Along with traditions, celebrations, family and friends, the holidays bring with them a plethora of feasts, treats and hors d’oeuvres. For some, the holiday season can be a daily struggle to balance a healthy lifestyle and indulge in festive foods.
“The holidays are a harder time to follow any diet,” says Garrett Shinoskie, Director of Athletic Performance at Zone Athletic Performance in North Scottsdale. That’s why Shinoskie advocates carb cycling.
Shinoskie defines carb cycling as “a diet and nutritional strategy that focuses on the amount of carbohydrates you take in on a daily basis.”
Carb cycling is recommended for people that have roughly 20 percent body fat or less and are physically active. “It’s a very functioning diet for fit, athletic people,” Shinoskie says.
A common misconception most people believe is that dieting involves restraining from all carbohydrates or all fats for a long period of time. With carb cycling, Shinoskie says that’s not the case.
“Carbohydrates and fats do not do any good when high amounts of both are paired together in meals,” he says. However, both are necessary for a well-rounded diet.
Throughout an average week of carb cycling, there are high-, moderate- and low-carbohydrate days. Because carbohydrates provide energy and can be very beneficial for strenuous exercise, high-carbohydrate days should fall on high-intensity workout days. During this time, it’s important to restrain from eating a high amount of fat.
However, on low-carbohydrate days, it is necessary to eat foods with higher quantities of fat, including avocado, walnuts, almonds and olives — which should be done during the evening. On these days, focus on moderate to low-intensity exercise.
And, on recovery days, your carb intake should be the lowest, your dietary fat intake should be the highest. Focus on light cardiovascular training.
Shinoskie warns that “not all carbohydrates are created equal. There are low-glycemic carbs and high-glycemic carbs.” Low-glycemic carbs are encouraged for general consumption and are found in foods like sweet potatoes, beans, quinoa and vegetables. High-glycemic carbs are found in foods like pasta, bread, rice and oats. These carbohydrates are recommended immediately following a high-intensity workout.
During the holiday season, there is a multitude of high-carbohydrate foods waiting to be consumed at every Christmas party and every holiday gathering. Carb cycling can help offset the disproportionate amount of carbohydrates consumed during the holidays.
If you know you’re going to a holiday party with sweets and treats, be sure to have a low-carbohydrate day the day before or after the party. Use the carbohydrates consumed during the festivities to fuel an intense workout the day after the party.
With moderation and nutritional rotating with carb cycling, you can spend less time worrying about your waist, and spend more time enjoying food and festivities.