How to Maintain Your Fighting Weight During the Holidays
It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving and you have had enough. All you’ve been doing since Thursday is eating. If you are anything like me, my Thanksgiving tends to start Thursday and continue throughout the weekend. Between family and friends, I end up going to two or three separate celebrations. After three days of reckless eating I get sick at the thought of food. By Monday morning I feel fat, sluggish, and out of shape, like I have not worked out in a while.
Holiday time is normally the “off season” for most Brazilian jiu jitsu competitors. However, January is just around the corner. That is the time competitors start to increase their training for tournaments. There is no need to put on unnecessary weight during the holidays. All it will do is make your weight cut more difficult. Holiday weight gain and sluggishness does not have to happen. There is a way to enjoy the holidays and still maintain your weight and performance.
Step 1: Keep Training
I have been in the health and fitness industry for some time now. Every year without fail I see a common trend. Starting around Halloween, attendance at the gym starts to decline. Class size gets smaller. As it gets closer to Thanksgiving class size continues to dwindle. The trend continues all the way until the new year. After the first of January, class attendance goes way up. When I ask students where they have been the answer normally sounds something like this, “I have been so busy with the holidays.”
The holidays are no excuse to miss training. If you have a holiday party on a day you normally train, then that is understandable. But that is one class you are missing - not a week. One of the reasons people put on weight during the holidays is an increase in calories and a decrease in activity. Maintain your training! If you drink so much at a holiday party that you cannot train the next day, that is your fault. Now you just missed two training sessions when it should have been one.
When you are not able to make it to class because you have a holiday party after work, sneak in a mini-workout you can do at home. Fifteen to twenty minutes is plenty. The next time you have to miss training for a holiday party, try this workout:
- Each exercise is approximately five to six minutes long, just like a match.
- After a good warm up, do 5 rounds of 30 seconds on and 30 seconds rest of dive bomber push ups (also called judo push ups).
- Rest 2 minutes.
- Do all of the following in a row: 25 hindu squats, 25 reverse lunges (each leg), 25 forward lunges (each leg), 50 bodyweight squats, rest 2 minutes.
- 5 minutes of rolling planks. Every 30 seconds rotate between front planks and side planks. Try to make the whole five minutes without your knees touching the ground.
Step 2: Train the Next Morning if Possible
The carbohydrate rich foods available during the holidays can be used to your benefit. After a night of eating carbohydrates your glycogen levels should be full. Use that to your advantage. The morning after your carbohydrate feast, train in the morning either fasted or, if you must eat, try some coffee and coconut oil. All of those stored carbohydrates now become fuel for your training.
You have two training options here. Head to the gym and move some heavy weight. (This is my personal choice.) Or option two: if you cannot make it to the gym, do some at-home cardio. Pick any cardio exercise you want, like jumping rope, doing burpees, running outside, biking, or rowing. Do 8 rounds of 20 seconds all-out, followed by 40 seconds rest. Rest 5 minutes and do it again. If you had a carbohydrate hangover, then this should solve it.
Step 3: Manage the Rest of Your Day
Pie is not something you should eat for breakfast, but when leftovers are around you might think it is a good choice. When you are at a holiday party, it is okay to let yourself go a little, but try to eat until you are satisfied - not stuffed. No one likes that feeling of eating so much you cannot move. Once the holiday party ends, then so does your reckless eating. It’s back to healthy choices right away. Do not carry it over to the next day. Wake up in the morning, train, and you are right back to your healthy lifestyle.
The day of a holiday event, keep your calorie intake lower during the day. You do not have to fast, just eat a little less. For an added bonus, eat mostly protein and veggies with some fat. Stick to lean meats, leafy greens, and good fats (omega-3s). This will keep your blood sugar stable during the day. Some people starve themselves all day then at the party eat like there is no tomorrow. Remember the rule eat, until you are satisfied not stuffed.
You are an athlete. It is important you think and act like one. It does not matter if you ever do a Brazilian jiu jitsu tournament, you train like a competitor and you care about your performance. Everything you do is either going to help or hurt your performance. Approach the holidays with this mindset.
Before you eat that last few bites of food that will take you from satisfied to stuffed, before you drink that extra beer, ask yourself if this is going to help you reach your goals or not. Everyone who does Brazilian jiu jitsu has the same goal - to get better. Keep training now so that when January comes you are already one step ahead of the competition.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.