Gain Mass

The Guilt-Free Holiday Dinner Strategy

Follow these tips and eat guilt-free this holiday season.

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Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
VICUSCHKA / Getty

Let’s face it: the holidays and diets don’t get along.

Sure, the holiday season is a time for love, peace on earth, and celebration. (Heck, during World War I, the Germans and Allies even played soccer together on Christmas Day.) But with celebration comes festive gatherings stuffed with overeating, whopping portions, calorie-packed desserts, and more overeating.

Man, we like to eat. We know that the average American gains weight over the holidays—and the last thing you want to do during these few weeks is undo all the hard work you’ve put in at the gym during the year.

Yet you always hear the same advice:

“Eat this, don’t eat that. Only eat one of this, drink this instead of that, etc.”

What if there were ways that you could stuff yourself and not worry? What if you go for that third slice of pie with a sigh of relief or have another beer?

Here’s how:

1. Fast Before the Feast

If you’re having a huge holiday dinner with family and friends, skip breakfast and lunch.

“Wait, I thought skipping meals is bad for you?!”

Actually, the opposite is true. There’s a lot of research that suggests short-term fasting has benefits on insulin sensitivity (carb tolerance) and nutrition partitioning (directing food to muscle instead of fat), cholesterol, fat oxidation, post-workout metabolism, and even lifespan.

Not only are you reducing the number of calories you eat per day, but you’re also increasing your metabolism. (And living longer, too.) Just make sure you drink plenty of water during your fast.

“Won’t I starve?”

Starvation-mode doesn’t start until about 72 hours into a fast. But you won’t go that far—realistically, you’re only fasting for 16-24 hours at most, and that already includes your sleep.

How to Boost Your Fast:

Drink green tea throughout the day. It increases your fat loss, improves your cholesterol, and tastes pretty damn good, too.

2. Exercise Before The Feast

Head to the gym and get a heavy, intense workout before your mega-meal. But don’t just pump your muscles…

Create a huge metabolic effect.

Not only will you hit your muscles hard, but you’ll also burn stored energy (glycogen), fry your anaerobic system, and create a huge energy vacuum. Afterward, your muscle cells will demand more nutrients than your fat cells, and your holiday meal will help refuel and repair your muscles.

Now...how do we create that effect?

Do this circuit (use heavy weights):

  • Double kettlebell swing x 8
  • Front squat x 8
  • Barbell Row x 8
  • Pullups x 8
  • Ab Rollouts x 10
  • Reverse crunches x 12

Here’s the catch: there’s no rest. Repeat this circuit as many times as you can in 25 minutes. This will spike your metabolism after your workout.

“What if I don’t have access to a gym?”

Use this bodyweight circuit instead:

  • Jump squats x 30 seconds
  • Pushups x 30 seconds
  • Mountain climbers x 30 seconds
  • Single-leg hip bridge x 30 seconds (15 seconds, each side)
  • Super plank x 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds between each exercise. Rest for 90 seconds at the end of one circuit, then repeat. Complete five times.

How to Boost Your Workout:

Do it while fasting.

Combining the two further improves your insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism.

Still think fasting is bad? A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that fasted training may increase muscle growth. Also, research shows that athletes training during Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) realized no negative change in body composition while fasted.

Right before and during your workout, sip 10g of BCAAs mixed with water. That’ll give your body a quick, no-carb fuel source and—at the same time—might even further increase your post-workout metabolism.

That is how you have your cake and eat it too this holiday season.


Get more seasonal fit tips with the Lifter's Guide to the Holidays>>

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