When you think of vacation the first thing that comes to mind might be the sun on your skin, or the snow under your skis, or the fact that you're not sitting in an office under fluorescent lighting, shivering in an ugly cardigan even though it's 80 degrees outside.
The second thing is usually delicious food and drink.
Everyone's got a favorite vacation spot and everyone's got a favorite vacation treat. I'm from New Jersey so for me it's a Philly cheesesteak and Mac n' Manco's pizza. And of course booze. Lots of happy hours. And ice cream on the boardwalk...and a Brown's doughnut...and Bob's lemonade...and a Mallon's sticky bun...with butter.
You get the point. Part of what makes vacation so much fun is that you get to indulge in these earthly delights, but that horrible feeling of denim slowly starting to strangle your thighs or midsection can definitely rain on your pizza parade.
Here is a strategy so you can have your cheesesteak, eat it, and look good too!
This is a classic technique used by bodybuilders everywhere (that doesn't mean you're going to look like the hulk - it just means these people know how to eat strategically). The science is that after you work your muscles hard they are more sensitive, or receptive, to insulin (which comes mostly from eating carbs). This means that insulin will first store glucose (from the carbs) in your muscles instead of storing it as fat. It also helps deliver protein to your muscles which will help with definition.
According to Ben Greenfield, immediately after a workout, your body is essentially "bulletproof" to fat formation - meaning that a post-workout candy bar is more likely to get stored as muscle energy, compared to a candy bar consumed during a movie, which is more likely to get stored as fat.
Now the true way bodybuilders do this is to weight train or do some kind of HIIT and then eat pure protein with pure glucose immediately afterwards but I don't think anyone's vacation food is a gummy bear protein shake.
So you can modify this strategy - of course the results won't be the same, but it's definitely better than no strategy at all.
What I do is go relatively low carb for most of the day. Then pick ONE treat and eat it sometime after a weight training or HIIT workout.
For example, if happy hour is indeed your happiest hour, do a 20 min sprint workout on the beach. Then hit the cocktails. This does not mean you can drink a bottle of wine by yourself (nobody likes a drunk) - but two, two and a half glasses. Okay.
Here's a sample menu:
- Breakfast: 3-egg + veggie scramble
- Lunch: Salad with veggies and protein (chicken, steak, shrimp, etc.)
- Workout: 20 min HIIT or strength
- Dinner: 1 slice of pizza + 1-2 beers OR Grilled fish + veggies + dessert OR Burger + Bun + salad + 1-2 glasses of wine / cocktails
In a nutshell: save your carbs for ONE meal, after you work out. And don't go totally insane.
Who has time to work out on vacation?
Do you have 20 minutes? That's about the amount of time it takes a shower - so while you're waiting for the other people to get out of the shower you can get moving. And you don't even need a gym.
You can do any kind of movement that works your muscles until failure. The goal of these workouts is to work your muscles really hard for a short period of time. A 20 minute jog or elliptical session (or even an hour session) will not get the same results. This kind of steady-state cardio burns mostly fat - but we want to be burning glycogen. The best way to burn glycogen is through lifting weights and/or high intensity interval training (HIIT). If you have time for jogging or walking and you find it enjoyable and relaxing then by all means do it - stress reduction is a crucial part to weight loss - but not in place of these HIITs.
- Warm up for 3-5 minutes: light jogging, jumping jacks, etc.
- Sprint* on the soft sand for 30 seconds - 1 minute (until you literally can't go anymore)
- Recover for the same amount of time
- Repeat 10 - 15 times. You should be sprinting so hard that at the end of the circuits your beat - the goal is to work your muscles until failure.
- Cool down for 3 minutes
*Substitute full-body pushups for a couple of your sprint sessions (when your legs really need a break) for a total body workout.
- Warm up for 3-5 minutes
- 1 minute of jump lunges
- 1 minute of full-body pushups
- 1 minute of jump squats
- 1 minute of reverse pushups
- 1 minute of burpees or mountain climbers
- Recover for 1 minute
- Repeat that circuit two more times
- Cool down for 3 minutes
Disclaimer: am I promoting alcohol, gluten, sugar, deep-friend beer-battered buns? No. Obviously these things are not healthy nor will they help you loose weight (especially alcohol) but they're delicious and fun to eat.
This is just a way to partake - in moderation - so you can enjoy your vacation with out driving yourself mental feeling deprived, guilty, or both.
Know anyone who's on vacation or about to go? Share this with them!
What's your healthy-vacation strategy? Nonexistent or do you have some other tips and tricks? I'd love to hear in the comments !