Ask The Trainer #53 – Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain


Hi Chad. I was wondering if you had any tips on how to avoid gaining too much weight during the holidays? I generally eat pretty clean, but I like to treat myself and indulge during the holidays. The only problem is every year I end up gaining anywhere from 8-10 pounds. Then, I have to kill myself for the next 2 month trying to lose the weight I gained within just a couple of weeks. I hate gaining all that weight, but at the same time, I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out. Any suggestions on how I can avoid gaining so much weight, but still treat myself?




Hi, Sean. Pretty much everyone I know, myself included, looks forward to letting loose during the holiday season and enjoying treats that generally aren’t available the rest of the year.

I won’t say junk food. Instead, I will use the term “foods of lesser nutritional value”. In other words, foods that are higher in calories but offer very little actual nutrition. I’m talking about Christmas cookies, fudge, eggnog, candy, etc. Your calorie total for the day will add up extremely fast just having a small plate of these types of snacks.

At the end of the day, weight gain is a result of eating calories above and beyond your metabolic requirements. This is less likely to happen with foods that offer high levels of nutrition with less overall calories.

I’m sure this isn’t anything you don’t already know. So, let’s talk about measures you can take to minimize the weight gain during the holidays.

1. Try intermittent fasting along with a workout prior to a big holiday meal. Your body’s fat burning processes are regulated by your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Your SNS is activated via exercise and food restriction.

Exercising in a fasted state enhances the impact of metabolic catalysts: cyclic AMP and AMP Kinases, which activate the breakdown of fat and glucose for energy. This is why training on an empty stomach can prime your body to burn more fat and empty stored glycogen.

This is significant before indulging in high carbohydrate foods because your body will be using more glucose to restore depleted glycogen reserves. This means less sugar will be available to feed fat cells.

One more point I want to make is that eating a large meal high in carbohydrates will inhibit your sympathetic nervous system and reduce your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise.

Chad ShawIn contrast, eating a high carbohydrate meal prior to exercise stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes energy storage, or fat storage.

Here’s an example of how intermittent fasting could be done before a big holiday party taking place between 12:00-1:00 PM:

  • 7:00 AM: Wake up and have your coffee (no sugar in it though), along with 10 grams of branched chain amino acids.
  • 9:45 AM: Take 10 grams of branched chain amino acids and 1.5 grams of Kre-Alkalyn. Pre-workout or sugar-free caffeinated beverage may be consumed at this time.
  • 10:00 AM: Workout
  • Post Workout: Take 10 more grams of branched chain amino acids and another 1.5 grams of Kre-Alkalyn.
  • Shower and get ready for the big gathering.
  • 12:00-1:00 PM: Let the feeding begin!

I realize you might be shuddering at the notion of working out in a fasted state. This is where the magic of branched chain amino acids and creatine are incredibly valuable assets!

The combination of these 2 supplements helps provide instant energy. They also increase protein synthesis, boost valuable growth hormone levels and prevent muscle tissue breakdown.

I’ve had some pretty awesome workouts after taking 10-15 grams of Training Ground BCAA and 1.5 grams of Kre-Alkalyn before training in a fasted state. I’ve also found it valuable to take branched-chain amino acids every couple of hours throughout a period of fasting.

PLEASE NOTE: Fasted training typically is not ideal for athletes who train for intense, or high energy sports. Then again, these types of athletes generally do not have a problem with body fat. Furthermore, some individuals may be especially sensitive to training in a fasted state, and experience lightheadedness, dizziness, or nausea. In these circumstances, I suggest consuming 20-25 grams of whey protein about 1 hour prior to a workout.

2. Consume a protein shake 1 hour before attending your big holiday meal. Doing so will help keep your blood sugar levels stable so you don’t feel as much like binging come meal time. Plus, many brands of whey protein taste somewhat sweet which will help appease your cravings for sweets.

3. Try to snack on your vegetables before digging into the cookies and candy. It isn’t uncommon for people to have veggie platters among the snacks laid out before a large holiday meal.

If you eat your veggies first, the simple sugars from the sugary snacks will piggyback the fibrous, complex carbohydrates in the vegetables, causing them to digest more slowly, thus minimizing the fat-storing insulin response that accompanies consuming a bunch of sugary snacks by themselves. Not only that, but the fiber content of the vegetables will fill you up even more, reducing your tendency to overeat.

4. Keep yourself well hydrated. Drink water often throughout the duration of your holiday bash. Holiday beverages are extremely damaging to your physique because they are in liquid form, allowing you to consume an exorbitant amount of calories within a short amount of time. The more water you drink, the less eggnog, punch, alcoholic beverages, etc., you can or will drink. You will spare yourself lots of calories simply by drinking lots of water!

Hopefully, these tips will help suppress some of the weight gain that commonly accompanies the holidays!

I want to wish everyone a very happy, blessed, and safe holiday season!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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