Even as the nights get longer, don’t neglect your training or your good eating habits.

As the holiday season approaches, the temptation to overeat becomes stronger than ever and it can be difficult to maintain a balanced diet. Fortunately, Felix, a training specialist and nutrition expert at Freeletics, offers us some tips to prevent the Christmas feast from seriously and unnecessarily ruining our efforts.

At a time when stress is reaching unprecedented levels, both in professional and personal life, Christmas can add an extra dose that we could do without. Even as the days get shorter and sunlight is scarce, people are more likely to lose their motivation. With the increasing number of deadlines at work, the flood of social events and the need to go shopping for Christmas, it’s easy to skip training and fool yourself into thinking that you’ll start again next year. We all know that refrain.

It is also at this time that our healthy diet is relegated to the background in favour of hearty lunches and holiday dinners. If we add to that a reduced physical activity, we have the ideal recipe to gain weight, damage our state of fitness and come out deeply frustrated. And yet, every year we reproduce this same pattern, using festivities as an excuse, rather than going out in the cold and training in the open air. But this year, things will be different.

The two most noticeable effects of the holiday season on our routine are the reduction in the number of training sessions and the increase in our consumption of rich and caloric foods. To limit the consequences of these effects, you just have to do two things:

Make your training as intense as possible

What do we mean by intense training? For cardiovascular exercises, intensity generally refers to the speed, inclination or resistance during a session, which causes an increase in heart rate, blood lactate and oxygen consumption.

For resistance training, intensity can refer to the percentage of the maximum load (1RM) at which an exercise is performed and the amount of muscle effort required to perform a movement subject to resistance. In short, intensity is the sum of the efforts required to perform an exercise, whether aerobic or anaerobic. The more intense your workout, the more energy you use during and after the session to build your muscles.

The human body constantly alternates between the anabolic and catabolic states. It strives to achieve a state of equilibrium (homeostasis) in order to maintain all our physical and biological functions at an optimal level. If we disrupt this balance, for example by redoubling our efforts to achieve a new BP, our body then adapts to this new situation and tries to restore its state of equilibrium. During this period, he depletes his energy reserves and enters a “catabolic” state.

To prepare for its next physical effort, the body will not only repair the “damage” caused by the previous training, but also develop its muscle mass and improve its cardiovascular health. If we find the right balance between recovery and new challenges, then we can constantly improve our previous physical condition, which over time allows us to strengthen our bodies and be in better shape.

This principle is called overcompensation. When the body moves from a catabolic state to a state in which it develops or regenerates our tissues and muscles, it is said to enter a “anabolic” state.

This principle also applies to oxygen consumption. During intense anaerobic physical activity, such as HIIT, our oxygen supply is often not sufficient for our aerobic system.

The greater our oxygen deficit during training, the higher our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is. This means that our body will work harder to restore our adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (CP) levels, but also to get rid of lactic acid and regenerate our glycogen stores. All this requires energy and therefore a higher caloric intake.

Physical activity also increases our body temperature (a more difficult task in winter), which in turn speeds up our metabolism and means that we need to consume more calories to fuel our bodies.

In other words, here’s what all this means: the more intense your training is, the more you “damage” your muscles, and therefore the more time and food you need to recover. So you should try to maximize your caloric deficit if you want to be able to relax and enjoy hearty holiday meals right after a workout. In short, you need to do more HIIT training from Freeletics.

Try to eat your biggest meal right after your training

There is no better time to replenish calories than within 90 minutes after the end of a workout. This is called the anabolic window. During this time, the body sends nutrients more efficiently to where we need them most, to the muscles after physical activity. There is a cascade of signalling proteins involved in regulating energy and protein metabolism, not only in the tissues of our skeletal muscles, but also throughout our body, including our nervous and hormonal systems.

The body’s ability to use and restore these transmission pathways to provide the appropriate nutrients is important for strength and muscle power, as well as for performance in general. Your body can actually tolerate bad nutrients to a certain degree because its reserves are so low that it draws energy from any source to recover strength and regenerate its muscles.

On the other hand, if you eat your main meal more than 90 minutes after your last workout, then your food will go into your fat cells and be stored there for energy the next time you are hungry. In addition, there is no need to restore muscle cells since the glycogen present in these muscles has not been used.

To recap: This year, during the holiday season, continue to do strenuous and intense workouts and eat healthy, nutrient-rich meals right after your workouts. When you find yourself facing a huge feast, near the Christmas tree or surrounded by delicious delicacies at a Christmas market, don’t feel like you can’t enjoy yourself as long as you’ve worked hard enough during your training.