This is my absolute favorite time of year! I love Halloween and dressing up with my children followed by the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. We always load up in the van and visit my in-laws in Kansas which is only about a 5-hour road trip from where we live in Oklahoma. While I am a personal trainer, fitness author, and competitor, I also believe in ‘balance’ and enjoying life. Balance means I enjoy my favorite foods in moderation and I eat that stuffing and pie on Thanksgiving. But the other side of balance is eating clean the rest of the time and crushing workouts. It’s easy to let nutrition and exercise slip during the holidays because of the traveling, guests, no gym access, and the great food laying around in the form of left overs. I have a few tips I want to share with you that will allow you to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family, eat your favorite foods, and keep your fitness on track.
- Pack for the road: While you are packing to visit family don’t forget to also pack for that travel day be it by plane or car. A few essentials to bring in your Fitmark ‘meal management‘ bag should include cold water, protein shake, healthy snacks, and possibly a full meal. Pack a meal that will taste good cold in case you are unable to warm it up such as fresh vegetables, salad, fruit, and certain lean proteins. I typically keep these travel meals fairly low in carbs and fats. Good choices of Fitmark bags for traveling include: The Trunk (pack for the whole family) and Shield LG. Both models can carry a good amount of food and water/shaker bottles.
- Bring some food: If you are traveling by car I suggest bringing some basic ‘back up’ foods with you. While you don’t want to offend the family you are staying with you also don’t want to be at the mercy of having nothing healthy to eat outside of Thanksgiving dinner. I will often bring several 8oz portions of lean protein in a Fitmark bag and a medium sized card board box or laundry basket with dry goods such as oatmeal, protein pancake mix, protein power, and all my supplements. Anything that will make my trip easier nutrition wise I throw in the box. I do rely on the in-laws to have some basics like eggs, fruits, and vegetables. The Fitmark ‘Cruiser’ works really well for short trips because it can hold both clothes and keep meals cold.
- Stick to schedule: Do your best to stick to a similar eating schedule as any other typical day. Try not to skip meals and throw your system completely out of wack. Treat Thanksgiving dinner as a normally scheduled ‘cheat meal’. I tend to sleep in when at my in-laws, but then I get right to breakfast and let my eating schedule lay out like another other day.
- Stay hydrated: This tip should apply to every day, but it’s easy to forget the basics when traveling or staying somewhere else. Stay fully hydrated starting upon waking and throughout the day. Try not to drink calories and opt for H2O. Save the calories for the Thanksgiving treats to come. Staying fully hydrated will also help you not over eat.
- Eat lighter before dinner: As I mentioned above don’t skip meals, but do have foods higher in protein and lower in carbs and fats. Protein will help you feel fuller longer. Then save your carbs and fats on Thanksgiving for the good stuff (mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pie). If your Thanksgiving meal falls earlier in the day and is more like a late lunch keep eating lighter the rest of the day.
- Do exercise: Yes, this is a family day. I typically don’t go workout at the gym on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I DO take at least 10 mins to do a little HIIT cardio without equipment to keep my metabolism burning. Body weight exercises like High Knees, Jump Squats, or Burpees can be done anywhere. Do 30 secs of intense work followed by 30 secs rest. Ten minutes of working this way is time efficient and will keep you burning calories throughout the day. I typically travel with a set of resistance bands to step up intensity and variety while exercising at the in-laws. I encourage everyone to own a nice set of resistance bands.
- Enjoy Thanksgiving: If you are following my tips above just enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Don’t worry about avoiding certain foods during this type of special meal. Eat and drink until you are comfortably full and not until you are hurting. Know your limit.
- Left overs can be dangerous: After a heavy free meal like Thanksgiving it is best to try and get back to clean eating right away and not make it a ‘free eating’ weekend. So while you didn’t hold back for Thanksgiving dinner try to limit your left overs to the healthier choices like lean turkey and vegetables.
- The trip home: If your Thanksgiving involves travel don’t forget to pack water, snacks, and possibly a meal for the trip home. Don’t be at the mercy of fast food and even worse gas station food. Be sure to think ahead and put your Fitmark ice packs in the freezer the night before you travel home. This will also save you a good amount of money. Don’t forget Christmas will be here before you know it.
Fitmark and myself wish you a happy holiday weekend filled with great family time, good food, and safe travels. While we all have our own individual struggles and hardships, focusing on what we are thankful for is always a good positive practice.
Annihilate to Motivate,
Michael Wittig, ISSA CPT
IPE Natural Pro 3x Champ