Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, and in my opinion it kicks off the holiday season. It is one week out from the biggest food day of the year, a time for drinking, eating, and being merry. Although this year might look a little different with fewer parties, I have no doubt that the temptation to indulge will still be there. Whether you are leaning, maintaining, or bulking Thanksgiving brings some challenges to your diet..
Below I will outline strategies to help you conquer Thanksgiving without being weird or looking like the a**hole that brings their food scale to a family gathering. And please, do not do that… Unless you are a professional athlete or trying to be the next Mr. Olympia, I promise one day of indulgence will not ruin your months of hard work.
My quick tips for success:
- Hit the Gym in the AM
- Fast then Binge
- Eat Your Protein First
- Be Aware of Sneaky Calories
Hit the Gym in the AM
The tryptophan from the turkey hasn’t set it in yet, so wake up before driving to your in-laws and move your body. It is almost as if Power Athlete programs are designed for Thanksgiving with a heavy day on Thursdays. If you are following Jacked Street, Field Strong, Bedrock, or HAMR, you have earned your carbs. In addition to getting a good pump before eating, working out will also get your endorphins going so you have a more optimistic outlook on things. For example, when your mother in law gives you the reasons you shouldn’t lift weights while you are pregnant, or your cousin gives you a dissertation about why they have gone vegan and it is actually a healthier choice, you can smile and nod.
Fast then Binge
So you woke up, made your coffee, and worked out. Things are looking pretty normal. If you are heading to your family’s house, the next couple hours are finishing your side dish, getting the kids cleaned up, and loading the car. If you are hosting… bless your heart because that is a lot more work. But that is not my point here. My tip is don’t eat. This is not often something I tell my clients, but today is an appropriate time to intermittent fast. If you are DYING of hunger, grab a protein shake or some yogurt to keep you satiated. Drinking a ton of water will help as well.
Crush protein. Whether you serve a traditional turkey or go off the beaten path with a brisket, lamb, or ideally steak, make it center stage on your plate. Before you even touch the delicious sides of stuffing, yeast rolls, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows and butter, eat your meat first. Studies have shown that it is difficult to become fat off of protein, but you can get full from it. After you have had some meat, go back to the buffet and pick out your sides.
Be Aware of Sneaky Calories
No matter your fitness goals, five moonshine eggnogs don’t fit your macros (sorry John). By no means am I telling you not to enjoy a cocktail or two, but maybe switch out that eggnog for whisky on the rocks. Alcohol is often the reason we survive the holidays, but it can be done in a way that doesn’t completely destroy your goals.
Another not so sneaky item around Thanksgiving is desserts. These sugary baked goods sometimes only come out once a year (thank you Grandma for the pumpkin cake), and it doesn’t make sense to completely avoid them. Just like alcohol, moderation is your friend and you might have to say no to an extra roll at dinner for that slice of pumpkin pie.
All in all, don’t be weird. Yes, health should always be a number one priority but Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and with the right strategy you can have a successful and fulfilling (no pun intended) Turkey Day.
PODCAST: PA Radio EP 316 – Sustainable Farming with Bobby Gill
RECIPE: Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie by Samantha Flaherty
BLOG: Eat, Drink, & Don’t Be Weird by Cali Hinzman
BLOG: Bulking Tips for a “Healthy” Thanksgiving by Luke Summers
COACHING: Power Athlete Nutrition Coaching
Samantha has been an athlete since childhood, focusing on gymnastics, track and field, and cross-country. Samantha found CrossFit, and eventually CrossFit Football as a means to continue personal performance and fill a competitive void. These all led her to Power Athlete, the methodology course, and eventually to earning her Block One. She currently works in the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area as a Power Athlete Nutrition Coach and as a Personal Trainer applying the Power Athlete principles with all of her clients.
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