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Time to Get Back Into Shape After the Christmas Holidays

By Martin Atanasov

Ho Ho Holy snap, how much weight have I gained after the holidays? That’s, unfortunately, how many of us start our February. Yes, Christmas was a month ago but come on. Who thinks about diets in January?

We are too busy being depressed that we’re back at work and we have already forsaken our New Year’s resolutions. With the  cycling season closing in, it’s high time to address that lump beneath your shirt. As usual, you won’t be alone. Mostly, because around 2/3 of all people are in your shoes but also, we are here to help.

Why do we gain so much weight over the Christmas Holidays?

Well, the answer is quite easy, really. It’s because we eat a lot and do nothing all day long. The Christmas holidays are the time of year when we let go. Binge eating and drinking are like a family sport. There’s no other time during the year when it’s acceptable to sit at the table at noon and stuff yourself until midnight.

On average, a person will eat over 5,373 calories, excluding alcohol consumption. This means that you will total around 6,000 calories with a bottle of wine. Usually, you go through such a calorie amount in 3 days if you are a man and four days if you are a woman.

Though the true gorge fest is on Christmas, up until the 2nd of January, everyone overeats. Thus, on average, each person gains 1.2 kg or 1.35% of weight increase over the Christmas period.

The worst part is the after-holiday depression, which takes over immediately after the celebrations are over. No more Christmas lights, no more cheers, no more Christmas trees, only dark nights and boring cold days lasting 4-5 hours. And while we return to our usual eating habits, it would take quite a while to shed every gram of gained weight after the holidays.

How long does it take to shed your Christmas weight?

According to a study by Cornell University, it takes approximately five months for the average person to lose their excess holiday weight. Not the most promising statistics, you’d agree. The research has shown that people who do nothing and just return to their usual eating habits will get back to their regular weight by June. In some cases, though, people tend to increase their normal calorie intake after the Christmas holiday and never get back to their original weight.

The worst case, however, is the yo-yo dieting where people cut their calorie intake drastically for a short period of time and then try to compensate by increasing their previous calorie intake. This leads to fat gain and muscle loss. You don’t need to starve yourself to speed up the weight loss process, get rid of fat, and retain (or even gain) muscles. All you need is a few minor changes in your lifestyle, which will ideally become your new way of life.

Time to get back to workouts

Workouts are the best way to raise your tonus and lift your overall spirit while burning fat and gaining muscle at the same time. The more muscle you gain, the more fat you will burn. There are countless programmes and exercise suggestions on our website, so if you can’t make a programme of your own and you don’t want a professional instructor to do one for you, feel free to browse our website and find the training schedule that will suit you best.

Workouts are a great way to get back into that pre-holiday shape.

Still, at least for the first 2-3 months, I recommend focusing on your muscle and strength building rather than calorie burning. This means you might want to hit the gym along with riding your bike. Cycling is definitely an everyday must but unfortunately, it’s not enough. For a real kick-starter, you need the extra push that only weightlifting can give you.

Stop refined sugar

That’s the second thing. Refined sugar is enemy number one of weight loss. I know how hard it is to let go of your favourite bars and chocolates if you have a sweet tooth but refined sugar is one of the worst kinds of food you can take. This sweetener is the definition of empty calories. It generally gives you a ton of calories and no nutrients whatsoever. Moreover, when refined sugar enters the bloodstream, it causes a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This leads to the craving for even more sugar, creating a vicious cycle.

Worst of all, it impacts your sleep, making losing weight harder, and can severely impair your metabolism. This being said, you can still take some refined sugar from time to time. Nothing will lift you up quite like refined sugar when you are on a long ride and need that extra power. When you need these empty calories to be burned right then and there, eating a bar of chocolate is OK.

Or even at events. You won’t miss your child’s birthday cake now, would you? The point is to eat sugar only when there is a reason, not because you don’t like your coffee black.

No more alcohol

And while you can make exceptions with sugar, there is no such scenario about alcohol. Alcohol is the bane of any diet, and anyone who claims they are losing weight and still drinking alcohol is losing muscle mass. The point of losing weight is to see the scale going down but to lose excess fat. Alcohol will prevent that from happening.

Whenever you drink alcohol, your body receives a massive supply of highly caloric fuel, which it will use in the next up to 72 hours. So, depending on how much you’ve drank, in the next 72 hours, you will burn nothing but the alcohol you consumed, meaning everything you eat during this period will simply get stuck to your body. A night of drinking will set you back at least a week. So, forget about alcohol and leave it for the UEFA Euro Cup Finals this summer. Then, after you’ve shed your Christmas gains, you can have a beer or two.

Do not stop eating

You might think eating is also forbidden when listening to all these restrictions. Nothing is further from the truth. Eating is quite important, and while you can follow many diets, the one and only truth is that you can eat whatever you love as long as you maintain a diversified, well-balanced diet and stay within a calorie limit. For example, if you weigh 100 kg and are 170 cm high, your calorie intake should be around 2,000 kcals a day. This way, you will be around 500 kcals below your basic metabolic index; thus, you will gradually lose weight.

If you have these specs, you will have to lose a lot of weight, of course, but rushing to do so and starving yourself won’t do you any good, as your body will simply start storing fat. That’s a defensive reaction to starvation. Thus, you need to eat all sorts of food regularly but keep your calorie intake around 2,000 kcal. When you get to 85 kg, you can drop your calorie intake to 1,700 kcal. In other words, you can eat that pizza as long as you don’t do it every day and at every meal.

Sleep regularly

Your body is a highly complex machine that needs maintenance time. This maintenance time is your sleep. So, cutting short on your body’s upkeep will inevitably lead to failures. The first to suffer is your digestive system. When we don’t get enough sleep, our metabolism slows down, which means that we burn fewer calories throughout the day. This can make it harder to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Furthermore, sleep is important for maintaining hormonal balance, including the hormones that regulate appetite. When we don’t get enough sleep, our levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin increase, while levels of the satiety hormone leptin decrease. This can lead to increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods.

So, make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep. But more importantly, make sure to have a scheduled sleep. Going to bed and waking up at random hours is just as bad as sleep deprivation. Schedule your body’s maintenance to start at the same time every night so you can have it up and running at full capacity in the morning.

Enlist a friend

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to enlist a friend to go through this hardship with you. Getting yourself back in shape is never easy, and it demands sacrifices. So, naturally, having a shoulder you can lean on for support will always be of help. It’s always better to have 2 people not drinking at a party.

Furthermore, you can have a competition: who will shed 2 kg faster? Who will lift more on a deadlift? Who will climb that steep hill faster? Who will make more centuries this month? Being in a friendly competition will give you that extra push when you feel demoralized.

Don’t despair if the scale is unfair

Finally, and most importantly, don’t despair if the scale doesn’t move at first. 1 kg of muscle is far more linear than 1 kg of fat. So, if you burn fat and replace it with muscle, the scale won’t move, but you will start the process of becoming fitter. Don’t worry; sooner or later, the scale will begin to go down. Until then, make sure to measure your waist, breasts, biceps, and quadriceps to ensure you are going in the right direction. If you are strict, you will feel the first results within 2 weeks, even if the scale remains unwavering.

Don’t give up

Even if you don’t see the progress right away, it’s like climbing a really long hill. It seems that this torturous climb will last forever. But in an hour or two, you will be at the top, and you will feel better about it. Just like with shedding these extra kilos you gained last month. Don’t let them ruin your cycling year.

So, get on your trainer, hit the gym, and be mindful of what you put inside your body. The results will come sooner rather than later, I promise.