The Christmas / New Year period can be the “most wonderful time of the year” however with it often comes extra celebratory events, catch ups, changes to routine and a different more plentiful food environment.
While it seems like a fun time to let your hair down, for athletes this training period is a crucial time of year to train and prepare for competition and trials. This might pose some challenges for athletes to find a compromise between focusing on training and also connecting with family and friends.
To enjoy the festive season and remain focused and accountable to your training goals and performance during this period and into the new year, you may need to adapt your nutrition habits to consider your current environment.
1. Be flexible and mirror nutrition with training & activity
Before throwing yourself into the surplus of food socially available, stay aware of how your regular day-to-day regime or training loads may have changed this includes less frequent training sessions, reduced training intensity, or more free time at home. These will all impact necessary dietary amendments to still continue working towards your performance goals. A reduced training load will result in a reduced need for food intake, if training is ramped up you may need to add a little more in.
In Australia, the warmer weather and longer daylight often results in greater time in the sun, whether that is at training, relaxing at the beach or being active outdoors. Be prepared for this by having emergency snacks packed and water bottles accessible at all times. Heat can suppress appetite; so smaller, more frequent meals/snacks may be more appropriate to maintain optimal fuelling and recovery, especially if you are more active than you think.
2. Relax a little
Sharing food with family and friends is such a big part of coming together over the Christmas break. Its also not a healthy diet if you exclude yourself from activities or create antisocial behaviour from group settings purely to avoid temptation, overeating or eating a certain way that you think wont be ‘good’
While we obviously advocate for nutritious eating patterns, we believe in a balanced approach. Its ok to eat a little differently allowing guilt-free enjoyment of potentially less nutrient-dense foods every now and again. As long as the majority of your diet maintains nutritious and balanced, your health and performance will not be undone after Christmas lunch.
3. Quality over quantity
When approaching the less nutritious options that will pop up around Christmas, consider having smaller amounts of higher quality foods that you love, and enjoy them! As opposed to excessive intake of ordinary foods that you really only find yourself eating because they are there. It is okay to say no to options if they don’t connect with your goals or your tastebuds.
4. Practice mindful eating
Try to avoid the “all-or-nothing” mentality, as you may find yourself either not enjoying your break or struggling through your return to normal training.
Eat the festive foods slowly to maximise enjoyment. Try to listen to your body and acknowledge your hunger and fullness cues. For more tips around mindful eating, read this helpful article.
5. Maintain consistent nutritious meals
Avoid “saving” yourself for big nights or meals by compromising other meals/snacks that you normally consume as this can impact your energy availability and recovery, which can result in compromised training and/or excess fatigue or over compensating. Maintain healthy, balanced meals including lots of colour from fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, dairy, healthy fats and wholegrain carbohydrates.
6. Don’t forget hydration
With the heat comes a greater risk of dehydration, and we know that just 2% dehydration can have a significant impact on performance, both physically and mentally. One of the quickest and easy ways of monitoring hydration is by looking at your urine colour – the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.
Bored of just water? Soda water, or flavoured tea bags for iced water can encourage you to drink more, as can adding freshly squeezed lime, lemon or fresh mint.
We hope you have wonderful Christmas period! Just remember that many small dietary changes or considerations can equate to a substantial difference collectively.