WITH the Christmas party and feast period quickly approaching, the struggle of avoiding all of the alcohol and food will soon begin. There is nothing wrong with a small amount of indulgence over the festive period but as weight-categorised athletes you should be trying to limit the intake. Any weight you put on over this period will need to be removed over the weeks after, putting you behind schedule if you have a fight early in the New Year. Here are a few tips to help you keep on track.

Eating Out

If you are going out for family meals or Christmas parties try not to be hungry when you sit down. if you are hungry there is a much greater chance of you eating more, eating faster and making bad meal choices. Try having a healthy high-protein snack or small meal before you go (e.g. chicken strips and hummus, cottage cheese with blueberries, a handful of cashews) and opt for water as opposed to sugary soft drinks or alcohol.

The Hangover

As athletes, the best piece of advice would be to limit alcohol consumption and NEVER get drunk at any time of year. However, over the Christmas period those who drink may feel worse for wear some mornings. Here are few tips to help you get back up and running in the morning if you have had a night on the sauce.

The main reason your head is pounding in the morning is due to dehydration. Alcohol as many will know is a diuretic, meaning it increases the rate of fluid excretion from the body (the reason why once you break the seal you keep going far too often). As caffeine is also a diuretic, having both together (e.g. vodka Red Bulls, or Jägerbombs) can further increase fluid losses so avoid a combination of the two. Mixing these two substances can have other more serious health implications so it’s best to avoid drinking the two together.

It appears that the diuretic effect of alcohol only occurs at alcohol concentrations of four per cent and above. Due to this it would be recommended to stick to low percentage alcohol (under four per cent) to minimise the amount of fluid loss and the hangover effect. You will more than likely have suffered dehydration in your career trying to make weight if a weight cut hadn’t gone as planned. As these states of dehydration will be similar (albeit the hangover a lot more painful), why not use the rehydration strategies that you use after your weigh-ins to rehydrate yourself after the hangover.

For example:

  • As soon as you wake up, add electrolyte tablets to one litre of water and drink as soon as possible and keep drinking at regular intervals throughout the day.
  • Drinking large amounts of water without electrolytes does not aid rehydration, therefore avoid drinking only water, either drink alongside food or add electrolytes. Coconut water is also a natural drink packed full of electrolytes (more than some sports drinks).
  • Find an electrolyte mix you like, if you don’t like it, you won’t drink it, even more so when feeling tender after a few beers.
  • Aim for a sodium content of 700-1000 mg per one litre of fluid electrolytes.
  • Coconut Water – 900-1000 mg.
  • Nuun Tablets – 700 mg.
  • Science in Sport Hydro – 700 mg.
  • H2Pro – offer a number of sodium concentrations including 250, 500, 1000 and 1500 mg (the 1000 mg option would be the best option).

To reduce how much fluid you lose while out drinking, pre-load your body with electrolytes to reduce fluid losses, in a similar way to which marathon runners pre-load to prevent dehydration in hot environments. Have a pint of water with added electrolytes just before you go out.

Christmas Day Intake

There are many health experts out there that are shocked by the amount of calories consumed over the Christmas period. Figures of 6,000 calories on Christmas day are often thrown around.

As athletes that eat well most days of the year and train up to three times per day, is a one-day binge of 6,000 calories going to affect performance and health? In my opinion no, it is not. Enjoy your Christmas day, eat what you want, unless you are fighting soon, in which case a little restraint might be the best option. If you are looking for ways in which to cut down on Christmas day here are a few tips:

  • A high-protein, moderate-fat and low-Gi carbohydrate breakfast will stabilise blood sugars and reduce the want to snack on Christmas treats that people will be no doubt tempting you with.
  • The old traditional turkey is the best option for trying to keep fat content down; other lean cuts of meat include chicken and beef. Wild birds such as duck and goose can be very high in fat.
  • Avoid the skin from the meat you are eating.
  • Try to pack more vegetables onto your plate as opposed to potatoes to benefit from a balanced meal and reduce the calorie and carbohydrate intake.
  • Chop the roast potatoes into larger chunks as this way they absorb less fat than smaller cut potatoes.

Bottom Line

As athletes you should be trying to keep on track over the Christmas and New Year period, but everyone needs to have some down time and a treat. Enjoy your Christmas and have a few treats but try to use the tips above to make it through to the New Year without too much added bulk.