Festive food advice for athletes this Christmas

Posted on December 11, 2018 by

Christmas is a time of many traditions and family and friends coming together. This time is also generally centred around food, drinks and celebrations. While it’s important to be mindful of your diet over the break, you also want to connect with family, traditions and your favourite Christmas foods!

You don’t have to be on your best behaviour and maintain a perfect diet, however, if your routine is going to change over the Christmas break it’s important to check in with your goals and how you will make food choices.

It’s a time of surplus food choices which can be very energy dense and rich. If you take an all or nothing approach to what and how much you eat, you may find yourself either not enjoying your break or not enjoying your return to training.

Before you jump on the Christmas food train, think about:

  • What changes have you made to your training?
  • What are your circumstances over the break?
  • Are you at home more and have more food accessible and more free time to eat it?
  • Has your training intensity decreased or do you have more/less sessions?

These all impact what allowances you will need to make in your diet and how you might eat differently in the break.


8 tips to approaching food choices over the break

To manage your weight and health over the break it doesn’t mean you should avoid all Christmas food and drink and be on a different diet to anyone else you are spending time with. Just be mindful of food choices:


1. Eat and enjoy the food and the experience you are having

2. If you find yourself eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat and you feel uncomfortably full or you aren’t enjoying it – then don’t eat it

3. It’s ok to say no to some options if they don’t connect with your goals; and to not eat every option available just because it’s in front of you.

4. You can still manage to maintain a routine in the timing of your meals (even though the types of protein, carbs and fats you eat might change)

5. You can also continue managing the portion sizes of meals if they are more energy dense to help you stay in control of diet options

6. Be realistic and own food choices, if it’s richer food you enjoy but may not usually eat, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. It’s ok to eat differently but factor it in to your overall eating plan for the day rather than as an extra on top of your daily intake. That might mean reducing the portions of another meal or not having an additional snack that day

7. If you find all you are feeling is guilty or overly full after eating something, learn from that and apply it next time to make a smarter choice that will keep you more aligned with your goals.

8. One blow out doesn’t define you and you will bounce back once you get back to your regular healthy eating habits; it’s when these habits of over eating or feeling guilty continue that it’s a bigger problem if you don’t learn from it and adjust to form healthier habits.


4 areas to be mindful of excess intake

These things are likely to have negative effects on the body, energy levels and health, leaving your tired and lethargic.

1. High fat foods
For a small amount of food, fatty food is densely packed with energy. Deep fried foods, fast food, fatty meats and full fat dairy and cream are packed with excess energy. Try to limit or reduce any unnecessary or visible fats by trimming fat and skin off meat, grilling meat where possible, have low fat dairy and lightly use butter or gravies sparingly.

2. Really sugary/low nutrient food
Sweets, lollies, cakes and soft drink can help increase carbs during high levels of activity but when you aren’t being active they accumulate stores that aren’t used and can create drastic fluctuations to blood glucose levels and can also impact the gut and digestion.

3. Snacking
There are lots of gifts and snack food to have between meals when people catch up. When considering a snack, you want it to be balanced so it can maintain energy levels and help muscle turn over. By picking at food, as opposed to structured snacking, it can increase daily energy quite quickly, especially if it’s a salty snack or sweet treats. If it’s not a set snack or meal time consider if you need to have it at all.

4. Alcohol
When competing alcohol can reduce performance up to 15% even 72 hours after consumption. Outside of training alcohol can still have an impact on the body by contributing excessive amounts of energy that isn’t burnt off and then stored as fat, on top of the other well know impacts of excess alcohol on health. Manage alcohol like food, in moderation. Too much will have an impact on your body and health.


But don’t forget to eat!

On the flip side, you also want to be cautious of getting around and about, doing Christmas shopping and catching up with people and forgetting to eat and going long periods without any food. This can lead to periods of fatigue if you are still training or over compensating and eating too much at the wrong times to not recover effectively from training.

The diet practices that serve you well to continue them also, keep eating vegetables and fruits regularly and enjoy the seasonal produce that is available now.

Eat grainy and high fibre bread and cereals and lean proteins when you have them to maintain some consistency in choices.


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