In our latest festive fitness article fitness and nutrition experts at Aspria share their fitness and healthy advice.
For many of us, the holiday season is a time when routine and moderation make way for excess and indulgence. Often, the last thing on our minds at Christmas is fitness, closely followed by healthy eating. But that initial festive fun can quickly leave us feeling sluggish. To make sure you end the year on a high – mentally and physically – our team of experts share their fitness and healthy Christmas tips while still allowing you to have much-needed fun).
Tip 1: Balance Your Diet
Ten canapés too many. Copious cocktails. Indulgent family meals. It feels impossible to achieve a balanced diet during the festive season. Our overindulgence in higher glycemic food and unhealthy trans fats from processed snacks and meals leads to more calories than we need and big spikes in insulin production, which triggers fat storage. With too much alcohol, it’s our liver and gut microbiome that suffer the most.
“But healthy and tasty are not contradictory,” says Robin Mandler, wellbeing advisor at Aspria La Rasante, who has a degree in micronutrition. “Include low glycemic ingredients and healthy fats (higher in omega 3 fatty acids) when you prepare your dishes. For example, fruit and vegetables, pulses, wholegrain foods and protein.” From omega 3-rich fatty fish to dark chocolate, your festive food options needn’t be boring.
The truth is, if we maintain a healthy lifestyle for the majority of the time, our bodies can cope with the festive indulgence. “Try to continue physical activity and incorporate some fasts during this period,” Robin explains. “A well-known one is intermittent fasting, where you leave around 16 hours between meals – between dinner and breakfast, the following day, is the easiest one to achieve. It will help to reduce your calorie intake.”
Tip 2: Stay In High Spirits
The holiday season is synonymous with high energy levels. But after party no.7 or family gathering no.3, many of us would rather hibernate until the New Year. So how do we keep our spirits – and social engagements – up throughout the festive period?
Food, especially magnesium – which is essential in the production of energy at cellular level – plays a pivotal role. “Studies have shown that there is a clear link between your energy levels, and the health of your gut microbiome,” says Robin. “So you could take some probiotics each day or try a golden-latte with 250ml of warm coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of black pepper – piperine in pepper enhances curcumin (an antioxidant) absorption.”
Tip 3: Adapt Your Fitness Routine
During the holiday season, sticking to a routine is unsurprisingly difficult. Fitness, in particular, is often the first to suffer. But rather than feel guilty or anxious, we should adapt – or fully embrace some time off. “Whatever your fitness goals, you won’t lose all your ‘gains’ because you indulged in a few festive meals and skipped a few training sessions (or even a week),” explains Lauriane Laurent, personal trainer at Aspria Royal La Rasante. “So my first piece of advice is: relax and enjoy life. Worst case scenario, you gain some weight or your performance slightly decreases, but you’ll have time to get back on track.”
That said, Lauriane says there are plenty of ways to keep training during the holiday season, if your body and mind desire it. You could choose regular, shorter and more intensive sessions like HIIT, circuit training and a lot of compound movements. Or fewer, but longer and less intensive sessions. You could change your fitness routine and include more cardio to burn some extra calories. Or, you could simply increase your NEAT (non-exercise activities thermogenesis). “People forget that walking outdoors, cooking, dancing are physical activities too,” says Lauriane.
Crucially, Lauriane recommends assessing your stress levels before embarking on fitness training during the festive season. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, is normally released in response to stress. “If you’re under a lot of pressure, lacking sleep, feeling exhausted and irritable, fitness may not be the best idea – rest and stress management may be better options,” says Lauriane. “The excessive amount of cortisol in your body could affect your immune system.
If you still want to train, focus on low intensity activities like yoga, LISS (Low Intensity Steady Slate training), swimming and walking. On the other hand, we know exercise is proven to help reduce stress – provided you’re under ‘normal’ stress. Everyone who exercises has experienced that feeling of a clearer mind and better mood after a good sweaty session.”
The indulgences of the festive period often lead to fitness goals forming part of our New Year’s Resolutions. But is January always the best time to start afresh? “It’s convenient because in people’s minds the new year is synonymous with a fresh start,” Lauriane explains. “But, again the best time to start working on a new goal depends on you.”
To help keep your fitness resolutions, Lauriane offers a five-step process:
Pick a time
Choose the right time for you to start: your mindset will be crucial, and you can’t rely on motivation alone. If you’re already tired and overwhelmed, you’ll fail.
Determine “why” you want to achieve your goals – there is no right or wrong – and remember it each time you want to give up.
Is it smart?
Set SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) and celebrate each small victory.
Share your goals and surround yourself with supportive people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We’re all guilty of this, but don’t compare yourself to others. Your personal goals could be a million miles away from those of the person training next to you.
And above all, enjoy the process, be patient and trust yourself.
Visit the Magazine on www.aspria.com to find more tips for a healthy Christmas: how to support your skin and how to maintain a healthy mindset.