When the Christmas holidays arrive, every meal on offer seems to double in calories: lunch with leftover Christmas pudding and custard? Sign me up. Christmas ham, lamb, and potato bake? I'll have it. Christmas party celebrations? The calories from the end of year beers and party pies don't really count, do they?
As inconvenient as it is, your body doesn't know what time of the year it is (or how much you deserve it!). It only knows that you're eating too much, or you're not.
But we've got a plan to help you prevent any weight gain!
This article outlines our strategy to help you chose your protein sources wisely to keep calories as low as possible, so you can still indulge in holiday season food whilst still fitting into your new Christmas swimwear!
Your Lean Protein Options to Keep Fat at Bay.
A quick word on protein: it's such a critical macronutrient to your health and weight loss goals. Here's why:
- Compared to the other macronutrients carbohydrates and fat, protein is better when it comes to keeping you full (1).
- Protein has only 4 calories per gram, as opposed to fat that packs 9 calories per gram (carbohydrates also has 4). (2).
- Because of the energy required by your body to breakdown and digest protein, you burn 30% of the calories upon eating it! For example, when you eat 100 calories from protein, you're only really eating about 70 calories (3). For fat, that percentage is only 0-3%, and just 5-10% for carbohydrates (3).
So as you can see, protein is your friend when it comes to staying full, and consuming fewer calories. So how does this fit into a real-world example?
Fighting Fat: What To Do Ahead of a Big Holiday Meal
Let's say you have your office Christmas party one evening at 6 pm. You know there will be plenty of beers, pies, cakes, pudding, and a vast array of calorie-dense finger food.
You'll want lean sources of protein to keep calories low ahead of 6 pm. Here are some of the best:
- Barramundi or canned tuna
- Whey protein powder
- Chicken breast
- Egg whites
- Beef jerky
These sources above contain high amounts of protein, with limited fat and carbohydrates.
By consuming them with a source of fiber like spinach, lettuce, or other salads (minus any calorie-dense dressings!) you're effectively limiting your calorie intake ahead of your Christmas party, thus reducing the urge to overeat and gain too much fat.
This is because fiber also helps you stay full (4-6).
A sample day might look like this:
Breakfast: Whey protein powder, black coffee.
Lunch: Chicken breast with 1 cup of spinach.
4 pm -- Two hours before the Christmas party: one serving of beef jerky.
Why won't any source of protein do?
Whilst you'll still feel full by consuming other sources of protein, the additional fat content means the strategy fails. This is because the calorie content will be too high.
Sources of protein that are NOT low in fat, that are to be avoided in this context, include:
- Pork Belly
- Beef mince
- Ribeye steak
- Porterhouse steak
- T- Bone steak
- Fried chicken
Now we must stress, there is nothing wrong with the above protein sources.
But in the context of keeping calories low on a day where a big meal is looming, they are not part of our strategy together here.
So once you've followed a sample day of lean protein sources similar to the above, you'll be able to indulge in whatever is on offer at your Christmas party (or anywhere else), knowing that:
- You're not overly hungry and are not likely to overeat.
- Your calorie consumption for the day is as low as it can be without depriving yourself unnecessarily.
- You're free to indulge given you've been restrictive and disciplined in the lead-up.
We trust this strategy will be as effective for you as it is for us!
Enjoy your holidays!
(1) Soenen S, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Proteins and satiety: implications for weight management. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008;11:747–751. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328311a8c4.
(2) National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 6, Calories: Total Macronutrient Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Net Energy Stores. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218769/
(3) van Baak MA. Meal-induced activation of the sympathetic nervous system and its cardiovascular and thermogenic effects in man. Physiol Behav. 2008;94:178–86.
(4) Wilmshurst P., Crawley J. C. W. The measurement of gastric transit time in obese subjects using Na and the effects of energy content and guar gum on gastric emptying and satiety. British Journal of Nutrition. 2007;44(1):1–6. doi: 10.1079/bjn19800003.
(5) Holt S., Carter D., Tothill P., Heading R., Prescott L. Effect of gel fibre on gastric emptying and absorption of glucose and paracetamol. The Lancet. 1979;313(8117):636–639. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(79)91079-1.
(6) Sandhu K. S., El Samahi M. M., Mena I., Dooley C. P., Valenzuela J. E. Effect of pectin on gastric emptying and gastroduodenal motility in normal subjects. Gastroenterology. 1987;92(2):486–492. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(87)90146-6.