DEADCEMBER Nutrition Plan: The Season of Grains and GainsOver the next 30 days the Christmas cookies and egg nog will be flowing freely. Most have little concern for their body composition or nutrition plan through the holidays as the focus is on family, friends, and making memories. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to spur some new muscle growth and put those excess calories to use. However, most assume this means a free for all. They consume calories ad libitum and train occasionally to stave off the metabolic consequences of a high sugar, high fat, and high alcohol intake. While that approach may appeal to the masses given the simplicity and lack of dietary restriction, it will likely result in nothing more than long-term frustration and a general state of poor health. You need a game plan and you needed it yesterday. Here it is.
Time Your LiquidsIf you’re like most regular gym goers, you’re probably somewhat conscious about your liquid calorie intake. But, the holidays have a way of making people forget about their habitual routines. Here’s how to eat, drink, and be merry while still prioritizing your health and wellness.
1. SUGARIf you’re going to consume liquid calories in the form of sugar (soda, juice, tea, etc.), you should probably try to time most of those liquids to just before or right after a workout when you’re most insulin sensitive. Whenever you consume carbohydrates, your body has multiple types of transporters (GLUT family) which help to process sugar in the blood stream and turn it into glycogen. After a workout, research has shown a dramatic increase in GLUT 4 activity which functions primarily to regulate glucose storage within skeletal muscle as glycogen. In other words, this little transporter ensures that you shuttle glucose primarily into the muscle when it is most insulin sensitive and receptive to carbohydrates that can replenish glycogen.
2. ALCOHOLWhile alcohol can pose an issue from a caloric standpoint, the much larger issue is its effect on one’s sleep quality. You’ll see many promoting the idea of a “night cap” to help reduce sleep latency (aka the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep). But, on the contrary, alcohol actually worsens your sleep quality. You see, alcohol blocks the brain from acquiring REM sleep by inducing a state of sedation. When you aren’t able to enter the deepest stage of restorative sleep, you run into some major metabolic consequences. Your best bet is to put alcohol further away from sleep whenever possible. Have a glass of wine with dinner or a drink for happy hour. But resist the urge to drink once the sun sets, your sleep quality depends on it.
Choose Your Carbs CarefullyIf you’re like most people, you probably don’t pay attention to your gut health. You eat what you want, live life on your own terms, and let your physician figure out the rest. That’s all well and good, until they’re stumped and you hit a dead end. This is where self-experimentation and a general knowledge of gastrointestinal function can come in handy.
- Changes in GI frequency/stool composition
- Undigested food in your stool
- Food intolerances/allergies
White is RightIf you want a simple and effective “hack” to improve your gut health, here’s a great place to start: Stop listening to all the bros on YouTube and eat WHITE rice. Not brown rice, white rice. Why?
- Hypoallergenic - White rice is hypoallergenic, meaning your immune system won’t tag it with inflammatory markers (IgE, IgA, IgM, IgG, IgD) during digestion and set off a cytokine cascade.
- Versatility - You can use white rice is nearly every dish known to man: chili, fajitas, fish tacos, stir fry, rice pudding, etc. Boredom generally leads to a lack of adherence as humans have a knack for falling for the “shiny object syndrome”.
- High Resistant Starch Potential - Resistant starch is essentially an indigestible element of rice which helps to feed beneficial microorganisms within your gut microbiome. When you cook and cool rice, this increases the resistant starch content via a process known as retrogradation.
- Low Fiber - This may sound counterintuitive to folks given the fitness industry is constantly pimping high fiber foods as the solution to everything from colon cancer to high interest rates and unsubsidized student loans. While fiber can help if someone is dealing with constipation, high fiber diets can make matters worse if SIBO, IBS, or IBD is suspected.