Even though we usually have our diet under control, we tend to let ourselves go quickly during the holidays. Well, these are just human traits.
Once the holiday season arrives, it’s just harder to stay on track because there are temptations around every corner.
For this reason, I’ve summed up the best tips and tricks to master intermittent fasting during the holidays without taking collateral damage.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that alternates between fasting and eating.
There are different types of intermittent fasting, but the most popular form is eating within 8 hours.
As a result, you fast for 16 hours per day during this 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule. However, it is also viable to fast for 14, 18, or 20 hours per day.
Since scientists have proven the health benefits of fasting, such as increased insulin sensitivity or weight loss, intermittent fasting has gained popularity (Halberg et al. 20051).
In short, fasting helps to burn fat by lowering insulin, the hormone essential for weight gain.
Therefore, intermittent fasting during holidays such as Christmas or Easter can mean both chance and threat:
- Intermittent fasting can inhibit weight gain during the holidays
- On the other hand, Christmas parties may ruin your intermittent fasting plan
Against this background, there is one thing you should not forget.
Intermittent Fasting During the Holidays Is Not a Big Deal
Let’s be honest. You won’t eat clean during the holidays. And that’s just human.
Therefore, it is not necessary to strive for perfection at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. If you set yourself a goal that you will not achieve anyway, you can only disappoint yourself at the end of the day.
Who doesn’t want to spend a few hours a year with family or friends without restrictions?
If you deviate from your diet in a targeted and disciplined way, you are not a failure! Nevertheless, it would help if you not fall into classic holiday traps, such as:
- Let’s have one „last“ piece
- I already had cookies, so it doesn’t matter if I eat bread, waffles, potatoes, and cake too
However, nature designed the human body for fasting and feasting. Since we live in abundance, we have just forgotten about fasting.
Nature conditioned us to be magically attracted by tables full of sweets.
Our ancestors, just like indigenous peoples today, feasted whenever food was abundant.
When the fruit was ripe and sweet in summer and autumn, they built up fat reserves, their bodies could tap into in winter when food was scarce.
Today we experience an endless summer.
Therefore, intermittent fasting can help you restore the natural balance between feasting and fasting, not only during the year but also during the holiday season.
10 Tips for Intermittent Fasting During the Holidays
The holiday season can be stressful anyway. Is adding intermittent fasting too much?
With these hacks for holidays, fasting becomes simple and effective without missing out on essential gourmet delights.
1. Skip Breakfast
During the holidays, you can find abundance everywhere. Accordingly, many families already serve large meals in the morning.
But isn’t that a little bit over the top?
Breakfast is the queen of refined carbohydrates and convenience foods. So during the holidays, you can find bread, cookies, breakfast cereals, waffles, pancakes, cakes, fruit yogurt, bagels, etc., at the breakfast table.
On top of that, most people guzzle fruit juice, directly hitting the liver without natural protective fiber.
If you already feast on these heaps of refined carbs in the morning, the blood sugar spike and crash will induce cravings before noon. As a result, you will find yourself snacking on cookies.
Do yourself a favor and skip breakfast in intermittent fasting 16/8 manner. This way, you can give your stomach and intestines a break when they need it most.
Hence, intermittent fasting can restore the natural balance between feasting and fasting – even during the holidays.
It also helps your body keep up fat burning after sleep. Furthermore, you can start feasting at noon without a guilty conscience.
If you are struggling with cravings, Bulletproof Coffee is a good idea, as it saturates you without increasing blood sugar and insulin levels.
2. Drink Water
A glass of water in the morning replaces your breakfast. Since sugar and starch consumption makes you thirsty, this thirst is often confused with hunger the next day.
Therefore, a full glass of water after getting up is essential as before, during, and after a festive meal.
With this in mind, you will overeat less quickly if you pour yourself a glass of water half an hour before eating. After you have drunk it, refill it during the meal.
Even 5 to 10 minutes after the meal, a glass of water will prevent you from continually snacking from cookies on the bulging tables.
3. Avoid Snacking
During the holidays, colorful snacks are waiting at every corner. That is why many people eat continuously, even if they are not hungry at all.
When we talk about snacking on holidays, we are talking about cookies and sweets and not about a few nuts, like in an 8-hour eating period.
Therefore, focus on big meals in the usual intermittent fasting manner on holidays as well.
Let’s be honest. You will have the opportunity to taste various sweets and candies during festive meals anyway.
Many family celebrations inevitably extend from lunch to dinner, thanks to coffee, tea, and gossip.
Since you definitely won’t miss out, you don’t have to snack outside of this period.
4. Stop Nibbling While Cooking
Anyone responsible for cooking the countless holiday meals knows the challenges of this task.
The obligatory quality control can quickly get out of hand, and at the end of the day, you will have eaten 700 extra calories while cooking.
With this in mind, also a strict 16-hour fasting period cannot make this additional meal disappear. So save the nibbling while cooking. Moreover, it won’t make the food better.
If you need help with tasting, you are guaranteed to find qualified tasters on holidays.
5. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals
A shot or a glass of diluted apple cider vinegar before a feast is my favorite hack.
Since it dampens the insulin reaction, apple cider vinegar before a carbohydrate-rich meal is a wise choice.
As one study shows, apple cider vinegar lowers the glycemic index – the relative increase in blood sugar levels – of white rice by almost 40 percent (Sugiyama et al. 20032).
Another study shows that taking two teaspoons of vinegar with carbohydrate-rich meals lowers the resulting blood sugar and insulin levels by 34 percent.
Its positive effect is most effective when the apple cider vinegar is consumed shortly before the meal (Johnston et al. 20103).
As long as it has been prepared with plenty of apple cider vinegar, you can also start with a salad.
Moreover, acetic acid increases satiety and reduces calorie intake throughout the day (Johnston et al. 20054).
6. Prefer Green Vegetables
The combination of fat and polysaccharides such as starches can be deadly on holidays.
While fat brings more energy into the body, sugar ensures that energy is stored incredibly efficiently by causing insulin to surge.
Unlike other side dishes such as potatoes, green vegetables are not rich in starch but fiber.
While starchy foods increase blood sugar and insulin levels, dietary fiber dampens their increase (Chandalia et al. 20005).
During the holidays, you can take advantage of the protective effect of dietary fiber, for example, by preferring the following vegetables as a side dish:
- Brussels sprouts
7. Use Healthy Fats
Like dietary fiber, fats have a protective effect that lowers the glycemic index of the carbohydrates consumed.
Therefore, you can always ask for olive oil or butter to refine broccoli or sprouts, for example.
This way, you can turn lean roast or chicken breast with a side dish into a high-fat, low-carb (LCHF) meal without effort.
In addition to the taste, this also improves the satiation and curbs the craving for sweets.
Since healthy fats stimulate the secretion of satiety hormones such as leptin and cholecystokinin, they have been shown to reduce food intake (McLaughlin et al. 19986).
These are generally calorie-free drinks (coffee or tea) that are fortified with one of the following healthy fats to boost satiety while not stimulating insulin:
- Coconut oil
- Coconut milk
- MCT oil
- Grass-fed butter
8. Bring Dessert
If you don’t feel like stuffing yourself with cookies and cakes after a sumptuous feast for the second day in a row, offer to bring a dessert for the party in advance.
With this little trick, you can replace refined carbohydrates with healthy fats.
Three high-fat dessert variations are particularly suitable for this purpose, which won’t affect insulin levels too much:
If the preparation is too much work for you besides all the holiday stress, you can still buy dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate with only 90% cocoa content already has a fantastic macronutrient composition (*):
- Fat: 84%
- Carbs: 9%
- Protein: 7
If one assumes a carbohydrate content of 5-10%, we can already consider it a ketogenic food. This way, you can signal relatives that you are still normal after all while nibbling on chocolate.
9. Exercise Wisely
Exercise is most effective when done in a fasted state. That’s true for both weight loss and the effects of autophagy.
Fasting, a ketogenic diet, and exercise use the same principle for weight loss. All these methods empty the body’s carbohydrate stores to burn fat for energy.
During the Christmas marathon on festive days, you can take advantage of this fact by intermittent fasting.
After you have already skipped breakfast, you can exercise in a fasted state before the next lunch.
Hence, you can burn the previous day’s carbohydrates more efficiently with 16/8 intermittent fasting and exercise. Other carbohydrates consumed at the next Christmas party can be used by the body afterward for muscle recovery (Murray et al. 20187).
For example, you can workout fasted on the 25th and 26th to get the best out of the holiday marathon.
As you can continually reduce stored carbohydrates, you minimize the amount of food stored as body fat.
Furthermore, you’ll be two steps ahead in fat burning when you return to your usual rhythm after the holidays.
10. Establish Fasting Traditions
As history shows us, fasting has always been an integral part of practically all cultures and religions of our world.
We are currently rediscovering the outstanding health benefits of these traditions. Just as meaningful as fasting itself are regular fasting dates around holidays.
For example, at Easter, I use the Holy Week to subject my body to spring cleaning.
For this reason, intermittent fasting during the holidays is more comfortable and more effective:
- After prolonged fasting, it is challenging to eat enormous quantities
- You can eat your way through anywhere without a guilty conscience
- Your body is calibrated to fasting and demands fewer meals a day
Why should you establish a personal fasting tradition before and not after the holidays?
Since people often do not fulfill their resolutions, you run the risk of binging on carbs during holidays and not fasting afterward.
However, if you have an iron will, 24-hour fasting after New Year’s Day or 1-3 day fasting after Christmas is a superb choice.
Finally, intermittent fasting is the most effective method to burn off excess sugar and visceral fat in the body (Catenacci et al. 20168).
My personal favorite after spontaneous celebrations is a 40-hour fast. This way, you can benefit from two nights, and on the second day, you can get back into a 16/8 rhythm.
7 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting During the Holidays
In addition to countless practical and health benefits throughout the year, smart intermittent fasting on holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving can bring specific benefits (Catenacci et al. 20169; Drenick et al. 196410; Catterson et al. 201811; Ho et al. 198812):
- Intermittent fasting minimizes weight gain
- It boosts metabolism
- Fasting fights the inertia
- It helps you sleep longer
- Fasting minimizes the effects of junk food
- It relieves the intestine and reduces inflammation
- Intermittent fasting even helps to gain muscle during the holidays
During the Holidays, Intermittent Fasting Is Your Secret Weapon
Intermittent fasting is a flexible, practical, and straightforward tool during holidays, provided you use it cleverly. Thus, it helps improve metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
However, don’t confuse fasting with a miracle cure that counteracts every single cookie during the holidays. Nevertheless, intermittent fasting prevents you from going completely wild on questionable food choices during the holidays.
You can use any intermittent fasting schedule that fits your rhythm. However, I find 16/8 intermittent fasting the best fit after you program your body for hunger at the right times.
Intermittent Fasting During the Holidays FAQ
What’s allowed during intermittent fasting?
During intermittent fasting, eating is prohibited. However, coffee ☕ and tea 🍵 without milk and sweeteners are allowed.
What is the best time to exercise during intermittent fasting?
Since you can burn fat more efficiently in a fasted state, the best time to exercise during intermittent fasting is right before you break the fast.
What can I drink during fasting period of intermittent fasting?
You can drink water 💧, sparkling water, black coffee ☕ , and plain tea 🍵 during a fasting period of intermittent fasting.
Is drinking allowed during intermittent fasting?
Yes, during intermittent fasting, you are allowed to drink water, black coffee ☕, and tea 🍵 without milk and sugar or sweeteners.
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