Let me start with a quick congratulations of the implied good news: You have been making gains in the gym! That’s great! It tells me that you have established some good habits, developed a routine, and you’ve paid at least a little bit of attention to your intake.
(If you’d like to learn how to make the most progress, please go back and read some my earlier Ask Andy responses, which outline the most effective and efficient ways to get fitter, fast.)
This is a terrific question, and one that I’ve been asked many times over the years. My answer has, admittedly, mellowed out as I’ve aged — so you’re in luck! Whereas I used to be much more hardcore and I’d have answered with a question of my own, such as, “Well, how badly do you want to be awesome?!” Hahaha. While I understand what younger me meant, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot more to enjoy around the holidays besides just the weightroom — and that we can get away with some intake “transgressions.” So, here are a few guidelines which you can keep in mind over the next few weeks which should allow you to both enjoy some holiday cheer AND keep the progress for which you have worked so hard.
Yes, enjoy some deliciousness, but remember to categorize them as a treat, and not as a staple to your intake! For just one example, a slice of pumpkin pie every once in a while is not going to derail your fitness train — but, if you consume multiple slices of pie each day over the next two weeks, then you will most certainly notice a difference. Remember our 80/20 rule? Just try to plan ahead, and if you know you have a holiday party, or a big family dinner, or any kind of special event, then save your treats for that occasion. Eat well the rest of the day and aim for 80% of your overall intake to be beneficial, then the 20 percent won’t be an issue in the big picture.
Yes, find a way to exercise every day! Even if you’re traveling, there are plenty of ways to work out — look back at the Ask Andy answers; we talked about this! Here’s the key: DON’T worry if your “holiday workouts” aren’t on par with your “normal” workouts. Even if you’re traveling, or your gym is closed, or you’re just busy entertaining your in-laws, DO focus on consistency, which is the most important aspect of maintaining your momentum and preserving your progress. Even a 15-minute jog coupled with 15 minutes of mobility work and bodyweight exercises can be fantastic to keep your machine tuned-up. The main point here is to move, every day. Especially when you are consuming more/worse calories than usual — this “stoking the metabolic fire” is crucial to maintain forward progress.
Lastly, a quick discussion for those of us who may enjoy an adult beverage this time of year. I feel responsible to start by clarifying that alcohol is not good for fitness. Full stop. If you want to be the best you can be, then alcohol can’t be a part of your intake.
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HOWEVER, if you enjoy a drink and can do so responsibly, then you must treat it as a special occasion, and not a regular occasion. Again, you can’t fit into the 80/20 rule if you are intaking multiple drinks every day. Those are empty calories that our bodies don’t know what to do with, so they are stored as fat. In fact — you could actually call alcohol the “bodyfat gateway,” because not only do the alcohol calories eventually become fat, but when we drink, our willpower lowers and decision-making becomes questionable, so we just may convince ourselves that eating an entire pizza at midnight is somehow a good idea. SPOILER: It’s not a good idea, nor should it be considered as “mass-gaining” (nice try, though. Haha).
Conclusion: Eat, drink, be merry, and exercise!
Just keep that metabolic bonfire moving with consistent fat-burning and good intake to help burn the bad. The reality is that unless you have a photoshoot, bodybuilding competition, or a wedding the first week in January, then enjoying the holidays a bit is not going to set you back in the big picture. Actually, it can be beneficial to you as a break/restart/refresher so you get back to your normal routine with renewed enthusiasm.
Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!