Ok, Christmas is upon us and all that. Time to see the in-laws, the parents, that cousin you don’t like, the same used and beat up tree that your mother has been using for the last 30 years (not that any of this relates to me…). If you are lucky enough, you don’t have to do any of the aforementioned, but what is true is that you are going to have to eat crap during Christmas. Let’s face it, unless you are an evil soul that kills kittens in his/her spare time, you are going to have to succumb at least ONCE to eating stuff that is not very diet-friendly. I know this is the case for me and despite most of the time I eat a solid diet consisting of natural sources of food while avoiding grains and the likes (more info here), I do sometimes let my manly mane of curls flow with the wind and precisely succumb to the culinary temptations (hey, it is a human writing these words, after all).
For years, I have deviced many ways in which to stay lean during this festive season. Some went well, others not so well. Having said this, I want to write the 7 steps to one of my solid and proven approaches (I will too be using it during Christmas) which will be of use to you so as to minimize piling on the lard while still enjoying any social events/duties you may have during Christmas. By all means, I recommend you to relax and enjoy your holidays because this tends to be the time of the year where you get most days off work and people are actually nice (and all that merry cute stuff people do in Christmas).
Step 1: Plan your cheat meals
As you guys know by now, cheat meals are meals that have food sources that are not commonly found in your diet. It can be sandwiches because you don’t normally eat bread or it can be donuts and pizza (my favourite cheat meal). I don’t know about you but I know for sure my cheat meals will be on the evening of the 24th and on the evening of the 31st and I am sure many of you will have such schedule too. Because I am a nice son, I will say that I look forward to these days, mum.
The trick is to know in advance so that you can put the rest of the steps into practice. Many of your cheat meals will be in the late afternoon and evening which is even more convenient.
Know ahead when you will be indulging in these
Step 2: Remain in a fasted state.
That’s right, keep yourself fasted until the big time comes later in the day. Anyone can fast for 10 hours and your muscles will not eat away in this time. Just keep your mind off food, drink plenty of water, hit the gym (see next step), go for a walk, play sports (I like to go bodyboarding), play with your daughter’s new Wii console, whatever. It will be much easier than you think, especially since you know you will be rewarded come the later hours of the day.
Everytime I go back home, I love to go bodyboarding to keep myself active
Fasting also temporarily adjusts your insulin sensitivity and affects the “hunger hormone” leptin, which will have your body prioritizing the ingested calories to your muscles instead of to your precious adipocytes (i.e fat cells). Moreover because the stomach is only so big, you will be physically limited in the amount of food you can eat during your cheat meal which will limit the amount of surplus calories you ingest, especially if you do it smart like I will teach you below.
Step 3: Hit the gym
I know, I know. You are already crying because you have to hit the gym without having eaten any food for the day. Hear this, have you seen my Youtube videos powercleaning 275lbs, doing 2+ hour long sessions consisting of heavy power cleans, squats (front and back), presses, one arm snatches and much more? I do them all in a fasted state! Yep, that’s right, I put myself through enduring workouts that would have more than a few pseudo-alpha macho wannabes on the floor after the first exercise. If I can do it, you can too because if you have been following Manly Curls for some time now, you are probably carved in the same tough-ass iron that I am.
Rocky IV themes aside, training on a fasted state is actually very good for our festive purpose. You will deplete your muscle glycogen stores which will help in prioritizing the cheat meal calories to your muscles and revv up your metabolism for 24 hours. However, not all gym training will cut it, I want you to do a full body workout consisting of:
Squats: 3 sets of 12 reps
Deadlifts (conventional or stiff, you choose): 3 sets of 8 reps
Overhead press: 2 sets of 12 reps
Bench press: 2 sets of 15 reps
Rows: 2 sets of 15 reps
Lunges or step ups: 2 sets of 20 reps
Crunches or leg raises: 2 sets of 15 reps
Lower back extensions (if your gym has the machine): 1 set of 20 reps
Use a weight which allows you to perform all sets and reps and which doesn’t have you dying by the end of the set. Reason is because I want you to repeat this workout every single day that you have a set cheat meal! Every time you repeat this workout, do it with the same weight but do 1 repetition more on each set than the previous workout day. If you are having a cheat meal every freaking day, then only do the workout on a one day on/one day off basis.
Work your overhead pressing hard to keep yourself lean and mean!
Step 4: Eat your veggies and protein first
Ok, so it is 19:00 hours on D-Day. you are as hungry as a pack of wolves and you are starting to twitch from all the accumulated food lust your brain is indulging in.
“Food is ready” says your mother/wife/mother-inlaw/that cousing you don’t like.
Hell is about to break loose and you have my Manly Curls approval to do so. However, before you start eating that steak pie, put yourself a plate of whatever veggies are on the table or on offer with some of the leanest meat source you can find. It can be fried chicken, roasted turkey, boiled fish or a chick pea mush. Eat that first because the fiber from the vegetables will fill up your stomach and the protein will tame your satiety somewhat. After you go through this plate, I will only tell you this:
Make Manly Curls proud.
I eat so much that strangers will take pictures with me to post on Facebook if we happen to be eating in a restaurant. My family is used to my devouring of food so they normally have a dedicated table for me (away from the children’s table so as to not scare them). Seriously, eat all you like and try to get in some more protein sources (remember that steak pie?). Continue eating until you go to bed (or pass out, as is my case).
Something like this is great for your first plate of the cheat meal
Step 5: Choose your foods smart
While you can (and should) eat all you like, I know that as a Manly Curls dude/dudette you want to do it smart. Thus, choose foods containing the following:
Protein: anything that used to walk/swim or a by-product of these. Steak pie, roast beef, egg salads, desserts made with milk, caviar (for my hip readers). You get the point. If you are a vegetarian, you should already know which non-animal foods contain good protein but if you don’t, choose foods made of chick peas, rice, beans, lentil, bread, tofu and nuts. Protein will provide the building block for your muscles, increase your satiety levels and it has the welcomed effect of increasing metabolism as 25% of the calories used to break protein into amino acids are given off as heat.
Fiber: anything vegetable or fruit although try to shoot for leafy vegetables (e.g spinachs) and fruits with a high content in water (e.g berries). Fiber takes space in your stomach helping you to physically eat less and will aid enormously in moving all the crap you eat through your intestines. Instead of donuts, choose blueberry cheesecake (yummy!).
Water: drink plenty of water as you eat and before eating. Have two glasses of water before you start eating and aim for 3-4 glasses of water during the meals.
Alcohol: go for strong alcohols as they have the less calories per weight. Mix them with sugar-free drinks.
Fat: take 3 grams of fish oils with your first plate of food. Fish oil contains precious fats (omega 3) that are helpful in minimizing fat gain. Use fish oils from supplements (go to your nearest health store) as fish itself doesn’t have enough omega 3 for my recommended intake.
Again, eat whatever you like but bear in mind the above to maximize your efforts in avoiding fat gain.
I am salivating already…
Step 6: Continue with your normal diet on non-cheat meal days
When you don’t have a day with a cheat meal, continue eating as you’d otherwise do and keep your calorie level at about maintenance, so don’t undereat but don’t overeat either. To calculate your daily calorie needs, use this handy calculator from the Mayo Clinic website and to know how many calories does your food have, use this extensive database of food items.
Keep doing what you have been doing and don’t forget to relax!
Step 7: Don’t lose any sleep over it
Relax and eat. If you follow my steps you will not get fat and you will possibly go through Christmas without gaining any fat and looking like your usual self. Likewise, losing sleep will only harm you because sleep is essential to good body composition. I, for example, look my leanest during the periods I get solid sleep (7 to 9 hours) and you should be striving to do the same. Don’t worry, relax, enjoy your time with your loved ones and eat like the rest of the mortals for once.
Cute puppies are always a good addition to an article
These 7 steps will be very useful to you and are easy to follow. You will be able to give your mind a break from any dieting you may have been doing for the rest of the year and will come back fresh as a petal to accomplish your new year’s resolutions. And as usual, you heard all this first at Manly Curls, because we are pioneers in giving advice for the 21st century better man!
All the best,