college bodybuilder tips: eating for the holidays

Dear K***,

I just wanted to write you a quick note this weekend about how you should be thinking about eating during the holidays. This is important, because most people’s intuitions get this completely wrong and do exactly the worst thing they could possibly do for themselves.

If you want to keep muscle and not gain fat, the one thing you have to keep in mind over the holidays is consistency. Consistency matters more than total calorie count, it matters more than whether you miss a trip to the gym or two because of being with family.  Consistency in your diet matters the most.

What do I mean?

Absolutely DO NOT starve yourself for part of the day because you’ve over-eaten during one meal.  You may think to yourself, “I ate so much for Christmas Brunch that I don’t need to eat for the rest of the day.”  Or, on the other hand, you may think: “I’m likely to eat more calories than I should later, so I’m going to skip eating for the first part of the day.”  This is the worst thing you can do.  Your body will freak out by the change in schedule, and think: “OMG, am I not getting regular food any more? I better store everything that I can AS FAT just in case I need it later!!”

Think of your metabolism as being like a skiddish animal. Easily scared, easily freaked out.

The diet plan that I have you on gives you one “cheat meal” per week anyway, when you can eat as much as you want of anything you want (provided that it’s all in one meal).  Take full advantage of that. Normally, that’s supposed to be only once a week. This weekend, you might very well do it twice. That’s not great, and we don’t want it to be a regular habit.  However, even if you have two or three “bad meals” this week, make sure you keep up your regular healthy “mini-meals” every 2 hours according to your normal diet.  That way your body won’t go into “starvation mode” and be tempted to store things as fat.

Second point: Make sure you keep up your regular intake of protein. As a bodybuilder, this is critical.  If you get completely over-full on cake and pie and potatoes and whatever other nonsense your family feeds you, you still need to force yourself to eat your 50 grams of protein every 2 hours or so while you are awake.  Having a full stomach from “merriment food” does not make up for your need to keep your protein levels high.  So if you need to sneak off and have that protein shake while everyone else is eating cake, do it!

That’s it. I just wanted to make sure this is on your mind, because what most people do — over eat on the bad food and “compensate” by starving themselves afterwards — is actually more harm than good.

Merry Christmas!



Previous Letter: College Bodybuilder Tips: Weighing Yourself

Next Letter: College Bodybuilder Tips: Feeling Fat