Both our calorie intake and the frequency with which we eat can rocket at Christmas & through the festivities.
If you follow Zana’s advice, you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself, keep your shape (and maybe even lose!) while remaining calm! Warm mince pies, brandy sauce, a double malt by the open fire or chunky squares of chocolate, all get the green light if you follow these tips. The key is to balance your body so that it can deal with everything that comes your way.
When we graze all day, visiting the fridge every 30 minutes, we’re sending our hormones haywire, consistently and occasionally, massively, increasing our blood sugar levels, in turn increasing levels of insulin being released throughout the day. Insulin is responsible for taking sugar out of our bloodstream, and ultimately converting it into fat, in particular belly fat. It also causes the release of the craving hormone, ghrelin, sending us straight back to the fridge, as well as contributes to energy slumps during the day, waking us up during the night, and even impacting our mood, causing us to feel agitated or irritable.
To prevent this roller coaster ride and to enjoy Christmas, with balanced mind and body, do the following:
- Increase your protein intake. This may seem counter intuitive given the potential already to eat too many calories. However, protein calories, whether from cottage cheese or salmon and steak, lentil soup or eggs won’t cause the same surge in insulin as the calories acquired from sugar and carbohydrate foods. And you’ll be fuller for far longer, without any fear of ghrelin-induced cravings, meaning both hunger and the desire for sugar options will reduce. You’ll sleep well through the night, waking up rested, without feeling ravenous.
- Nothing is banned, but before you reach for the Quality Street, have a bit of protein…! Sugar on an empty stomach, whether from fruit or chocolate, will hit the bloodstream quickly, causing an insulin rush. Consuming protein first means your body will be working hard to break down it down, so the sugar from the chocolate will go into your bloodstream more slowly, leading to less of a hormonal surge, and less likely to be converted into belly fat! We find that our favourite Casein Protein shake, taken during that afternoon dip, makes all the difference. And if you still feel like your favourite purple one after (which we suspect you won’t!) – you can still enjoy!
- Try intermittent fasting. Leave a space of between 14 hours – 16 hours between your last bite to eat in the evening to your first the next day e.g. 7pm – 11am. This fasting gap seems to ensure more stability in hormonal levels, in particular insulin, which in turn, helps eliminate both cravings and the artificial feelings of hunger which it causes. It also helps support the release of another hormone, Growth Hormone, which is responsible for muscle recovery and repair. In short, not only is intermittent fasting helpful for reducing belly fat, but it also helps strength, and even, many find, in feeling calmer and less stressed. To do intermittent fasting successfully and rather effortlessly, it definitely helps to eat enough protein in the evening time, ensuring you don’t wake up hungry. A simply hack is to add the Casein Protein shake, as a dessert after your evening meal.
- Don’t graze. You can eat 4 times/day if you wish, but consider each a meal. Every time you eat something, the body’s digestive system kicks in, beginning a lengthy process of 6 key steps. Even an oatcake will trigger this cycle and stop your body ‘s repair mechanisms to fully focus on digesting the food you’ve just ingested. Of course, this results in a depletion of your precious energy. If you want a snack or chocolate, have them with your meal. Enjoy that helping of pear and sherry trifle at the table, or as in point 2, have your protein shake or a piece of cheese, before your chocolate!
- We’ve hardly touched on alcohol! Here’s the thing; if you drink it with your meal, or immediately after your meal, the food you’re eating will slow down the release of the sugar and alcohol into the blood stream. Your insulin won’t spike to the same degree, the ghrelin hit won’t be so high, meaning you’ll sleep better, have more energy & be less irritable.
So there we have it. To experience a calmer and stronger Christmas, simply get the protein foods in, and if you feel like eating food high in carbohydrates or sugar – be that mince pies to chocolate or a glass of wine - do that at mealtimes or at least around a small amount of protein food. And above all, enjoy yourselves!
Happy Christmas from all of us at Strong Nutrients!