Thanksgiving and Christmas (and Hanukah) provide special challenges for people looking to shed excess fat! Holiday meals, cookies, pies, parties, booze, etc, etc... all make the battle harder.
Lisa and I have a unique perspective on the Holiday Season, which we practice ourselves! And it WORKS!!!
WE DON'T DIET!!!
You heard me. DON'T try to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Years. Just DON'T. Instead... turn this period of the year into a muscle-building "clean bulk"!! The largest percentage of our clients are working with us to lose fat, but losing fat isn't always synonymous with losing weight. A large part of losing fat, is building and maintaining muscle. This period of time is PERFECT for doing just that!
If you've been dieting for months and months, and losing fat all along (or on and off) but you haven't take a BREAK from the cutting calories in months, and let your metabolism bounce back, the month between late November and late December is a great opportunity. Don't go crazy, and eat everything in sight! That won't help... But also don't feel GUILTY for eating a few extra calories, and breaking away from your regimented diet for a few weeks. It will HELP your long-term goals of fat loss with minimal muscle loss.
1. Understand that Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years... ALWAYS come on the same days.
There's no surprises coming up. You ARE going to eat more, and you KNOW EXACTLY WHEN. Plan for it! This week... the week before Thanksgiving, intentionally pull a few hundred calories per day, mostly carbs and fat, and "go hungry" for the week... You'll survive.
Don't do MORE cardio... LIFT MORE! Instead of doing a split of cardio and strength training... do 90% lifting, lift heavy, and "break muscle". That way, when Thursday rolls around, and there's a huge pile of turkey in front of you... DIG IN! Focus on lots of protein Thursday, and go moderate with everything else. Go light on the dressing and the potatoes, and enjoy some pie! USE those excess calories to BUILD. The weekend after, WALK and lift, lift lift.
Same thing for Christmas dinner. Plan for it in advance with lower calories coming in, and then enjoy with family and friends.
2. Breaking Keto for a day won't kill your results.
If you're low-carb... YES you can eat carb-free on holidays. If you want to, plan your meals, bring your own appetizers to pass, and go for it. If you have the control to make an exception for a day... EAT some damn potatoes, stuffing, and pie! You'll be right back on track within two days.
3. Focus your training on muscle.
With the higher calorie intake, increase your training volume in the weight room. Take ADVANTAGE of the calories, and use them to BUILD. Go heavier, go longer, and get STRONG. Dieting sucks, because it makes you weaker. You CANNOT go heavy in a caloric deficit. Use a month of extra fuel to BUILD, and enjoy the strength!
4. Don't beat yourself up over the scale!
PLAN to add a pound or so per week. Don't go off the rails entirely, but KNOW that an extra 500kcal per day equated to 3500kcal per week... roughly the calories in 1 LB... not 10!!! Excess carbs WILL cause water retention. Focus on drinking MORE water (which will make you HEAVIER, but NOT FATTER), but will keep flushing you. Water retention from a higher glycogen load in the muscle is NOT FAT GAIN. Please don't freak out...
After the Holidays are over... you'll feel GREAT, have more strength, and be able to get back to cutting. Going back to your normal intake will be a "relief", and the fat will drop off. Actually, you may start losing FASTER again, like you did near the beginning of your cut! Your elevated metabolism will be more efficient, so when you pull back on the intake... you lose fat FASTER.
Enjoy the Holidays, don't torture yourself over it...
One of the questions I get asked frequently, comes from young athletes looking to GAIN muscle weight, size, strength, etc. The same question comes from physique athletes who are looking to add muscle, and size for the stage. The process is the same, and the answer is the same. These young athletes need to take a serious look at their food intake!
Typically, for the teen athlete, I'm dealing with the mom or dad. Mom and dad are health conscious, likely struggling with keeping off body fat, and concerned with heart disease, cancer, blood sugar, etc. Mom and dad eat super healthy (or try). Mom and dad are also concerned about their son's (or daughter's) health, and their eating habits, food choices, and even food-phobias get passed down. The young athlete is a bit undersized for the sport they are playing, not as big as the other kids, and not as strong. Yet mom has them eating like they're obese, and suffering from high cholesterol...
The first subject, before weight training, that I discuss with these athletes, and their parents is... CALORIE INTAKE. You see, when you dump more and more calories into the diet of a highly active teenage male... their metabolism just goes higher, and higher. They are already burning a HUGE amount of calories, and they eat like a bottomless pit. I know I did as a tall skinny teenager! Modest increases in intake won't result in any more size... So HOW do you get a teenager to gain anything...
You go "DIRTY"!!
Grilled chicken, and brown rice, and kale, and organic everything isn't going to do it... Unless it's organic ice cream, organic chocolate milk, organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and organic cheeseburgers! These teens need FAT INTAKE... and large amounts of it. They need SUGAR INTAKE, because they can cram many more sugar carbs into their body than they can whole-grain carbs. I've had tall, thin, wiry teenage males NEED 1500kcal per day ON TOP of their current intake to gain weight. I know personally, at age 20-23, I needed 6500-7500kcal per day to go from 200lb (at 6'4") to 230lb. And it WASN'T a clean 7500 kcal. At age 46, I STILL need over 5000kcal per day to gain weight!
Teenage boys, and young men who "suffer" from being tall and thin MUST consume huge calories to gain muscle mass. And their lee-way for what foods they can consume without adding a lot of fat is WIDE!
If you have a underweight teen who needs to get bigger for sports, or if you're a tall, thin, 20-something "hard-gainer" who just can't see to get any bigger... It's NOT their/your workout routine.
Contact me here at BURN, and I'll get you on the right path. After all... if there's ONE thing I'm an expert at... it's stuffing enough food into a tall-skinny body!!!
The wonderful thing about our bodies is their ability to adapt and survive. Hot climates, cold climates, wet and dry climates… we adapt. We lift weights regularly… we adapt by building muscle. We run regularly, and we adapt to become a faster runner.
The problem comes when we have adapted SO MUCH, that the workout that use to beat us up… is no longer challenging. We eventually get “too efficient”. There comes a point where simply doing MORE won’t be possible, and there comes a point where doing what we’ve always done… stops working.
The best, and most common example is the person who starts jogging as a means to lose weight. Jogging works EXCEPTIONALLY well for weight loss… for a little while. But eventually, in order to keep the weight coming off, we need to bump jogging up to running. Eventually, running a few miles doesn’t keep the weight off (as our body adapts), so now a few miles is up to 4-5. 2-3 nights per week becomes 5 nights per week, and sometimes a weekend run on top of that! You’re leaner and lighter than when you started… but despite your frantic pace and volume of running… body fat creeps back on.
What’s the solution???
1) Switch modes. Running has become EASY to your body. The jog, that use to burn 300-500 calories, now doesn’t even break a sweat. But swimming??? BRUTAL! Cycling kicks you butt, and a spinning class is TOUGH! Your body hasn’t adapted to it. If running isn’t working any more for fat loss… switch to something DIFFERENT.
2) Don’t cut back on weight training, to make time for more running! The higher the volume of long-duration cardio you do in ANY form, the more your body wants to adapt by cutting muscle mass. Strength training stimulates muscle growth in people who do less cardio, or simply helps to maintain lean mass in people who do high-volume cardio.
Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In fitness and fat-loss, you must either constantly increase the load or volume, or you must switch the mode! The same workout, at the same intensity, over and over again… will only force adaptation for so long.
They’re all wrong, especially when it comes to building muscle… Here’s why:
I always teach my clients, that there is a hierarchy of importance in your COMPLETE program to build more muscle mass. In this blog post, I’ll cover the top three… starting where MOST people ASSUME is the #1 secret! Actually NUMBER 3…. Weight Training!
Yes, #3… Weight Training:
Weight Training is obviously required to build muscle mass! The basic principles of mass CANNOT be overlooked. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID): The body adapts (with more muscle growth) to the demand put on it (heavy weights). One can argue about the minutia of percentage of one rep max load, rep range, tempo, program design, etc., etc., etc.… but in order to build muscle, you must FIRST damage that muscle with weights. This microscopic damage, repeatedly applied, in progressively greater and greater intensity IS what builds new muscle mass… BUT IT’S NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT element! This leads us to Number #2… MORE important than weight training…
I don’t care how “PERFECT” your weight training regimen is!!! A halfway decent strength training plan done half-assed, will produce MORE gains with GOOD nutrition, than the PERFECT program at MAXIMUM intensity, with a CRAPPY diet. You simply can’t out-train a crappy diet for fat loss, OR MUSCLE GAIN! You first need SUFFICIENT calories. Nobody is gaining muscle mass without providing enough fuel and raw material. If you’re not eating ENOUGH, you’re NOT making gains. Hours and hours busting your ass in the gym is ALL FOR NAUGHT… if you’re not eating enough to GROW! Second is the CONTENT of your nutrition. There is a simple mathematical formula, with no magic involved… that is protein intake. Your body is losing protein sitting still, and losing MORE when you train. That protein MUST be replaced with sufficient quality (bio-available) protein from your diet. Again… arguments can be made both ways for how much is “enough”… but I’d always error on the side of a bit TOO MUCH protein when you’re trying to build!
But… even if your routine is PERFECT, and your diet is PERFECT… there is still one element that over-rules BOTH in importance when it comes to building muscle…
Truly deep, restful sleep and recovery is THE MOST CRITICAL ELEMENT TO BUILDING MASS!
Muscle is NOT built in the gym.
Muscle is NOT built in the kitchen.
MUSCLE IS BUILT IN YOUR BED!
If you’re not sleeping soundly, 6-8 hours every night, your muscle gains WILL suffer dramatically. New muscle protein/tissue is added while you muscles are at rest, this is when you heal. The body produces growth hormone in response to deep sleep. GH is critical to men, and even MORE critical to women, as women lack testosterone. GH is the primary anabolic hormone for women. No sleep… no gains! It’s that simple.
- Get to bed early. Staying up/out late obviously cuts sleep time, but also quality.
- Get OFF your phone before bed. Science shows us that not only the brain activity, but the bright light of a screen throws off your biorhythms and disrupts sleep.
- Get to sleep the SAME TIME every night, including weekends. Nothing disrupts sleep worse than never finding a schedule/rhythm to your sleep patterns. If you’re asleep at 9pm one night, and midnight the next… all the time… you’re screwed.
- Naps are GREAT! If your schedule allows, nap every day! Not only can you get a SECOND shot of natural GH release, you get more opportunity to heal and grow. Lisa and I work an early/late split shift. We wake up at 4:30 am most days!!! Luckily, we get a 60-90 minute nap early afternoon most days. Trust me… It’s WONDERFUL for growth!
Gaining muscle takes a combined effort… Hard work in the gym, precise nutrition in the kitchen, and sound sleep at night, all contribute to better results in your physique. The most neglected… is the most important… SLEEP!!!
Jeff Ward and Lisa Ward (Brightman)