Do you think athletes would be training or gorging on delicacies this Christmas? Would they be busy with brunches, dinners, late nights and celebrations like the rest of us? Well, as much as we’d like to hear a roaring ‘yes’, athletes cannot afford to sabotage their sports nutrition plan and compromise both on exercise and athletic performance.
Let’s look at how some sports stars handle their Christmas holidays and what’s the ideal athlete-approved way of eating well through this festive season.
Chris Ashton, Saracens and England winger
For rugby players, the Christmas days are just a part of the match season and it’s not really a holiday. They just get one day off, which is also how their normal training week looks like, so Chris uses that time to spend with his family. He can’t possibly go on a drinking spree at the pubs or eat rubbish as it gets hard to get back to training after indulging. But he loves eating turkey and stuffing is fun as he especially drives to his hometown Wigan for Christmas festivities.
Max Whitlock, Gymnast
He’s one athlete who likes to completely switch off around Christmas and prefers utilizing that time to relax and spend time with his and girlfriend’s family. Max lets loose by enjoying dinners on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, so it’s a total of three days off in the whole holiday period.
Geraint Thomas, Cyclist
Even on Christmas Day, Geraint always gets out for two hours of bike riding as that’s when the roads are really clear. But when he gets home after that, he treats himself to a lavish Christmas dinner without feeling guilty, eating and drinking whatever he wants.
Stef Reid, Paralympic and world medallist
Stef spends her day with her husband Brent by sleeping late, eating Christmas dinner and then meeting friends in the evening for Christmas tipple and tea. She does take up light exercises like running on Christmas Day but doesn’t train very hard, taking a break from speed endurance workouts.
So, what’s really the secret to the perfect athlete’s Christmas dinner that won’t make you pile on those pounds?
Athlete-Approved Tips for a Christmas Dinner
- Skip that potato
Instead, opt for sweet potatoes that have lower glycemic index levels, which reduce the rise in blood glucose and insulin. So, they are known to release energy slower as compared to traditional potatoes.
- Don’t eat like a pig
As much as we all love to forget the nutrition factor, it’s best to limit processed meat like pigs in blankets and cut back on meal portions to make sure you can knock off those calories by hitting the gym the next day.
- Say ‘yes’ to lean protein
Did you know that turkey is a lean source of protein and just 3-4 slices will give you more than enough than your nutrition requirement of 25-30 grams of protein for the day? It also increases muscle size, helps lose that extra weight and improves performance.
- Make your plate as colourful as Christmas
Go ahead and club your meat with a variety of veggies like sprouts, broccoli, peas, carrots and purple/green cabbage to accommodate the ‘health’ factor on festive days.
The key to having a truly merry Christmas like an athlete is to plan ahead but always remember to enjoy yourself. You can squeeze in some cheat meals in your diary and fit your training around those extra calories so that you can maybe have an easier session on the day after the party. Hope you make the most of the few days off with your family. Merry Christmas!