Welcome to the most festive month of the year, full of celebration, good times with family, friends & colleagues and over indulgence on a grand scale.
It's also the time of year you see lots of blog posts and YouTube videos about how to "survive" the silly season by staying super disciplined and only eating salad at Christmas parties.
Now I find that approach super boring but I won't judge you if you wish to eat lettuce leaves while everyone else is eating gingerbread (don't worry, I eat more lettuce per day than most people I know but when it comes to Christmas, I definitely reduce my lettuce intake for a day or two).
This is not a post on fat loss, this is a post on how to maintain strong daily energy levels and minimise the ups and downs that come with festive eating and drinking.
That being said, if you follow these strategies you may very well end up with less fat gained over the silly season as well as better energy levels.
Also please pay attention to this disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor do I pretend to be one, the content of this blog post is purely educational, please consult a healthcare professional before trying any of the strategies below.
Now let's get into it...
5 strategies for strong energy levels this silly season:
1. Digestive hacks: Digestion is super important when it comes to general health and when it comes to dealing with the food and drink of Christmas, digestion has a key role to play.
It is of course important to have a healthy digestive system going into December but what I'm going to focus on in this point are short term techniques you can use before, during and after those big meals to help you stay on top of things.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): ACV is a natural remedy that has been used for over 2000 years for ailments ranging from soothing a store stomach to fixing skin issues and even as a natural cleaning agent around the house (it's very acidic, but don't worry, your stomach contains a pool of hydrochloric acid and you won't hurt yourself by consuming ACV).
For our purposes, we are going to use ACV 20 to 30 mins before a big meal and another 20 to 30 mins afterwards, we are doing this for 2 reasons:
1. To create a more favourable acidity in the stomach so as to allow your digestive enzymes to properly do their job and digest your food faster.
2. Vinegar has been demonstrated to show an "antiglycemic" effect in humans (1), this means you produce less insulin to deal with a meal which in turn means less fat storage and more stable blood sugar levels, this can have a very noticeable effect on energy levels after a big meal.
Both of the above can be done with any kind of vinegar such as white vinegar or balsamic vinegar, however the reason I recommend Apple Cider Vinegar is that you get additional benefits thanks to the "mother enzyme" that is left in there (looks a bit like dirty, brown cobwebs but is super good for you).
Always choose "unfiltered" ACV if you can find it, I highly recommend the brand BRAGG's, you can find it at most good health food stores.
If you're travelling and don't want to carry around a heavy glass bottle filled with ACV, you can order capsules instead here: Now Foods Apple Cider Vinegar Capsules
Also, a quick note about consuming ACV: Because it is very acidic, I highly recommend diluting one serving (A tablespoon) in about half a glass of water, also if you find yourself consuming it regularly I highly advise using a straw as the acidity can have a negative impact on the enamel of your teeth.
Ginger: Ginger is one of my favourite spices on the entire planet, I eat it most days of the week before meals and often make a tea from freshly sliced ginger.
So it should be no surprise to you that this is exactly what I'm going to recommend you do too.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from an upset stomach to bacterial infections and inflammatory diseases and it has even been linked to cancer prevention, if you would like to explore some of the finer details and you have a spare 20 minutes of reading time please check out the appropriately named scientific paper: The Amazing and Mighty Ginger
For the purposes of this article we're going to focus solely on using ginger to deal with over eating and drinking.
Regular recommendation: Slice up some ginger, throw it in your favourite tea cup and then pour boiling water on top, let it steep for at least a full 5 minutes before drinking and you'll notice that an oily looking substance will float to the surface, these are the "gingerols" an active component of ginger and are the main component we want to consume when it comes to soothing the stomach.
I personally cut up about 1 teaspoon worth of fresh ginger for each cup of tea.
Sip on a cup of this about 30 minutes before a big meal and brew yourself another one to sip on immediately after that meal.
The aim of the game is for this to boost your digestive system and to also soothe any discomfort that may come with eating a large meal.
Hardcore recommendation: Want to go all the way and feel the burn? As well as taking the above recommendation, cut up some chunks of ginger, throw them straight into your mouth and chew, chew, chew!
Pro tip: Have a glass of water nearby to deal with the burning sensation.
Apart from being a fun toughness challenge and party trick, you're also unlocking even more of the glorious gingerols from your ginger.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): One of my favourite supplements of all time, ALA has been used for many years by diabetics and those on weight loss plans to help regulate blood sugar levels (2).
When it comes to Christmas feasting ALA is definitely your friend.
You can use it in a similar fashion to ACV and take it 20 to 30 mins before and after a big meal.
And yes you can absolutely combine it with ACV if you like (by this I mean you can consume them at the same time, however never open an ALA capsule as it is super acidic and can burn your throat, I did it once and it was not fun).
You can also keep taking it after the feasting is over if you're interested in better energy levels and faster fat loss thanks to better regulation of your blood sugar levels.
I enjoy taking Alpha Lipoic Acid for 1 to 2 months at a time followed by at least a full 1 month break.
While I'm on it, I take it 3 times per day e.g. with every main meal.
When it comes to choosing an ALA product there are 2 main types:
R,S Alpha Lipoic Acid: A mix of natural and synthetic Alpha Lipoic Acid, it can still deliver results but is not quite as good as the pure form, I recommended you increase the dose to compensate for this.
R-Alpha Lipoic Acid: The gold standard, the purest form of Alpha Lipoic Acid, it can deliver results even at a modest dose.
You can buy ALA at most health food stores but if you would like my recommendation, grab this one: Jarrow Formulas R-Alpha Lipoic Acid with Biotin
2. Fasting: A somewhat controversial topic, fasting is an ancient practice that has been used for various benefits throughout time.
Most recently, studies have been examining the effects that fasting has on neuronal autophagy (3) e.g. The "clearing out" or "recycling" of old cells to make way for new ones, this is extremely exciting when it comes to longevity and disease prevention and I encourage you to read more on the topic and try it out for yourself.
For our purposes, we are going to focus on the benefits of fasting for digestion.
A decent fast can work wonders and can help you feel a whole lot better after those big meals.
On the day of a big feast I highly recommend fasting for as long as you can and ideally hold out until the big meal happens, for example if you're scheduled to have a big Christmas lunch around 12pm then do not eat a single thing until that meal.
If you've got a big Christmas dinner coming up this may not be so practical for you so instead of fasting until dinner time I recommend instead holding out as long as you can, for example until 2 or 3pm and then having a super healthy small meal made up of lean protein, quality fats and some veggies.
Now when you wake up the day after a big feast and perhaps after a few drinks too, fasting can also be your secret weapon when it comes to getting rid of that bloated feeling and restoring strong energy levels once again.
How to fast effectively:
Now, if you've never done it before you may be looking at this in fear and wondering how the hell it's possible to fast for so long without feeling like you're starving to death.
With that in mind, I'll let you in on some of the techniques I personally use along with many other people who routinely fast for better health.
3. Protein and fat first: Speaking of that first meal of the day, when you finally do get to it and you've still got at least 2 or 3 hours before the big feast I highly recommend having a meal high in protein, moderately high in fat and also with some vegetables thrown in there for the fibre.
By having no carbs in your first meal of the day you tend to be able to deal with carbs better in your next meal e.g. the potatoes, rice, breads, pastas and other delicious carb sources that are coming up in your massive Christmas feast.
No need to dive too deep on this topic but myself along with many of my friends can attest to the benefits of this simple technique and don't despair carb lovers! It's only a few hours without them (don't worry, I'm not a carb hater, I eat sweet potato most days of the week and thoroughly enjoy a post workout apple or banana with my protein shake).
4. Food in the stomach for breaking down booze: This piece of wisdom has been passed down throughout the ages from one big drinking culture to the next, from the pork and potato filled meals of the beer loving Germans to the rice heavy sushi dinners of the sake swilling Japanese.
Having a good meal when booze is involved is a pretty well known strategy but most people do not really know why.
It's not the most important thing in the world to understand if you're already good at doing it but to those who say "eating is cheating" when it comes to drinking a lot of booze, listen up.
By having food in the stomach while drinking, you slow down your digestion and the more time alcohol spends in the digestive system before it gets to the liver the more time it has to be broken down.
So, if you want to get super drunk: Do most of your drinking before the feast.
If you would like to take your time getting drunk and dramatically reduce your chances of over drinking and getting a killer hangover: Start the eating before you start the drinking.
5. The best hack of all: Now for the best hack of all when it comes to surviving the Christmas feast.
Are you ready?
Prepare yourself for the following magical words:
Be as healthy as possible before the feast.
By being as healthy as possible in the days, weeks and months leading up to the feast you will dramatically improve your ability to deal with the onslaught of food and booze to come.
By being as healthy as possible: Having excellent gut health, sufficient vitamins, minerals & micronutrients, exercising regularly and getting a solid 8 to 9 hours of sleep in a dark room every night you will be very well prepared to deal with Christmas feasting and will be able to bounce back much faster than someone who turns up to the feast without optimal health.
So that's it, I hope you enjoyed the above 5 strategies and will put them into practice.
Try any 1 of the above and you are likely to get great results.
Combine all 5 however? And you will almost certainly have an amazing time throughout the Christmas eating and drinking and will be able to power on through into the new year in style.
That being said, try not to stress too much about these things, Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself, if you're not in the state of health or fitness you would've liked to be by this time there are plenty of other days in the year for you to get on top of things, for now, enjoy yourself and have a very Merry Christmas!
EDIT: If you're still hungry for more tips on how to have a great time this Christmas but stay healthy, you can check out this fantastic article featuring a whole team of experts for more: Healthy Christmas Tips from Budget Direct
You may even see a familiar face among the experts :-).
Until next time,
Live with energy,
CEO and Co Founder: Upside Nutrition
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