How do you celebrate the holidays?
With friends, families, and loved ones? Piling your plate high with pleasure foods? Imbibing in generous portions of exotic beverages? Enjoying the comfort of a belly full of food around a warm fire?
For now, all is well.
Then comes the head-splitting next morning. Neatly curled up in a room equipped with blackout shades, chilled electrolyte drinks, and feeling queasy yet ravenously hungry.
By night, you’ll rally just as everyone expects. Whether you party to the extremes or ease up your daily routine, two weeks of holidays can absolutely derail months of hard-earned and consistent progress.
I’m not proposing that you maintain a militaristic regimen throughout the holidays; but instead form a strategic plan.
Your Holiday Gameplan
Preparation and deliberate action set the tone for the New Year. Starting on a high note, or bedridden and nursing a hangover. Use these holiday feasting tips and tricks to offset the damage of holiday portions. Or, better yet, enter the new year with maximum momentum.
Ideally, preparation starts hours earlier.
This guide starts the night before, and walks you through the morning of, immediately before, later in the day, and the day after a holiday overindulgence. Follow it and you’ll enjoy the night, recover quickly, and bounce back fitter.
Following a mediocre slumber, my food logs show a spike in calories consumed, and more coming from junk food. But that’s just the beginning. Blood sugar normally fluctuates in a narrow band. Inadequate sleep impairs your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. So your energy briefly spikes before crashing below baseline for hours. Making you tired, moody, and craving sugar.
In Why We Sleep, author Dr Matthew Walker explained that one night of modest sleep deprivation impairs your ability to handle junk foods akin to that of a diabetic. Conversely, a full night’s sleep helps burn body fat, prevents storing food as fat, reduces unhealthy cravings, and makes you more likely to keep weight off.
Pay in sweat to earn your feast. The favorite strategy of athletes.
Pound the turf, hit the gym, or do something physically active earlier in the day to stoke your metabolic fire. The higher your metabolism, the more calories burned while sitting around for the rest of the day.
For added benefits, lift something heavy. Then when you eat, hormonal changes cause all those added calories to preferentially fill muscles (instead of your waistline).
Like exercise, several minutes of shivering can boost your metabolism, and help you burn more calories throughout the day. In my guide to painless cold showers, I explained how exposure to uncomfortable temperatures targets stubborn (white) fat by converting it into burnable (brown) fat.
You’ll also emerge from the water with a clear mind and greater energy.
Save the Drinks for Later
When do you drink? Before the meal? Paired with the main course? With dessert? Later in the evening?
Little research has investigated the impact of alcohol timing around meals. Though one study found that compared to an alcohol-free beer, healthy folks enjoying a normal beer before eating suffered significantly higher blood glucose after the meal.
Drinks often contain sweeteners and refined carbohydrates. Causing greater harm from unhealthy eating.
For optimal digestion and to stay healthy, enjoy your drink after the meal and make it a clean spirit. Or choose a booze alternative that’ll get you pleasantly buzzed.
Bitters is a tincture of herbs infused into alcohol. They’ve been used for thousands of years before large meals to improve digestion and reduce discomfort. Modern scientific research is lacking, but if you imbibe in a pre-dinner cocktail, add a splash or two of bitters.
Fancy bitters infusions can liven up even the most boring cocktails.
Natural Blood Sugar Regulation
Looking for a fountain of youth?
Stable blood sugar is one tenant of anti-aging. But it’s not just table sugar causing harm. Refined carbohydrates have the same effect. In fact, table sugar is a form of simple carbohydrate.
Doughs, crusts, and flour-based sides along with full-sugar ice cream, pie, and decadent desserts all elevate blood sugar. When your pancreas and liver work overtime to fix your blood sugar, you stop burning fat and storing calories as weight.
When you’re going to feast you might as well minimize damage. Certain natural ingredients provide the support you need to keep weight off and minimize energy crashes resulting from binge eating. I compiled a list of the top blood sugar support supplements here.
The acid in your stomach plays multiple roles. Breaking down food. Sterilizing, killing unwanted bacteria, fungus, or parasites. Assimilating nutrients.
According to Dr. Michael Russo, fighting against the body with antacids, H2 blockers, and NSAIDs (like Advil) predisposes you to:
- Nutrient deficiency
And a wide variety of other conditions. Consult your doctor for other ways of combating indigestion.
Take Prebiotics & Probiotics
Probiotics work best when combined with prebiotics. Prebiotics are special starches that resist digestion (and don’t spike blood sugar like other starches), and feed the bacteria in your gut. Then any probiotics stacked on top have “food”.
Prebiotics paired with probiotics supports healthy digestion during the times that your body is flooded with new foods.
Try Digestive Enzymes
Normally, food hitting your mouth helps the body determine which digestive enzymes to produce. This process generally works well; eating slowly and chewing many times are foundational mindful eating habits.
When I really chow down, afterward I can barely get up from my seat. Unless I take digestive enzymes. These prime the body with additional support for a large bolus of food.
A digestive enzyme supplement, like the biohacker’s favorite P3-OM [BiOptimizers] provides the reinforcements your body needs to best use your meal and leave you feeling good.
Depending on your previous night, you may awake ready to eat a cow, or abhorring the idea of food.
Either way, I usually skip breakfast. Assuming you’re metabolically flexible, your body begins recalibrating after a night of festivities. It does so fastest when left alone. If you choose to eat, make it light and something blood-sugar friendly.
If I snack the day after, it usually consists of something to stabilize my electrolytes:
- Avocado with several pinches of salt
- Homemade full-fat bone broth
- Light green smoothie
When I’m queezy, I still feel better after a light snack.
On my most miserable days, I always feel better when I get fresh air. Whether or not you plunge into the icy Pacific Ocean, go outside. Even in the winter, I like to sit in a grass field (a practice called Earthing). Basking in the sun lifts my mood and (partially) relieves headaches.
The clean air, quiet, bright sun, and bare Earth provide much needed nature therapy.
As far back as I can remember, breaking a sweat is a surefire way to get over any slumps. The day after a long night, you’re best off with something light. Ignoring HRV and crushing heavy, intense workouts is a ticket to eventual injury and burnout.
After you get moving, the discomfort will fade. The first few minutes are always worst. Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Play a casual game of pickup sports with friends. Hop on your bike and cruise. Hike up to a good view. Or knock out quick micro-workouts throughout the day.
A good green tea or matcha will deliver the right amount of caffeine, with phytonutrients that your body uses to mop up free radicals from the night before.
Tea also supports healthy digestion and relaxation, making it an ideal morning-after drink.
Unwind as the night comes to a close. Eat slightly earlier than usual to give your body more time to digest before sleep. Treat yourself to a hot bath or sauna session. Schedule in downtime to stretch and mentally rest. Practice a form of relaxing breathwork.
Each facilitate the transition to sleep.
Your body will crave extra recovery the night after big celebrations. With a full belly, the body takes longer to breakdown alcohol. Tonight, however, it has the resources necessary to repair. REM sleep is considered the “information alchemy” stage. It’s the root of profound insight, emotional intelligence, and becoming resilient. Alcohol is one of the most potent known REM sleep blockers.
Give yourself a full sleep opportunity by retiring earlier than usual. Tomorrow (or after the holidays), you’ll be back on track.
Biohacking Holiday Feasts
Two weeks of unfettered food and drink can require months to undo.
Unless you go in with a plan, knowing how to strategically offset the binging and gorging.
Preparation starts the night before with maximizing your sleep quality. Then the day of, healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, cold exposure, and smart supplementation.
Stay tuned for more tactics to biohack alcohol and wake up hang-over free at any age, which I’ll cover in another post.
These are the basics to escaping the holidays unscathed and in great condition.