The holidays are not the best time to try to lose weight, but you can resolve to maintain your weight amid this time of buffet dinners, home-baked desserts, endless cookies, and sugary cocktails. The key to dining and drinking without guilt (or weight gain) is to bounce back from those indulgences. To that end, we've enlisted the help of two experts-Greg McMillan, a kinesiologist and running coach, and Tara Gidus, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics-to develop a day-after plan to help you recover from the biggest nutritional splurges of the season.
Holiday Indulgence #1: Buffet Feast
Food For Thought: Eat a Hearty Breakfast
Strange but true: After a big turkey or ham dinner, you go to bed feeling like a Butterball pinata yet still wake up ravenous. The worst thing you can do is try to starve yourself in a vain attempt to make up for overeating. Instead, Gidus recommends grabbing a smart breakfast with 300 to 400 calories that includes high-quality carbohydrates, low-fat dairy, and fruit. Gidus's pairings include yogurt with granola and berries or whole-grain toast with cottage cheese and fruit.
Fitness Solution: Hit the road for a long, slow run
Alas, you really did get intimate with the dessert tray yesterday. On the bright side, your body is perfectly primed for a workout that can burn off a chunk of last night's meal. "With all the potatoes and side dishes, a buffet dinner is a big carbo-load," says McMillan. Go slowly, enjoy the scenery, and keep moving for as long as you're able. "This is all about time on your feet, because you'll burn more calories the longer you go," says McMillan.
Holiday Indulgence #2: Dessert Binge
Food For Thought: Cut Out The Sugar
This "meal" is brimming with simple carbohydrates (translation: sugar) and fat, and, as often happens after a dessert bender, you may find yourself hankering for even more sugar the day after. Rather than trying to go cold turkey the next day, says Gidus, satisfy your sweet tooth with healthier treats like fresh fruit, all-fruit jams, and smoothies.
Fitness Solution: Get speedy
As far as your muscles are concerned, vanilla-swirl fudge still translates into a decent carbo-load. But unlike your dinner buffet, the dessert binge doesn't offer the body much else in the way of nutrients. That's why McMillan recommends intervals to burn off those sweets in a hurry. The plan: Knock out six to eight 30-second pickups at about 80 percent effort with two-minute recovery jogs in between. (Bookend your speedwork with five to 10-minute jogs.)
Holiday Indulgence #3: Cocktail Party
Food For Thought: Focus on Three Square Meals
For a night that never involved a meal, you managed to put away plenty of calories and fat. Even worse, you probably left the party unsatisfied and maybe hit the kitchen before bed. Gidus says the key for the following day is to stop grazing. "Don't skip meals and just snack," she says. "You'll fall into the same trap of overeating without realizing it." Instead, eat real meals that range from 300 calories (for breakfast) to 900 or so (for dinner).
Fitness Solution: Give your body a break (today)
Fact: you overindulged and consumed many hundreds of calories that need to be burned off. Fiction: After that last ill-conceived round of mojitos, you're up for a major workout the next morning. Relax, says McMillan. It's okay to give yourself an easy day, then hit the ground running after that. So rebound postparty with a low-key hour of something that feels kind to your body-say, walking, swimming, or yoga. Then crank up the intensity a day later. McMillan suggests an interval workout-a warmup, five two-minute intervals (at a medium-hard effort) with one-minute recovery jog in between, and a cooldown.
So, how do you work off your holiday indulgences? Rally the in-laws for a long walk? Or do you not let yourself indulge in the first place?
Susan Rinkunas is an associate editor at Runner's World, a magazine (and website) that informs, advises, and motivates runners of all ages and abilities-and we mean it. Her blog on Yahoo! Shine offers tips on running technique, nutrition and weight loss, shoes and apparel, and balancing fitness and life.
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