According to the British Dietetic Association, the average Briton gains 2.7kg over the Christmas period. But is it possible to go through the festive season without joining this statistic? Yes. And you don’t have to live on brussel sprouts from now until the New Year.
Drink with science
Alcohol is often vilified. Many people decline a glass of red wine around the table with friends thinking they’re “being good”. This is because alcohol contains seven calories per gram, which is only slightly less calorie-dense than fat (it contains nine). But wine, whiskey and beer all have different physiological impacts on the human body which is far more complex than simply counting the calories on the bottle.
Let’s take red wine as an example. It’s been found to contain a natural, health-boosting compound known as resveratrol which scientists from the University of Illinois in Chicago discovered could have, “Anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antiviral properties.” Put simply it’s pretty good for you.
Now consider this. Scientists from the Department of Medicine and Clinical Science at Kyushu University, Japan, believe that, “alcohol improves insulin sensitivity”. Improving insulin sensitivity is a very good thing since this it means your body is better able to store and use the carbohydrates you’ve just eaten from the chocolate on the Christmas tree. Poor insulin sensitivity means those same chocolates will be more prone to being stored as fat.
Finally, try combining these two schools of thought and adding a cinnamon stick. Research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that, “Cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity” too. What this means is a glass of traditional mulled wine could be the perfect cocktail to actually aid fat loss.
Essentially be calorie conscious, but don’t ignore the science and magic of food and drink.
Try making this easy, healthy, aromatic mulled wine recipe in a slow cooker.
- Half a bottle red wine
- One cinnamon stick
- One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add some zest)
- Two cloves/dried flower buds
- One pinch of stevia (a natural sweetener made from a plant native to South America)
- Place the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer gently for 6-8 minutes.
- Make sure it doesn’t boil or burn.
- To serve, pour the mulled wine into heatproof glasses.
Time Your Binge
Heed the words of scientists from the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine who found that binging after exercise dramatically improved your ability to absorb food. Even a brief workout gets a protein within the body called GLUT4 firing, which aids the transport of glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. That means you’re more likely to storing that kingsize chocolate bar as muscle glycogen, not fat.
An idea supported by a paper published in the Annual Review of Medicine which stated, “Exercise training in humans results in numerous beneficial adaptations in skeletal muscles, including an increase in GLUT4 expression. The increase in muscle GLUT4 in trained individuals contributes to an increase in the responsiveness of muscle glucose uptake.”
Finish Your Dinner
Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsupports the idea of demolishing the Christmas turkey. See, it’s been found that the protein-dense tradition increases “satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may facilitate a reduction in energy consumption.” Protein makes you feel fuller for longer so the lure of sugar-ridden desserts will decrease.
But the good news doesn’t stop there. Research from the Departments of Nutrition at Arizona State University found that a large part of the calories ingested through protein are lost as heat when metabolised by the body. It’s known as the thermic effect of food and it means that, by eating a high protein meal you effectively sit there burning more calories through digestion than you would nibbling on cheese and biscuits.
Healthy Christmas pudding recipe
If you’re really determined, try this healthy Christmas pudding recipe. Acai Berry dessert doesn’t have any added sugar, it’s free of gluten and dairy, and it’s brimming with antioxidants. Here’s how to make it (serves one).
• A handful of frozen berry mix
• A banana
• A pack of acai puree (or 2 teaspoons of acai powder with 3-4 ice cubes)
• 3-4 tablespoons of oats
• 150ml of soy milk or rice milk
• A teaspoon or two of honey
For the topping
• Coconut flakes
• Chia seeds
• Any fruit you like
Peel the banana and put it in the freezer for at least three hours. Now put everything in a food processor, blend until smooth and pour into a pudding mould. Turn it over on a plate and enjoy.
And finally, don’t go to the gym
Make sure you avoid the gym. Hitting the exercise machines will ruin your festive break and make you feel like you’re not on holiday at all. Instead, go for a jog, a swim or just take your bike instead of using the car.
You should aim to do a little work, though. Pick five exercises for your upper body and hit five sets of ten for each. Use what you have available at home – you can do shoulder presses upside-down on the bed, press-ups on the floor, that sort of thing.
Also, exercise before breakfast. You’ll nibble into your fat reserves and burn off excess calories from the day before. Coffee water will also help the process.