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How to survive Christmas: The ultimate guide

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 In This Series

Step 1: Lay the groundwork

Do a little preparation and even the worst hangover won’t make you lose sight of your fitness goals

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Stock your cupboards

‘Food such as eggs, fish and avocado are high in B vitamins which will provide energy that’s been depleted by alcohol and caffeine,’ says Nuffield Health nutritionist Nick Wilkinson. ‘Strengthen your immune system with zinc, found in turkey, lamb and sesame seeds. Cruciferous vegetables such as sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower increase your glutathione, which supports your liver functions – including processing alcohol.’ 

Have a goal 

‘Be clear with yourself about what your goal is,’ says performance coach Brendan Chaplin. ‘For example, it might be to drop 2kg of your bodyweight. The clearer you are, the better the chance of success you’ve got.’ That way if you fall off the wagon, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to do to get back on track (rather than just, ‘Oh, I’ll work out a bit harder tomorrow’).

Use ‘if-then’ plans

Decide your actions in advance and you’re far more likely to stick to them, according to a University of Leeds study. Make a list of all the temptations you’ll encounter and what you response will be. For example, if I’m offered mince pies, then I will only have one. 

Create a vision board

‘Have a photo of yourself in good shape or of someone you admire somewhere prominent, such as your phone’s background or inside your front door,’ says Chaplin. ‘Use it to remind you of your goals and the rewards you’ll give yourself if you stick to them.’

Allow for slip-ups

‘You’ve got to accept that you’ll eat and drink more than normal,’ says Chaplin. ‘If you understand that it’s going to happen then you’ve got a much greater chance of controlling elements such as when and how much.’ If you’re eating three decent meals a day, seven days a week, you can afford for 10% to be less than optimal. 

Sleep well

Download the White Noise Lite app and play it as you go to sleep. White noise helps keep you in the land of nod because it’s equal across all sound frequencies so it can act like a sound mask, blocking out sudden changes, which are typically what jolts you awake.

Step 2: Survive the party

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Has anyone ever drunk a pint of water between alcoholic drinks? 

Here’s some realistic advice to stop you feeling so rough the next day. We can’t stop you embarrassing yourself, sadly:

Line the stomach

It’s not a myth – but shouldn’t be done with a pint of milk. ‘Eating fats slows the stomach’s absorption of alcohol and gives your liver more time to deal with the nasty by-products,’ says Wilkinson. ‘So have salmon or avocado for your “pre-match” meal. You should also take milk thistle before you head out because it assists your liver in getting rid of alcohol.’

Don’t begin early 

If your party starts mid-afternoon it can be tempting to write off the whole day. ‘Instead, try to eat and drink well right up until you’re going to the party – and think of it as your “cheat” meal for the day,’ says Josh Taylor, strength and conditioning coach at Salford Red Devils. ‘Eating and drinking poorly for a few hours is nowhere near as bad as doing it all day.’

Kick-start your evening

No time to get to the gym before a night out? This 20-minute Tabata workout doesn’t need any equipment, so it’s perfect for doing in the office. ‘It’s made up of four exercises: chest-to-floor burpees, decline press-ups on your office chair, half range bodyweight squats, and mountain climbers,’ says Taylor. ‘Do an exercise for 20 seconds, rest for ten seconds, and repeat until you’ve done that eight times. Rest for one minute, then do the same for the next exercise.’

Watch your mixers

‘Swap mixers like tonic water and lemonade for soda water,’ says Taylor. ‘It’ll keep you much more hydrated and it doesn’t taste too dissimilar.’

Pick your beer wisely

A study published in Journal Of The International Society of Sports Nutrition found that deep-ocean sea water delivered a better balance of sodium, potassium, zinc and magnesium than most sports drinks. Spanish beer Er Boquerón is made from mineral-rich sea water (filtered, of course) so it lessens the dehydrating impact of alcohol – plus it has two gold stars for exceptional taste from the International Taste and Quality Institute. That’s not an excuse to drink twice as much as normal, though.

Click below for steps 3 and 4. You won't survive without them. 

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