December is officially here and the Christmas party season is upon us! I love a good party and I’m all for having plenty of fun with family and friends at this time of the year, but it can be tempting for some to overdo it on food and drink at festive gatherings. It can also be tempting to skip exercise, get less sleep and push yourself towards burnout before Christmas Day even arrives.
So here are some of my top tips for staying healthy, fit and well this Christmas season:
1. Support Your Immune System:
If you have a big night planned at the weekend, aim to use the week to eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise to really strengthen your defences
Giving your body and immune system the chance to be as strong and healthy as possible means that a late night shouldn’t bring on any unwanted illness, colds or flus.
On the morning of a Christmas party or night out, aim to get some light exercise. A 30-minute jog or session on the bike or cross-trainer helps to energise you, strengthens your immune system, boosts feel-good endorphins and reduces any cocktail-induced guilt later on! If you exercise regularly, it’s also a good idea to pan your night out so that you can enjoy your normal rest and recovery day afterwards. That means you won’t miss out on any training days.
3. Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach:
It’s always a sensible idea to eat something before a big party, and a meal with protein, slow-release carbohydrates and plenty of antioxidants will help to energise and protect your body from toxins. It will also mean that you will be less tempted to totally overdo it on the mince pies, crisps or deep-fried canapés on offer!
You could whizz up a big smoothie with almond milk, hemp seeds, oats, spinach, blueberries, banana, ice and cacao powder to drink before you head out, or try my Apple Pie Breakfast Shake for a quick and filling meal in a glass.
4. Damage control:
A herbal tincture called Milk Thistle is widely available in liquid or tablet form and its active ingredient, silymarin, helps to protect and decongest the liver by boosting the two phases of liver detoxification. I’ll take it the morning of the party and the morning after.
5. A Little of What You Fancy:
Now the difficult part! How do you resist all the tasty temptations on offer at Christmas party?
I believe that the key is to allow yourself a little and then focus on the less calorific options. So enjoy a glass or two of Champagne or Prosecco and then skip sweet treats or dessert. Or have wine with the meal and pass on the bread basket. Decide what you really want and savour it.
Vodka with soda water and fresh lime juice is one of the more sensible drinks as it’s low in sugar, you’re drinking an entire glass of water with each unit of alcohol and lime juice is also great for liver cleansing. But make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the night, and preferably alternate a glass with each alcoholic drink.
5. When The Munchies Hit:
It’s no secret that alcohol can seriously give you the munchies after a few hours! This is when the temptation to snack on the big bowl of peanuts/crisps/sweets or make a pitstop at the takeaway can become overwhelming. My advice is to seek out the healthiest food available and just fill up on that.
Or, my trick is to carry a bag of raw almonds in my handbag and resort to them when the snack attack hits. Almonds are full of fibre, plant protein and healthy fats to help you feel satisfied and keep the hunger pangs at bay.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes water plus many nutrients to be passed out of your body quickly, causing dehydration, putting pressure on your kidneys and possibly resulting in deficiencies in water-soluble vitamins B and C.
It can also play havoc with your blood electrolytes, which is why so many people crave salty and sugary snacks the morning after the night before. Can of coke and packet of crisps sound familiar!?
Unfortunately, these foods only place further strain on your liver and kidneys which are already working hard, and delay the healing process. If you do feel dehydrated, a sachet of Dioralyte can help to restore your electrolyte balance. Or another easy trick is to whizz up two bananas with a cup of coconut water into a big smoothie. It enters your blood quickly and satisfies cravings for something cold and sweet. But better still, the high levels of potassium and other elecrolytes in the combination of bananas and coconut water help to restore balance to your blood and boost your kidney function. In fact, coconut water is very similar to blood plasma in the levels of potassium, sodium and magnesium it contains.
7. The Morning After The Night Before:
The day after is the time to focus on healing any damage done if you did overdo it slightly.
The sulphur-rich nutrients in foods like kale, cabbage, broccoli, garlic and onion are incredible for supporting the liver and boosting detox. It’s also important to drink loads of water and to avoid caffeinated drinks which will only dehydrate you further. Herbal teas, with the exception of green tea, are also a great idea.
Peppermint and ginger tea help to soothe an irritated stomach lining, while dandelion tea is excellent for getting rid of water retention.
8. Boost Your Brain:
Alcohol not only effects your body, but as it’s a depressant, it may have an impact on your brain chemistry too.
Levels of serotonin are particularly vulnerable to alcohol consumption. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter necessary for mood balance, and a lack of it has been associated with depressed moods.
When your serotonin levels are as they should be, you feel happy and positive, don’t crave carbohydrates, sleep well and feel optimistic and motivated. The feelings of ‘fear’, low motivation, paranoia, carbohydrate cravings, insomnia and low self-esteem that people report after drinking alcohol are generally linked to depleted serotonin levels. You crave sugary and stodgy carbs because they temporarily boost your serotonin levels, but this only lasts a short time before the cycle of craving begins again. The amino acid tryptophan is a key nutrient in the production of serotonin, as are vitamin B6 and zinc.
The best foods to eat include almonds and almond milk, banana, oats and pumpkin seeds as they contain all the important nutrients for boosting serotonin. They can be especially useful to eat an hour before bedtime to help induce sleep if you tend to suffer from insomnia.