It’s no surprise holiday weight gain is due in large part to an increase in consumption of calories and a decrease in activity. Those who attempt to stay active through this nutritional gauntlet, however, can end up looking more like Gunter Schlierkamp than Santa Claus by January.
“If you commit to training hard all the way through the holiday season, you wont really have to worry about the additional calories, says bodybuilding nutritional guru Chris Aceto. They can be just what your growing body needs, providing a temporary surplus to help you add some serious muscle.”
Every bodybuilder requires large amounts of protein -1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day to keep growing. What you don’t want too much of is fat. Although Aceto recommends staying away from fatty meats such as ham, prime rib and lamb as much as possible, you can load up on the turkey…parts of it, anyway. Turkey breast, without the skin, is some of the leanest protein around, providing more protein and less fat than chicken or red meat, he says.
2. Easy on the Loaf
Other meats such as pot roast, meatloaf or sausages are okay in moderation, but they come with a caveat: Since these protein sources are also high in fat, make sure they aren’t your main source of protein and absolutely cut fat elsewhere from your diet.
3. Pump Up the Powder
The simplest way to up your protein without breaking in another belt loop? Protein powder. Opt for a powder that’s low-carb and low-fat, Aceto notes. That way, if you drink three protein shakes a day at around 40–50 grams each in between meals, you’re getting 120–150 grams of protein with little or no fat or carbs.
4. Drive Your Carbs
An adequate diet of carbohydrates — most bodybuilders need 50%–60% of their total calories from carbs to lift at full strength and keep energy reserves within muscles topped off. More healthful, slower-burning carbs such as whole grains, yams, peas, corn and salad greens are best.
5. Splurge Wisely
Of course, you want to make sure you’re getting some of the healthier carbs in your diet, but desserts are okay as long as you look at the bigger picture. Is eating half of a pie okay? No. But eating 1-2 small slices is, as long as you make sure you’re eating 5–6 times per day. This will help to ensure that you don’t overeat.
6. Go Small More Often
Eating smaller and more often during the day — before your late-lunch or dinner blowout, for example — also helps to keep your metabolism in check, a must for maintaining muscle size and keeping fat stores low.
7. The After-Mass
Dip into the holiday surplus for some leftover turkey, then place it on some whole-wheat or whole-grain bread for a complete pre-workout meal. Some turkey and a yam also make for a good (and good-tasting) pre-gym boost. The slow carbs in yams and whole-grain or whole-wheat breads allow the body to maximize its glycogen stores, keeping you from crashing during a workout.
8. Don't Diss Dessert
Post-workout, knock down a whey-based protein shake and a dessert. Yes, we said dessert. When was the last time you heard us tell you to do that?
After training, the body needs fast-digesting protein like whey to kick-start the growth process. The fast-digesting carbs in a dessert — two cookies, for instance — drive up insulin levels, which helps to build muscle and quickly replenishes glycogen, which is depleted during training.
9. Eat More - Train Hard
Building muscle requires more food, but if getting big and ripped were just a matter of shoveling turkey and pumpkin pie down your throat, we’d be a nation full of Olympia contenders.
When it comes to calories, the total number of calories is just as important as their quality. To grow, you have to eat more calories than the body needs. You really can’t micromanage the way the body grows. Bottom line is, if you’re training hard, you need to eat more to grow.