The holidays are approaching, and this is most often the time when people mentally check out from their health and fitness program.  In all the years we’ve been working with our students, we find these things commonly happen between Thanksgiving and New Years: increased alcohol consumption, increased caloric intake, and decreased training frequency.  This combination leads to a lack of progress, or even backwards progress. 

What you do/don’t do on one single day isn’t going to drastically impact your health and fitness; however, navigating Thanksgiving is important because it will set a precedent for how you manage the rest of the holiday season. 

So, I’m going to give you 3 practical tips to make sure that Thanksgiving doesn’t become the first step in a downward spiral that sets you up for a frustrating January. 

  1. Eat only lean protein and vegetables for breakfast and lunch 

To give a bit of context, the energy required to burn 1 pound of body fat is 3500 calories.  What that means is that to lose 1 pound of fat per week, you need to expend 500 calories more per day than you consume.  Simple math. 

But this means that one really bad day can wipe out an entire week’s worth of dieting.  So, the best way to enjoy yourself during Thanksgiving dinner while staying on track is to make sure your breakfast and lunch consist of only lean protein and vegetables. 

Protein has the highest TEF (thermic effect of feeding) of any macro nutrient.  This means that the calories consumed from protein will actually lead to a greater metabolic expenditure. 

And vegetables are extremely satiating (aka makes you feel full) despite a low caloric content.  For example, 1 cup of broccoli contains only 30 calories.  So, your meal of 8 oz skinless chicken breast and 2 cups of steamed broccoli has a whopping 55 grams of protein and only 305 calories.  Not to mention the boost in TEF we just mentioned. 

  1. Work out in the morning 

Since the goal is to keep from overeating by a significant amount but still enjoying ourselves, why not increase the “calories out” half of the equation?  By adding an additional workout to your training week, you’ll get a nice bump in expenditure, which will give you a little more wiggle room in your nutrition and allow you to have a little extra stuffing with your turkey. 

Also, because we deplete muscle glycogen during workouts, some of what you eat on Thanksgiving will go toward replenishment.  This will help your body make use of some of the carbs you’re going to eat! 

  1. Save Room for the Food You Love 

This one is simple… just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you should eat it!  Often times we eat the food that’s there, simply because it’s Thanksgiving.  But if you don’t really like pumpkin pie, then there’s no reason to eat it!  The same is especially true for alcoholic beverages. 

Eating for the sake of eating is pretty much always a recipe for disaster, and Thanksgiving is no exception.  So, allow yourself to enjoy the food that you… yes, actually ENJOY!  And don’t bother with the other stuff.