Christmas for the athlete

Christmas for the athlete

It is that time of year when we tend to over indulge, have a bit of time off and generally chill out. Family come together, we aim to have fun and be merry, and there is always the extra bit of travel required to ensure we see everyone we want and need to. For the athlete however, the holiday facilitates the vital need to plan a little harder, ensuring that training and the desire to make those necessary gains is not detrimentally affected.


Nothing excites me more than the concept of an indulgent meal, with all the trimmings, deserts and the like. It is one of the main reasons that I train…to allow me to eat more! However, the constant bombardment of temptations can be quite difficult. It’s not just that all the extra calories can affect body composition (remembering that fat don’t fly!), but also the amalgamation of different foods can be such a detriment to the finely tuned organs of an athlete. The internal organs and viscera, such as stomach, intestines, colons etc working harder to digest can make you feel very sluggish. There is also the possibility of a blockage developing which not only affects the organ in question, but can also affect the fascia of the surrounding tissue and can change the mechanics (movement) of the body. There can be extra strain placed on the lower back for example, which can put the athlete at risk of developing a niggle or injury whilst they continue to train.

Fear not however, there are very simple ways to manage the everlasting temptations and ways to adapt the Christmas dinner to ensure all the macro nutrients are hit and the stomach and more importantly, the taste buds, remain happy. Sometimes it will require an iron will, to say no to the many offerings of sweets and chocolate during the festive period, but generally a Christmas dinner can be quite healthy and the odd sweet treat is no bad thing. I am happy to say I didn’t put any weight on over the Christmas period!

Now I am no chef, but my girlfriend is, so I have learnt a thing or two about tasty-ing up healthy food and trading up the calorific foods for healthier alternatives.

Trade in the goose-fat for some drizzled olive oil and you can still get some gorgeous, fluffy potatoes. Cook the potatoes for a little longer on a lower heat, add some salt, pepper and rosemary and voila … just avoid eating too many! Christmas dinners come with an array of vegetables which are obviously extremely good for you. Add a bit of honey and orange zest to the carrots and parsnips, mix in some apple and walnuts to the brussel sprouts (now the only way I can eat brussels), for the meat, fish or vegetarian alternatives, keep the quantity down and ramp up on the tasty gravy and you will be satisfying all the right tastebuds. Oh, and don’t forget the stuffing, and a couple pigs in blankets wont go a miss!

Deserts are where it can be more difficult, but every now and again fuelling the mind with a tasty treat is important. Keep it to a single portion and go for that morning run on Christmas day before the meal and you will not even add a pound to your weight. Other than that, its keeping the training going, making some slight alterations and adding rest for the extra travel that comes during this time of year. The training regime of an athlete doesn’t stop, but it is nice to be a little more human and enjoy the family time during Christmas!

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