You have worked so hard this season and to throw it all away over the holidays is just not going to cut it. Don’t let family brunch, dinner parties and late nights that can potentially compromise both exercise recovery and athletic performance sabotage your sport nutrition plan. This is not to say you have to avoid all treats and festivities this season. Instead, take care not to over-indulge. Just a little pre-planning can help you stay on track throughout the holiday season without compromising your overall health and return to sport.
- Quantity and quality of sleep gives you willpower!
Studies have shown that both inadequate sleep and poor sleep quality changes neurotransmitters and hormones that can increase your drive to eat, and often the foods craved are not going to help you to make wise food choices. Limit temptations by getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. Remember that while alcohol may make you feel relaxed or even sleepy, it may also impact your quality of sleep and prevent you from reaching the “deep sleep” zone that is thought to be a restorative phase for athletes. For every alcoholic beverage you consume this holiday season, be sure to also drink 1-2 non-alcoholic beverages (such as steamers, chocolate milk, water, sparkling water, etc.)
- Eat regular meals throughout the day.
If you have a holiday dinner in the evening, remember to follow your regular eating schedule to avoid overeating by including balanced meals and small healthy snacks throughout the day. High fibre, lean protein and healthy fats/oils help keep your appetite in-line.
- Keep active.
You don’t need to reach personal bests in your holiday workout routine. Rather, aim to include activities over the break that allow for movement and keep you in a healthy mindset. Try something different from what you do in training and competition. Perhaps some good old bowling, family trail walks/hikes, wall climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating or yoga. Keep it fun!
- Stay hydrated.
Dehydration is a major cause of poor performance and can be misinterpreted for cravings. Aim for 8-10 cups of fluid each day and drink water before each meal; this may curb your appetite and keep you from overindulging. For a festive drink, consider water with frozen berries or lemon, or substituting skim milk for whole milk to make lighter versions of your favourite hot beverages. Add cinnamon, vanilla, or hazelnut to bring out the flavour of a delicious steamer.
- Take ownership of the situation.
When bringing or making something for the party, bring a healthy option. Chances are everyone else will be glad you did! Fruit platters/salad, hard-boiled eggs stuffed with hummus, mini yogurt parfaits, date ’n nut bites, or a box of oranges are just a few ways to remind you to stay on track. Don’t forget, you can mingle away from the food display!
- Everything in moderation – the 80-20 rule.
Staying mindful over the holidays does not mean you have to drink your vegetable smoothie all night long. Follow the 80-20 rule. This means eat planned and purposeful healthy meals and snacks 80% of the time and enjoy holiday treats 20% of the time. Scan the food and dessert arrangements first, then decide what is worth putting on your plate. Don’t forget to load up on raw or steamed veggies, have 2-3 ounces of turkey or other lean protein, and opt for roasted potatoes, but don’t be afraid to save some room on your plate for less nutrient-dense foods. When eating, remember to slow down, savor every bite and just enjoy the moment.
All foods can fit into your holiday plans…you just need to plan, prepare, execute and, of course, enjoy!
Below are some healthy recipes to consider:
For the sweet-tooth, make No Bake Energy Bites:
Mix together 1 cup of oats, ½ cup of peanut butter, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips and 1 tsp vanilla. Keep refrigerated for 30 minutes then roll into balls.
Have leftover turkey? Try a nutritious Turkey Cran-Apple Wrap:
1 whole grain tortilla, 1-2 tbsp of homemade cranberry sauce, 1 ounce of sliced cheddar cheese, 60g of turkey breast, ¼ Granny Smith apple sliced thinly. Recipe from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.