating for Sports Success”
Mary Dunford “Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals 4th Edition”