It’s official: party season is in full swing, and once that holiday cheer starts flowing, any semblance of healthy living goes right out of the window. From cheese platters to tequila shots, the effects of partying can wreak havoc on your physique. Even those with serious fortitude find themselves buckling under the strain of constant temptations. And while all the celebrating will raise your spirits, it’s also likely to derail your fitness progress. The good news is your physical accomplishments don’t have to go down the drain just because you want to partake in the festivities.
You can still party and stay in good shape. With a little advance planning and a few simple techniques, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to maintain your current level of fitness throughout the party season. It doesn’t take CSI: Miami, NY, or even Toledo to identify the main progress-crushing culprits—bad foods, bad habits and booze. Get a handle on these and you’ll be able to weather the perfect storm of office, family and bowl game celebrations. So follow my lead and you just may be able to keep those killer abs you spent countless hours chiseling at the gym.
How to prepare:
When you know you’re going to go all out and balls to the wall, you need to be aware that your calories on vacation are going to be all out of wack. I prefer not to track calorie intake, because I’m not trying to stress about that stuff.
Instead what I like to have clients do is prepare for a couple of weeks before hand by constantly under eating, and training just a bit more intensely.
For example: 2 weeks out from Austin I made a continual effort to eat about 300 calories under my maintenance level. That’s not a big deficit at all, but over the course of 2 weeks it works up to about 4,200 calories. That’s over 4,000 calories I’ve stashed away to play with on vacation. Not a bad start.
On top of that I typically like to start including some additional cardio 3-4 times a week. I respond well to steady state cardio, and that helps fat come off pretty quickly for me. For others, they do better with HIIT, barbell complexes, or circuits. Find what works for you, and start implementing it.
After the deficit and additional cardio I had given myself roughly 7,000 calories or so to work with during the week. I’m already kicking ass and vacation hasn’t even started.
What to drink:
I knew I’d be drinking constantly. And since I would be seeing old friends and a bunch of fitness professionals that I love to hang out with, there was no way I was going to bitch out and only drink water. I wanted to go balls to the wall.
The trick is going balls to the wall and being smart. I love beer, but it’s rather easy to drink a ton beer and throw back an additional 1,000 calories a night from alcohol alone. And since alcohol is a true empty calorie, I wasn’t about that life. Instead my drink of choice became the Old Fashioned. The average Old Fashioned is about 155 calories, similar to a beer, but packs more of a punch. On top of that, shots were flowing like the Guadalupe River. That keeps calories down, but provides plenty of liquid courage for me to make an ass out of myself.
Pro tip: avoid mixed drinks with heavy mixers. Opt for low calorie sweeteners and straight liquor. Not only do you save calories, you look like more of a man.
How to train:
When you get a bunch of fitness professionals together your bound to do some hardcore training. That’s just a fact of life, even when all of you stayed out until 4am drinking and eating pancakes at Kerbey Lane and IHOP. No joke, one of us actually got cut off from bacon by the waitress at IHOP. For me this didn’t mean I really trained any differently, but I did try and cut down rest periods to make each workout more metabolic, and burn through some extra calories. I wasn’t trying to do anything crazy. I was just lifting heavy, doing some extra mobility work or other exercises between sets, and kept moving. This helped keep my heart rate high, and also helped me feel like a functioning human being again.
How to eat:
Just fucking eat, man. I’m not a fan of trying to stay on point all the damn time on vacation. I would actually like to round up the people who bring Tupperware containers of prepped food on vacation and throw them off a cliff into Lake Travis.
Unless you’re prepping for a big event like a bodybuilding show, wedding, or something similar then just go enjoy yourself, especially if you’re in an awesome food city like Austin. Enjoy the food trucks, enjoy the local fare, and don’t beat yourself up over it.
It’s natural to feel bloated and like you’ve gained 10lbs of fat, especially if you’ve been dieting before hand. Thanks to increased sodium intake and the high intake of carbs you’re going to carry more water.The good news about that is that it’s not fat. It’s more difficult to put on pure body fat than you think, and a few meals isn’t going to do the trick.
Once I started eating I kept it relatively “clean”. Lots of leafy greens and fibrous vegetables, along with plenty of lean proteins, and I kept carbs relatively low. The combination of the fast, lots of water, and fewer carbs helped me flush most of the water weight. I actually weighed in 3lbs lighter when I got back than when I had left. Part of that is thanks to my metabolism working overtime thanks to the excess food, and also thanks to shedding that excess water. The body can do some crazy shit, bro.
The big takeaways:
Preparation is key. Prepare beforehand for your vacation, and then enjoy the fuck out of the vacation. That’s why you’re on vacation. Get some training in, but don’t stress about it. Enjoy the people you’re with, and make some awesome memories. You’ll look back and be happy you did.