How to Survive the Festive Season:
The 2021 holidays are almost upon us and this holiday season feels more poignant than most. It is also a time to reflect on what has been a very hard year for most of us due to a global pandemic.
This has resulted in many of us being unable to see loved ones for extended periods of time (at the time of writing this I have been unable to see both my elderly parents since April and they both live alone). It has also meant that we have been disconnected socially from going out with our friends for a drink or a meal, which has had profound effects on our emotional and mental health. The temptation for many of us as life begins to go back to a somewhat ‘normal’ state is to go from abstainers to total teetotallers in the space of a very short time.
With the silly season fast approaching us we will soon be facing a barrage of end-of-year work lunches, afternoon drinks and parties you won’t be able to say ‘no’ to. Not to mention the Christmas and New Year’s get togethers all designed to make you gorge on food till your stomach hurts, drink way more than you intended and deprive you of sleep.
If you want to be the last woman or man standing at your long lunch, dinner or drinks then find my tips below to help you become a well-prepared social athlete.
Pre Going Out:
A common mistake people make when it comes to party season is overindulging on high fat foods like pastries, chips and dip which are consumed mindlessly while waiting for the ‘real’ food to be served. The easiest way to avoid overeating at parties and events is to make sure you don’t arrive hungry. Aim to eat a good fat and protein enriched meal at least 60-90 minutes beforehand. These macronutrients are found to be slower to digest in the stomach with in turn helps slow down the rate in which alcohol is absorbed.
Alcohol Fit Tip:
One of the most undervalued and unknown foods that helps break down alcohol enzymes is the Nashi Pear (also known as the Asian or Korean pear). However, it is important to note that, according to Professor Noakes from the CSIRO (2015) “that the effect was demonstrated if you take pear juice before alcohol consumption and not after”
Don’t Demolish the Snack Table:
This study by the CSIRO (2015) found that whilst pears have such benefits of lowering cholesterol, relieve constipation and contain anti-inflammatory properties “it also appears they can ward off hangovers AND lower blood alcohol levels”. The CSIRO’s research found that ‘consuming 220ml of pear juice prior to alcohol consumption could reduce blood alcohol levels by 20% and reduce the symptoms of a hangover”.
Don’t be fooled by canapes that are offered at gatherings, they may appear small and harmless but most of them contain an average of 200 calories or more. It’s easy to fall victim to mindlessly snacking on these between rounds of drinks and conversation. Limit yourself to 2-3 canapes at any one function which will ensure you still have an appetite for any main meals that are served.
Whilst it is often thought that alcohol does the most damage when it comes to weight gain, often it is the foods that we’re enjoying with those few drinks that are equally if not more to blame. Alcohol is metabolised before proteins or fats, therefore the snack food that you consume will more likely be stored if it is not burnt off. For this reason, eating a satiating meal before you go out will mean you will be less likely to overeat at an event. If you do wish to partake in some party food opt for healthier options such as sushi, salads, grills and vegetable snacks over the chips, fried food and sugary desserts.
Whether you are hitting up your favourite pub or club or just out celebrating with friends, there are some tips and tricks you should know that will help lessen the impact of your big night. Whilst some of these might seem completely obvious, common sense seems to go out of the window when we are having a good time!
1 Drink to 1 Water:
We all understand the benefits of this one, alternating one alcoholic drink with one water or soda water helps keep us hydrated and slows down our imbibing. If you don’t wish to look awkward ask for your water in a wine glass or low-ball glass with ice and no one will know the difference.
Keep Congeners to a Minimum:
Most people would not have heard of ‘avoiding congeners’ but they might of heard of ‘stick to clear or light coloured liquors to avoid hangovers’. Congeners are the toxic fermentation by-products largely found in dark liquors such as brandy, bourbon, tequila, whiskey, cognac, dark beer and red wine. Congeners are largely responsible for the upset stomach and sore head you feel the next day after drinking them. Drinks that are low in congeners are vodka, gin and lighter beers so stick to these types of drinks if you want to avoid that hung over feeling the next day.
Take it Easy on the Bubbles:
It’s not in your imagination if after a glass of Champagne you feel like it has gone to your head there is a very good reason for it. The carbon dioxide found in a glass of champers or fizzy drinks makes you absorb the alcohol faster. This is even the case if the champagne is lower in alcohol than a red or white wine.
It’s not exactly scientifically proven what specifically causes a hangover. Some of the most common symptoms of a hangover – headache, tiredness, nausea and being sensitive to light come down to dehydration. One of the main chemicals in alcohol is acetaldehyde, created when ethanol is broken down in the liver, it can be up to 30 times more toxic than the alcohol itself.
Replacing fluids when drinking is essential to avoiding a hangover, the ethanol acts as a diuretic in the body which makes you go to the toilet all night. Coupled with water, electrolytes can help bring your body back into balance faster so add a Gatorade or Hydralyte to help you bounce back to your old self faster.
Eat a Protein Hearty Breakfast:
You may be craving fast food or sugary snacks the next day to help absorb the alcohol but the ideal food to eat the next day is eggs. Eggs are full of amino acids like cysteine which breaks down that toxic chemical acetaldehyde and taurine, which boosts liver health and function.
How Does alcohol Affect Your Fitness & Strength:
You only have to experience attempting to train the next day or even up to a few days after a big night to feel the effects it has had on your strength and fitness. You may feel more lethargic, more tired after your normal workout and your strength may not be as great. A study that was conducted at Massey University in New Zealand (2010 -2011) looked at how much is too much? What was the magic number of when alcohol starts to affect your body. This study confirmed it does largely come down to bodyweight. They found that consuming more than half a gram of alcohol per kilogram of bodyweight after eccentric exercise (lowering a weight) affects muscle function. In an 80kg male this equates to ½ bottle of red wine or 3-4 full strength beers and for a 50kg female this equates to 1-2 glasses of wine.
These studies also found that drinking more than one gram of alcohol per kilogram of bodyweight can set you up more problems. The alcohol starts to affect protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth, and interrupt growth hormone and testosterone production.
The Best Exercise & Recovery:
There is no need to avoid exercise altogether after a big night as it does have the benefit of boosting our mood and stimulating our brain. Try to avoid any endurance type events or high intensity exercise and instead opt for gentler exercises such as walking, swimming, Pilates, Yoga or lifting lighter weights. Try to avoid exercise that is going to make you sweat a lot as chances are you are already dehydrated.
In order to feel like your old self drink plenty of water for the next 24 hours and focus on getting some good quality sleep. Wait at least 24 hours before hitting it hard at the gym again to prevent any symptoms from getting worse and putting extra strain on your body.