Trying to stick to a diet during the holidays can often leave us feeling like we’re set up to fail. Those delicious savory meals and sweet treats that abound have a sneaky way of taking over our healthier intentions. Now, throw in a pandemic and an increase in emotional eating and keeping up with your regular diet plan can feel all but impossible. To help you curb those cravings before they start, here are some easy ways to keep your health on track.
At the end of each day, add up your protein intake from each meal and snack. If your intake is less than 120 grams, consume a scoop of protein in water at before bed. Consuming enough protein helps to negate the fat-boosting effects of eating too many carbs, fats or alcohol. While post-workout protein supplementation has long been considered the best method to refuel and optimize muscle growth, newer research indicates drinking a protein shake before bed may provide additional health benefits. It’s one of the best ways to slow age-related muscle loss. Research has shown that consuming protein before going to sleep may improve skeletal muscle following resistance-type exercise - as well as boost your metabolism - which speeds up the rate you burn calories. Keep in mind that protein sources differ in how they stimulate muscle protein synthesis, meaning that the type of protein consumed before bed can affect results.
There’s no doubt the holidays can be a stressful time, especially this year. Taking the time to simply go for a walk in a ‘green’ environment, such as a forest, field or a park, can actually reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. The next best option for cortisol balance, compared to walking around traffic, is walking on a treadmill. Aim for 60 minutes a day, at least three times a week.
There are so many stressors that are out of our control at this time of year, making adaptogens an essential part of your daily supplement regime. I recommend taking a blend of Rhodiola, tyrosine and phenylalanine in the morning (2 to 4 capsules). Rhodiola balances cortisol, improves endurance and focus, and helps serotonin and dopamine work better in the brain which in turn helps your overall mood. Tyrosine and phenylalanine are building blocks of the thyroid hormones dopamine and adrenalin, so they help to sharpen your focus and improve motivation and metabolism. Incorporating taurine into your evening routine can have a wonderful protective effect on the brain and help protect against neurotoxicity while assisting in healthy liver and heart function. It also plays an essential role in metabolism and digestion, as it helps the liver to create bile salts which breaks down fatty acids in the intestines. Lastly, don’t forget about vitamin C! Your body uses it up within 20 minutes of being under stress, which leaves you at an increased risk for infection. Keep chewable Vitamin C in your car, on your desk, and anywhere else you see them to take.
During the holiday season it can be tempting to load up on everything in sight. However, being mindful of what you eat is important. Have a whey protein-based drink in the afternoon or even just before a (virtual) dinner gathering. Whey comsumption is proven to cause you to eat less at your next meal, while also aiding in cortisol balance and helping you sleep better at night. Try mixing a tablespoon of almond butter, a soluble fibre supplement, water or almond/coconut milk, and a scoop of whey protein (vanilla or chocolate) in a shaker cup or blender. If shakes aren’t your thing, you can opt for a whey-based meal replacement that has 15 or more grams of protein, is low in carbs and fat, and is rich in fibre supplements (at least 6 grams per serving).
Requesting a blood test to assess your vitamin D3 and zinc levels can be done through your physician or naturopathic doctor and is an important part of making sure your levels are where they need to be. Optimal vitamin D3 levels are around 125 to 200, with closer to 200 being ideal for immune protection and blood sugar. Low levels of vitamin D and zinc can increase your risk of infection, and the severity of infection can both fuel weight gain and slows weight loss. Being aware of your vitamin D and zinc levels is crucial, especially in the midst of a pandemic.
A good night routine that focuses on selfcare should include a shower, journaling about gratitude and getting between the sheets early. Evening showers are proven by dermatologists to be the best for your skin, especially if you’re lucky enough to be able to hop in a sauna first. Taking some time to write in a gratitude journal is a great way to increase your happiness and overall positivity. Also, writing down things before bed helps to clear your mind for a better, more restful sleep. Try to avoid naps, and instead go to bed as early as 7 PM if needed rather than resisting the fatigue and forcing yourself to stay up later. Having a healthy sleep pattern is crucial for stress recuperation, and going to bed early puts our bodies at ease. This lowers blood pressure which helps to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.