I am a human who likes to put it to the screws of life. I like getting after everything that I do, whether it is working out or celebrating on Holiday. So naturally, I am not a big fan of the “just eat in moderation” on Thanksgiving. If I eat a meal that has enough carbs and fat for a week, I will enjoy it.
I also do not enjoy feeling like crap, especially in my gut. I hate it.
It seems like quite Sophie’s choice, right? Have fun, but pay for it or abstain and not enjoy life.
As Lee Corso would say, “NOT SO FAST!!!”
Luckily for all of us, there is a thing called science, and a few concepts from it strung together into a bit of practice can help us both enjoy the Holiday and not feel like a dumpster fire the next day.
So this week, I present:
A Science-Based Method For Maximizing Your Turkey Day Enjoyment While Minimizing The Damage On Your Body
- Intermittent fast the day of Thanksgiving. Just in case you are unaware intermittent fasting is good for your metabolic health. It is better for weight loss and reduces the risks of obesity and obesity-related conditions, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. (Patterson et al., 2017). It is also a great way to make your catabolic hormones (e.g., adrenaline and glucagon) spike and hormones like insulin decrease, which is why I suggest doing this because it will make part #2 more EPIC. I recommend laying off the food and booze by 10 pm the night before and not breaking the fast until noon the next day.
- Do a long workout at 85% of your max heart rate. When I say long, I mean long, like more than 90 minutes long. Here is why a. You don’t transition from burning glycogen for energy to carbohydrates until after 90 minutes of continuous exercise (Wunderle, 2017). Also, exercising long and hard during fasted state burns more fat via higher plasma adrenaline and cortisol (those catabolic hormones) concentrations and lower circulating insulin levels (Zouhal, 2021). So by fasting and then working out, you are burning up all your body’s excess carbs and starting to burn some fat too, which means you will need to replenish it.
- Eat some protein after the workout: 50 grams of pure protein (meaning egg whites, chicken breast, shrimp, tuna) as you can get. Your body will need to replenish the depleted protein levels to prevent it from eating muscle tissue for energy (Anatomy & Physiology of the Human Body, Biga, 2017)
- Take A Long Walk RIGHT AFTER you eat: Despite what your mom may have told you, it is best to move right after you eat. Research shows “walking as soon as possible seems to be optimal to control BS levels” (Hijikata et al, 2011) because walking suppresses the glucose increase from eating. Avoid that unbuckle and lay down on the couch, and get outside and walk. 30-60 minutes is the recommended time domain.
- No seconds 3 to 4 hours before bed: I would advise stopping your last meal around three to four hours before going to bed so that you can sleep through the night (Pathikonda et al., 2012). This is based on the fact that it takes about four hours for your stomach to empty after eating ― and larger, higher-fat meals may take a little longer.
So based on these rules, we can derive this schedule for those who want to get after it on Turkey Day and avoid the excess jiggle when we wiggle.
- 8 am – Wake Up
- 8:30 am LONG WORKOUT (see below for an idea)
- 11:00 am Eat 1/3 gram of pure protein per pound of body weight
- 2:00–4:00 pm GET AFTER THAT MEAL
- 2:30–4:30 pm4545 (enough time to eat and do dishes) Go for a 30-60 minute walk
- 6:30 pm (I go to bed early) Shut down the eating and drinking
Biga, L. (January, 2021). Anatomy and Physiology Text Book. https://open.oregonstate.education/aandp/chapter/24-4-protein-metabolism/
Collier, R. (June, 2011). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without.
Hijikata, Y. (June, 2011). Walking just after a meal seems to be more effective for weight loss than waiting for one hour to walk after a meal..
Lessan, N. (May, 2019). Energy Metabolism and Intermittent Fasting: The Ramadan Perspective. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566767/
Murry, B. (April, 2018). Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019055/
Pathikonda, M. (March, 2012). Gastric emptying scintigraphy: is four hours necessary? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21959322/
Patterson, R. (August, 2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634
Wunderle, M. (December, 2017). Race-day fueling. https://journal.crossfit.com/article/race-day-fueling#:~:text=Sports%20drinks%2C%20gels%2C%20bars%2C,events%20lasting%20over%20four%20hours.
Zouhal, H. (January, 2020) Exercise Training and Fasting: Current Insights. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6983467/