Controlling the Xmas Break Weight

measuring waistTis the time to be merry! Tis time for family and friends! Tis also the time for eating and drinking! After all, at Xmas time who can resist mum’s Christmas pudding and those rare treats on the table or sitting in the fridge.

I don’t know about you but this time of year is a tough one for maintaining the body fat levels! It’s prompted me to look into some ‘scientifically-sound tricks’ that might help me manage my waist line over the next month. So let’s see what the science says about maintaining or losing weight smartly as an older athlete!

  • Eat or supplement with more calcium. Dairy products I hear you say?! Interestingly, a number of recent studies have shown an inverse relationship between dietary calcium/dairy intake and body fat and obesity. Supplementing up to 800 mg per day of calcium has been shown to increase fat loss. Interestingly, research has shown that even though older people know they need calcium in their diet, most don’t get the recommended daily intake they need, especially older women and athletes. So why can calcium lead to fat loss? Because calcium has been shown to stimulate the breakdown of fat, inhibit the making of new fat, and increase the loss of fat in faeces that might normally be absorbed.
  • (Try to) eat low glycemic index foods as they have been shown to have a small positive effect on both weight management and weight reduction. Primarily because they tend to be filling and leave us feeling less hungry for longer.
  • Increase fibre intake through eating plenty of vegetables and fruit. Fibre takes up space in the stomach and helps make us feel full without contributing greatly to energy intake. Fibre supplements have also been shown to cause fat loss in obese people. It may have a small effect in athletes.
  • Drink green tea instead of soft drink. It contains antioxidants including catechins that increase fat burning and lead to fat loss.
  • (Try to) eat low-fat foods since research has shown (at least in overweight people), that low-fat eating during the day decreases overall energy intake and fat mass.
  •  Drink a glass of water just before or with every meal or snack as research has shown drinking water with meals lowers the amount of food (and therefore Calories and kilojoules) we take in.
  • Eat more protein or supplement with whey protein (dried powder that is a by-product of cheese production) as research has shown increasing protein intake promotes fat loss by reducing appetite. Most athletes young or old struggle to get the suggested 30% of energy intake from protein by eating meat or fish. Thus, supplementing with whey protein that is relatively lower in energy than meat and has no fat content but still filling is the way to go. Whey protein also has the added advantage of being rapidly absorbed compared to meat protein as well being a source of branch-chained amino acids that act as fuel for working muscles and stimulate protein synthesis for muscle repair and growth after training.
  • Train with intensity rather than duration as its more time efficient when time-poor celebrating the festive season but has dramatically greater impact on fat loss. Recent research has confirmed that the major reason is that the oxygen (and energy) usage is much greater during high intensity training and goes for longer during recovery from the interval or speed training. Good advice this as research has also shown that endurance performance can be maintained with two high intensity sessions in a week if you are time- or motivation-poor due to family celebrations being the priority.
  • Train in the heat, especially run train but be smart and ensure you hydrate before, during and after training and listen to your body when training. Research comparing running and swimming in terms of fat loss has shown that running was superior. The suggested reason is that swimming keeps your body temperature cooler than running and that higher body temperatures from running in the heat may lead to greater oxygen and energy use during recovery.
  • Remember genetics can’t be stopped with research showing that 25-40% of weight gain is genetic. Interestingly, research has also shown that factors (low resting metabolic rate, low usage of fats as a fuel, and low normal activity levels) that affect weight gain or loss are also affected by genetics. Can’t pick our parents though!

Enjoy a well-deserved Xmas-New Year break. We are off to see U2 in Brisbane then Bali (me surfing, the girls shopping!) and then Townsville for family time. The challenge is to keep training and managing the food intake. Good luck and best wishes!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33416551@N06/3110841673/