Essential Sports Nutrition


Athlete expectations during the holidays

For athletes, there are many challenges to navigate around during the holidays. It can be difficult to stay consistent with training because you are off your normal regime and your healthy diet is sabotaged by so many oh-so-good family tradition eats and treats. While some athletes have no trouble skipping workouts and indulging in sweets during the holidays, it's common for athletes to feel anxious about the many changes in the normal routine. While your frustration is not understood (or supported) by your non-athlete family members, you still feel that it is important to meet your expectations during the holidays. 

So what's an athlete to do? 

Do you say good bye to all good habits and let loose until the New Year?

Do you refuse to change your routine because you need the control and stick to strict eating and structured training?

Because every person should dedicate time to exercise for health on a daily basis and should focus on eating for nourishment, it's not necessary to avoid your family in order to get in every minute/mile of your prescribed workout and to avoid the occasional indulgences that come with holiday eating. The holiday season offers a few great opportunities to enjoy a little downtown and change up your normal training and exercise routine without anxiety or guilt. 

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your Thanksgiving break. 


1. Create a better internal dialogue in your head when you are eating, especially as it relates to your body and food.
2. Trust your body. Tune into your true signals of hunger and satisfaction as a way to guide you through your holiday feast.
3. Treat yourself to family, don't make the holidays just about food. Enjoy your time around your loved ones or if you are alone, call up an old friend or volunteer and help out those in need.
4. Slow down and taste your food. Appreciate the aroma, presentation, flavor and texture of your food - real food and store bought. Share a story if a dish reminds you of something happy.
5. Love what you eat. The first few bites of anything should always taste amazing. If you don't love it, don't eat it. 


1. Get it done early, but not too early. Enjoy waking up without an alarm but if you can squeeze in a workout before your day gets busy, you'll find yourself energized and you won't have to deal with the guilt that comes with removing yourself from family time, just to train. 

2. Loosen up. It's ok if you have to modify a set or reduce the volume. Don't feel guilty if you have to miss a workout. Prioritize the workouts that give you the best return for your investment at this phase of training. A few modified workouts over the holidays will not affect your race performance in September.
3. Keep training fun. Participate in a Turkey Trot, exercise with your kids, go for a hike or set up a local group workout. Do something each day that is good for your mind and body.
4. Be efficient with your time. Indoor workouts are great for time management as you can get in a quality workout with minimal distractions.
5. Communicate. Now more than ever is the time to communicate with your family. You may be surprised that if you tell your family/kids that on Friday you will be gone from 8:30-10:30 for a workout, they won't care about your absence. But if you tell them last minute, they may be upset that you are suddenly leaving them, which then leaves you with guilt, if you even leave for your workout. 


1. Don't skip meals throughout the day. Excessively restricting calories or an entire food group (ex. carbohydrates) will likely lead to overeating at your upcoming feast. Instead, focus on small meals throughout the day, eating every few hours. Prioritize nutrient dense foods like fruits and veggies at your meals. Don't forget to stay hydrated - with water, of course.
2. Do not go into your big meal with a starving belly. Plan a healthy snack around 45-60 minutes before your meal. Options like apple slices and pistachios, deli meat and lettuce wraps, celery sticks with cheese or a few almonds with figs should take the edge off so you don't eat with your eyes when serving yourself.
3. Fuel your workout. Seeing that there is a good chance that you will workout in the morning, restricting calories around/during your workout is not a permissible strategy to indulge (or to eat more calories) at your upcoming feast. It can actually backfire on you as you will likely be so famished by meal time, that you may eat beyond a feeling of fullness - stuffed and very uncomfortable. Treat your workout like any other day. Fuel smart and hydrate well. And be sure to eat a healthy breakfast after your workout (or Turkey Trot).
4. Choose wisely. Create a healthy plate of a little of everything.
5. Indulge wisely. You are not forced to eat everything at your feast but you are allowed to indulge. Choose your favorites and say "no thank you" to the unappealing or familiar options. Share, split and limit yourself to just one. 

It's very easy for athletes to remain rigid around the holidays because a change in the normal routine (training or eating) can bring anxiety or feelings of loss of control. 

When you think about the big picture (your entire season ahead), a few days away from your normal routine may be a good thing. Don't stress about what doesn't get done. The holidays are a wonderful time to give thanks to your body, to your friends and to your family.