Written by: Strength & Conditioning Coach, Mark Nemish
As we enter into the Christmas season, holiday parties at work and at home are looming. And while we all enjoy the fellowship we have with co-workers, friends and family, the notion of over eating and indulging in a few to several cocktails is a common reality for most. Added to this is the fact that since we all spend much more of our free time in malls and stores shopping during this festive season, the opportunity to skip or curtail your fitness workouts becomes greater.
The key to battling the holiday bulge is to know what you are getting yourself into once you pour that first glass of wine or pop the top on that first lager. For an average glass of red wine (6oz), you are ingesting approximately 150 unwanted calories. What this means is that 3 glasses later you are racking up nearly 500 calories from beverages alone, not including the chips, dip, chicken wings and 3 shortbread cookies that were washed down along the way. However, you could do worse. Two 10oz Margaritas will pack on over 1000 calories while a half dozen of Stellas will get you close to the millennium in calories.
If you want to stay fit and trim in your holiday outfits, have a plan in mind and then stick to it. First of all, if several parties are on the menu this holiday season in which indulging in spirits is a given, pick and choose your poison carefully. Switching to light beer (possibly ½ the calories) or using diet mixes with hard liquor will drastically reduce your calorie intake. More importantly, it is imperative to keep some sort of workout regime while in party mode. However, there is nothing less appealing than having to work out the next morning while battling a pounding headache from the night before. As a result, with every alcoholic beverage you consume, make sure you are drinking a glass of water. This will make your “morning after” workout much less painful.
How much do you need to work out to “burn” off those excess calories? Part of that equation depends on your level of indulgence. The other part depends on the duration and intensity of your workout. If you are like most people who like to just jump on the treadmill or bike and go at a steady pace, note that you’ll have to run about an hour at 6 mph to burn in the neighborhood of 700 calories (assuming a bodyweight of 155lbs). If stationary biking, you will have to ride it also for an hour at a vigorous intensity to approach 700 calories burned. Walking at a very brisk pace for at least 2 hours will help burn off that Margarita and 2 glasses of wine while grabbing your tennis racquet and playing singles for 1.5 hours will also do the trick.
The type of exercise you choose will have a significant impact on your ability to keep lean throughout the holidays. To get the most “bang for your buck” engage yourself in more anaerobic forms of exercise. For example, performing cross fit workouts or interval workouts at a higher intensity than steady state will allow you to burn calories at a higher rate. The benefits of these forms of exercise are that you don’t need to work out for as long a time and you will be burning many more calories after the exercise is over. Many of us still subscribe to the notion that in order to burn unwanted fat or fat calories you must perform fat burning (steady state) workouts. However, what many people still don’t know is that when higher intensity workouts are performed, your body encores oxygen debt. This results in a raised metabolism for several hours, dependent on the intensity and duration of the workout, to repay the debt. In a sense your body is still burning calories at a higher rate after an intense workout than after a steady paced workout. Getting the job done in less time appears to be the way to go provided you can handle the higher intensity workouts.
Good luck combating the holiday partying this Christmas season. With the right choices regarding indulgence and a little disciplined effort in the gym, you can be successful in keeping proper in that holiday dress!