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Should You Eat Healthy During Holidays or Leverage Cheat Meals?
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Should You Eat Healthy During Holidays or Leverage Cheat Meals?

Eating healthy during the holidays


By: Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Waking up on a holiday can typically cause someone anxiety or a sense of relief and freedom. Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t mean you need to skip all the fixings and desserts that everyone tends to binge on. You can use holiday meals to your advantage by strategically planning your cheat meals. Confused? Let’s dive a little deeper.

Who doesn’t love cheat meals? I mean, they’re a treat to break up what many can consider a boring diet. Now, I (personally) like to follow a lifestyle diet where I don’t restrict myself. I simply eat clean every day, but when I want a “treat,” I’m not going to worry about whether I should have it or not — I just eat it. And when the holidays roll around, I simply plan accordingly, and it’s what I recommend you do, too.

Here’s a fun fact for you: did you know that the “average American” typically gains five pounds or more between Thanksgiving and New Year? That doesn’t have to be you! Strive to be on the other side of that statistic.

In this article, we are going to look at how you can eat healthy during holidays but still leverage cheat meals to enjoy yourself and maximize muscle growth at the same time. Think it can’t be done? Think again!


Eat Healthy During Holidays or Risk Weight Gain?


When it comes to the holidays, many consider it a time when they loosen up their belts a little, toss on some stretchy sweatpants, and say the heck with their diet. Most will toss their willpower to the side and shovel food into their mouths as if it were the last supper.


While I’m not here to tell you that’s a poor strategy, I will say there’s a better way to go about it so that after the holidays are over, you’re not sitting there wondering how you’re going to burn off the ten pounds you put on in a matter of a week or two. But again, these strategies allow you to somewhat eat healthy during holidays but truly grasp the power of cheat meals.


But backtracking just a little, don’t think for a minute that you’re alone with holiday weight gain. It happens to the best of us. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be avoided — assuming you can plan your cheat meals accordingly.


Time spent with friends and family around the holidays generally means time around delicious food and fantastic conversations (maybe even some adult beverages here and there — again, we strategically plan when and where we have such beverages).


I used to be “that guy” who would refrain from eating a dessert or drinking with friends and family during holidays because I didn’t want to “mess up my diet.” I would eat healthy during holidays, and while I’d enjoy myself, the experience wasn’t the same when skipping out on some delicious treats. But the more I learned to leverage cheat meals and how I structured my cheat meals and workouts, I found I could have my cake and eat it too — literally!


You see, when it comes to cheat meals, there isn’t an exact definition of how much of something you can or can’t eat — it’s incredibly vague. So, I’m going to help you and say the heck with it so that you can eat healthy during holidays but still fill your plate with things you typically wouldn’t think align with your health, fitness, and physique goals. Let me explain.


Plan Your Cheat Meals in Advance


For the most part, we all know when we are having a family gathering or a holiday party with friends. Therefore, you can schedule your workouts and cheat meals around those events.


Here’s what I recommend, and you can try it yourself:


1.     Push yourself during training sessions leading up to the holiday as well as the morning of


A good strategy is to focus on crushing your workouts the week of a holiday since you know you’ll want to enjoy some cheat meals — or even just a few treats here and there. Hit the weights hard and put in the time to do a little extra cardio.


When the day comes for your cheat meals during holiday gatherings, make sure you hit the gym first thing in the morning to work up a good sweat and burn off some calories that you’ll definitely be replacing later on in the day.


What this will do is help you not feel so bad or guilty if you grab an extra sliver of your favorite pie or dessert or go back up for seconds of your favorite dish. It’s as if a weight was taken off of your shoulders, and you can actually (dare I say) enjoy yourself.


Not only that but while you still eat healthy during holidays, the added calories from the cheat meals can help spark recovery and new muscle growth.


2.     Plan your meals around the holiday or event


Clearly, if you are planning your cheat meals around the holidays, I would not recommend having cheat meals the week of or maybe even two weeks prior. Keep your meals clean leading up to the big day (or days), and even consider dropping your calories to put yourself in a deficit. This would allow you to fill in the calories you removed the day of a holiday and will enable you to consume all the good food you’ve waited all year for.


The goal of this strategy is that you should still eat healthy during holidays but leverage certain foods, meals, or desserts as your cheat meals.


All that being said, don’t be mistaken — this isn’t a free-for-all. You still need to know your limits, eat healthy during holidays, and not go entirely overboard by eating everything in sight. Sure, having some cheat meals around the holidays may be a good idea, but you still don’t want to overeat to the point you’re blowing your daily caloric numbers through the roof multiple days in a row.


Be mindful of the food you are consuming and in what quantities.


On the day of the holiday and your cheat meals, try to keep your nutrition light leading up to the event. Don’t go into a meal already most of the way through your recommended caloric intake for the day, or you will absolutely blow your calories for the day out of the water. Eat light in the morning and even the afternoon leading up to an event. That will give you a little more leeway going into your cheat meals.


Don’t forget to prioritize protein during all your meals (including your cheat meals).


3.     Get Creative with Your Cheat Meals & Eat Healthy During Holidays


If you want to eat healthy during holidays but still feel like you’re having a treat, the best thing for you to do is utilize something like MuscleSport Lean Whey. Currently, Xmas Cookie Dough Lean Whey is moving fast, and if you want to feel like you’re cheating on your diet while taking in 25g of premium whey protein and a fat-metabolizing matrix that can help support weight loss, you’ve got yourself a powerful duo.


Go ahead and have some holiday treats, but you can then wash it all down with your favorite flavor of MuscleSport Lean Whey to ignite your metabolic rate and support muscle growth.


Even better, why not make your own holiday treat? Rock out with a single-serve or make some for the whole gang. We had a visitor stop by MuscleSport HQ and whipped up some insanely delicious ice cream using our Lean Whey. Check out this reel, for example, and the post even outlines how you can make everything yourself.


You can absolutely eat healthy during holidays when you plan our awesome treats using Lean Whey!


Don’t Let the Thought of Food Consume Your Emotions & Stress You Out


The holidays are a time when you should spend your energy and emotions being happy around friends, family, and loved ones. Don’t let the thought of food and cheat meals consume your energy and emotions. Others around you didn’t ask you to watch what you eat or live a healthy lifestyle — it’s something you wanted to do for yourself. So, don’t let the thought of food or that you need to eat healthy during holidays ruin your time and experience as well as those around you.


If you follow what was mentioned above and throughout this article, you’ll put yourself in an excellent position to maintain your weight even while tossing in a few cheat meals over the holidays. And I’ll guarantee you one thing: if you use what was laid out above, you’ll also enjoy your holidays much more than if you were all over your nutrition and didn’t enjoy all the food because you considered it “not part of your diet.”


Related Article: 7 Tips to Help Prevent Holiday Weight Gain This Season


Enjoy your holiday, and more importantly, enjoy the delicious food, cheat meals, and time with those around you. You put in the time and effort all year and the days and weeks leading up to the holidays. Now, it’s time to enjoy yourself. Cheers!

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