After a year of challenges that caused the world to move in slow motion, the holiday season is finally upon us. So, to break away from 2020 where facts were hotly contested, we thought it was time to separate common myths from facts about staying healthy and managing your weight during the holidays and give you real world solutions to keep your program on track.
Myth #1: – Saving calories to eat more later
A common recommendation for those watching their weight, and yes, holiday party goers, is to skip meals so you can “eat what you want” later in the day. This can work if you know yourself well enough that the hunger you put yourself through during the day won’t cause you to feast on that huge turkey dinner with all the fixings, plus two or three deserts and alcohol, only to repeat just three hours later.
But holidays are indulgent
Unlike Intermittent Fasting (IF) where you limit the time in which you eat daily (the feeding window) saving calories for the big feast usually fails around the holidays because the generous amount of delicious not-so-nutritious foods, desserts, and alcohol can overwhelm even the most disciplined person.
Controlling your appetite
If you want to experience the taste sensations and variety of food and drink during the holidays, you can eat one to two small protein meals or shakes before the party instead of starving. Research has shown that small protein feedings help curb your appetite, in particular sugar and carb cravings[i]. This little trick will normalize your appetite and allow you to enjoy the food and drink at your dinner or event but be much less likely to eat past the point of fullness and satisfaction.
Myth #2: Turkey makes you sleepy
It’s true, turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which promotes sleep by increasing serotonin and melatonin. However, turkey has about the same amount of tryptophan as other meats.
When it comes to food, what’s more likely to make you sleepy is not so much the types of foods, but the total amount eaten. This shines truth on the universal myth that you get sleepy after big holiday meals because of eating turkey, when in fact it’s simply caused by eating too much at one sitting[ii].
So, if you don’t want to nap in front of your friends and family, you should opt for eating more moderate portions. The good news is three to four hours later, you can grab another plate and enjoy a second helping.
Myth #3: Snacking at bedtime causes more weight gain than earlier in the day
The abundance of food around the holidays, like cookies and pies on the kitchen counter, and a fridge full of leftovers has magnified this late-night eating myth.
The truth is, there is no witching hour that causes calories eaten after daylight to be stored as excess weight. What’s important to know is that when it comes to weight management, if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
One last consideration is that because your body releases key hormones during sleep, it is best to avoid high carbohydrate meals, and alcohol before bed (give yourself a few hours to let these subside) as this may inhibit the natural release of growth hormone.
Myth #4: You gained at least five pounds over the holidays
Do you ever panic during the holidays when you feel like you’re carrying “at least 5 pounds” of excess weight? If so, don’t worry because if you’re health conscious this is a normal part of simply paying attention.
That’s a great thing.
The fact is, while it seems like the toll of back-to-back feasts, leftovers, and a limitless selection of mouthwatering foods has caused you to pack on the pounds, the amount of bodyfat you’ve gained is often much less. Here’s why.
To gain five pounds of fat from Thanksgiving to Christmas (about one month) would require an average person to overconsume 17,500 calories (one pound = ~3,500 calories).
That’s equal to eating 583 calories more than you burn every day for a month.
According to experts, a more realistic fat gain number is about one pound over a month. Oftentimes, people believe they gain four times the amount of weight than they do. One reason for this is that an increase in carbohydrates over the holidays – a common practice for low-carb and keto followers will cause extra water to be stored in the body.
Added carbs cause water weight gain.
The way additional carbs cause the body to store extra water is based on the following. When we eat carbs, the energy that we do not use right away is stored as glycogen molecules in muscle and your liver. Each gram (g) of glycogen comes with 3 g of water attached. This equates to one-half pound of water weight each day for just 75g of additional carbs per day!
But water weight, is NOT fat gain.
To minimize adding body fat, be sure to keep track of overall calories. So even if you eat just 75g of additional carbs per day, you can offset this by eating 33g less fat on these same days.
MaxLiving Holiday Myth Busters
- Manage Your Appetite – For a satisfying and guilt-free holiday experience you can employ several tactics to keep calories under control. While you’re visiting with friends and family simply opt to eating smaller meals, but more often. This allows you to be more sociable, and avoid excess bodyfat gain, or feeling sleepy and lethargic.
- Curb Your Appetite – You can help reduce appetite and cravings in the face of feasts by eating some clean high-quality protein before you head out to the big event. For a quick fix of ultra-premium protein, we suggest MaxLiving Grass-Fed Whey Protein. It’s a delicious, nutrient-packed powder that also provides enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics to improve digestion and overall health.
- Watch Proteins, Carbs, and Fats – As noted above, opting for protein can be a great way to keep your appetite from going off the rails. In addition, to make most of your holiday water weight gain, not body fat, make sure to reduce fat intake somewhat to offset the added calories from carbs.
Most of all, this holiday season do your best to enjoy yourself. Good memories forged during these times often become important and sentimental life experiences that will bring you joy for years. The good news is that the tips in this article will allow you to get your fill of stuffing, potatoes, and desserts without the guilt.
[i] Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
[ii] Willett, W., Manson, J., & Liu, S. (2002). Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 76). https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/76.1.274s