Don’t sweat your next big feast–we can show you how to get back on track after any holiday splurge. This is a great read from Runner’s World.
By Sally Wadyka
The good news: it’s prime time for holiday celebrations, turkey feasts, homebaked pies, and fruity little drinks in martini glasses. Truth is, if you add up the calories packed into just one potluck party, it ‘s easy to conclude that you’re on the road to a five-pound year-end bonus. When we crunched the numbers, we learned that a buffet dinner can easily top 2,000 calories.
Well, relax. You’re a runner, and your everyday eating and exercise habits will pull you through a few evenings of revelry. The key, of course, to dining and drinking without guilt (or weight gain) is to recover and bounce back from those indulgences. To that end, we’ve enlisted the help of two experts–Greg McMillan, a kinesiologist and running coach, and Tara Gidus, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics–to develop a step-by-step guide to surviving the caloric mean season.
Food For Thought: Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Strange but true: you go to bed feeling like a Butterball pinata yet still wake up ravenous the next day. According to Gidus, that phenomenon happens after a huge meal because your body is so busy digesting that it enters your normal nighttime “hunger phase” in the morning. And the worst thing you can do is try to starve yourself in a vain attempt to make up for overeating. Instead, she recommends you get back on track by grabbing a smart breakfast, one that energizes your body with 300 to 400 calories and includes high-quality carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, and fruit. Gidus’s perfect pairings include yogurt with granola and berries; or whole-grain toast with cottage cheese and fruit.
Fitness Solution: Hit the road for a long, slow run
Alas, you really did get intimate with a gravy boat yesterday. On the bright side, however, your body is perfectly primed for a workout that can burn off a chunk of last night’s meal. “With all the potatoes and stuffing, Thanksgiving is a big carbo-load,” says McMillan. “That means the glycogen stores that fuel your muscles are full to capacity.” In addition to lots of muscle-fueling carbs, your feast contained a good amount of protein, essential for rebuilding muscles that break down during a long run. Even better, you likely have the day off work, an invitation to forestall the mall pilgrimage for an hour (or more) on the move. Go slowly, enjoy the scenery, and keep moving for as long as you’re able. “This is all about time on your feet, because you’ll burn more calories the longer you go,” says McMillan. The reward: 800-plus calories burned, a clear conscience, and an invigorating start to the holidays.
Food For Thought: Cut Out The Sugar
The least nutritionally balanced of all the splurges, this “meal” is brimming with simple carbohydrates (translation: sugar) and fat. And as often happens after a dessert bender, you may find yourself hankering for even more sugar the day after. That’s because digesting loads of sugary carbs triggers a tidal wave of serotonin (the so-called feel-good hormone). When those serotonin levels dip, your body craves more sugar to keep the good times rolling. Fortunately, says Gidus, the solution is simple. Rather than trying to go cold turkey the next day, sate your sweet tooth with healthier treats like fresh fruit, all-fruit jams, and smoothies.
Fitness Solution: Get speedy
As far as your muscles are concerned, vanilla-swirl fudge still translates into a decent carbo-load. But unlike your turkey-and-sweet-potato buffet, the dessert binge doesn’t offer the body much else in the way of nutrients. That’s why McMillan recommends intervals to burn off those sweets in a hurry. The plan: Knock out six to eight 30-second repeats at about 90 percent of your top speed with two-minute recovery jogs in between. (Bookend your speedwork with two-mile jogs.) “When you do a hard track workout, you’re tapping into those carbohydrate stores at a higher rate,” he says. “But since it’s a shorter-duration workout than a long run, you won’t break down the muscles as much.” The payoff? In less than an hour, you’ll torch about 700 calories.
Food For Thought: Focus on Three Square Meals
For a night that never involved a meal, you managed to put away a shocking amount of calories and fat. Even worse, you probably left the party vaguely unsatisfied–and maybe even hit the kitchen before bed. As you regain control of your diet the next day, Gidus says the key is to stop grazing. “Don’t skip meals and just snack,” she says. “You’ll fall into the same trap of overeating without realizing it.” Instead, eat real meals that range from 300 calories (for breakfast) to 900 or so (for dinner). Gidus offers a handy formula to get back on track: Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter with lean protein, and the rest with whole grains.
Fitness Solution: Give your body a break
Fact: you overindulged and consumed many hundreds of calories that need to be burned off. Fiction: After that last ill-conceived round of mojitos, you’re up for a major workout the next morning. Relax, says McMillan. It’s okay to give yourself an easy day, then hit the ground running after that. So rebound postparty with a low-key hour of something that feels kind to your body–say, walking, swimming, or yoga. Then crank up the intensity a day later. McMillan suggests an interval workout–a two-mile warmup, five two-minute intervals (at a medium-hard effort) with one-minute recovery jog in between, and a two-mile cooldown. That’s enough to kick back 700 calories.
Food For Thought: Go Pseudo-Vegetarian For a Day
There’s little doubt you got your money’s worth–not to mention a full day’s worth of calories–right there at the carving station, and now it’s time to bounce back. Since you consumed at least a couple of servings of two different types of meat at the buffet, Gidus recommends that you restore balance by eating primarily vegetables and whole grains the next day, paired with a little lean protein like tofu or fish. The resulting antioxidant infusion won’t negate the high fat and sodium content of the meats, but it is a healthy statement. And best of all, you’ll feel more energetic right away.
Fitness Solution: Weight and cruise
Last night’s feast provides the perfect energy for speedwork, endurance, even muscle repair. The coach’s prescription to maximize that fuel supply: a tempo run, followed by weight training to amp up your metabolism. Few workouts are more efficient than the tempo run because it treads the line between aerobic and anaerobic. “You’re trying to reach that balance at your body’s lactate threshold,” says McMillan. First, head out for a four-mile tempo run (at about an 80 percent effort) bookended by two-mile jogs. Second, complete a circuit in the weight room that works your major muscle groups to fatigue. Then enjoy the glow of a tough workout that zapped more than 1,000 calories.
5 Extra-Credit Calorie Burners
- Heading to the mall? Park at the farthest corner of the lot so you’re forced to take a nice brisk walk.
- Take your dog for a spin around the neighborhood–even when he doesn’t really need to go.
- Don’t just stand there–walk up and down escalators. Better yet, just take the stairs.
- Go sledding with your kids. For an extra workout, pull them back uphill on their sleds.
- Hit the local rink or a frozen pond for a skate–you can burn around 400 calories in an hour.