Celebrate in good shape

WORDS: Rick Brennan PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

Christmas doesn’t have to equal extra kilos. With a calorie-controlled nutrition structure, weight can certainly be maintained as we celebrate.

Have you been working on your summer body for the past 12 weeks and achieved some great results? Concerned your hard work will be undone with the festive season upon us?

By understanding the effects of alcohol and the process of backloading our calories (fasting), there are some simple tips you can follow to keep off those kilos you worked so hard to shake.

Let’s first look at alcohol. We must understand the physiological and psychological impacts it has. I have always considered alcohol to be the fourth macronutrient as it has seven calories per gram. This is almost as high as fat content at nine calories per gram and protein and carbohydrates both at four calories per gram.  Alcohol is considered an empty calorie as unlike food, it has no nutritional value. Alcohol cannot be stored by the body, so it must be broken down before any food sources. This slows down the body’s metabolic rate at which it burns other foods and stored fat reserves for energy.

However, the two biggest negative influences come in the form of the lowering of blood sugar levels and the inhibitions for snacking on high fat or sugar calorie-dense foods. When blood sugar levels drop, we have the tendency to crave sugar, which of course when eaten, sets the wheels in motion for insulin highs and the storage of excess sugar being converted to body fat.

When most people think of a glass of red wine, they think of carbohydrates. However, there are very few carbs (three to four grams in most red wines for example), with most calories coming from the alcohol content. Of course, this can change greatly when we start talking about full strength, high-carb beers. I refer to beer as liquid toast and when you consider the average beer contains 9-10 grams of carbs, it’s easy to see why. These days we have a fantastic selection of low-carb, low-calorie beers which offer a greatly reduced carbohydrate calorie impact to our daily allowances. Most champagnes have much fewer calories than the majority of red and white wines, with an average of 90-100 calories per glass. While spirits can differ greatly when it comes to carbohydrates and calories, white (clear) spirits including gin and vodka have around 100 calories, with tequila coming out on top with the lowest number of 70 calories per serve.

In moderation, with a calorie-controlled nutrition structure, weight can certainly be maintained as we celebrate. I have even had clients able to continue losing weight and achieve amazing body transformation results during the festive season. The key can sometimes be the choice of alcohol but in all cases, the tracking of calories consumed in both alcohol and food throughout a 24-hour period is the golden key to long-term, sustainable success – especially during this festive season.

I have seen first-hand many people work tirelessly during winter to achieve their best summer body only to watch it all unravel in a matter of three to four weeks. The most frustrating part is this can all be avoided with forward-thinking, meal timing and planning your food and alcohol consumption choices.

I encourage a calorie backloading protocol for my clients which enables them to go out and enjoy lunches, dinners and any other festive celebrations without the wheels falling off or the feeling they have lost control. This can be as easy as using an intermittent fasting protocol, where your first meal of the day is lunch on the day of your event, allowing you to save those calories to be consumed later in the day. This is a fantastic way to ensure you stay within your daily calorie boundaries while you participate in celebrations – and ensures you don’t wake up starting on the back foot in the New Year.

* Rick Brennan is a certified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach and sports nutritionist with more than 25 years experience in the health and fitness industry. Rick has helped change the lives of thousands of people through his body transformation coaching and online personal training and nutrition programs.

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