In all aspects of our lives balance is key. Doing one thing too much can cause upset, like the old saying goes, everything in moderation is the secret!”
– Catherine Pulsifer
The Weekend has landed!
We’ve all been there, after a couple of good, solid days/weeks… even months of eating clean and training hard there comes a time when we decide to let the hair down, be it for a birthday, a festival, a wedding, a bank holiday weekend or even “just because”. There’s nothing wrong with it, in fact it should be encouraged! Too many people (myself included) get way too caught up counting calories and watching their macros day in day out, we can be hard on ourselves while we work towards our goals meaning that we miss out on some of the fun in life, and that’s no way to live. The key is moderation, enjoy yourself just try and not overindulge (easier said than done!) and to not let things spill over into the next week so you wind up undoing all your hard work.
Something I’m still working on for myself is the idea of finding ‘balance’, I haven’t quite figured it out just yet but I am trying and one thing that’s for sure is that a couple of glasses of wine with a nice meal, a few beers at the weekend with friends or a nacho combo at the cinema is all part of a healthy lifestyle and not something that requires Self-flagellation with the cilice or in the case of most of us fitness freaks, hours of extra cardio to wash away the sins of overindulgence.
There’s a few simple things I try to do after a heavy weekend of food and boozing to get me back on track before things get out out of control:
The BEST thing you can do, and this should be every day not just after a heavy night or weekend binge of eating like shit, is to start drinking water as soon as you wake up. I start every day with a pint of water to wake me up and stimulate my digestive system. Junk food and alcohol over the course of the weekend can lead to excess salt and sugar in the body which may leave you a bit dehydrated and bloated not to mention all the toxins it leaves in your body from your liver working over time if you have been hammering shots at the bar. Water is used by the body to rehydrate and to flush out toxins so it makes sense to stay properly hydrated and get the water in to you. I aim for 4 litres every day and keep a 2 litre bottle of water in front of me at my desk to remind me to keep drinking which I fill up as soon as it’s empty.
Take a break from the starchy carbs
After overindulging at the weekend on all that high fat (not the good kind), starchy goodness that junk food is made of the best thing you can do for your body is to give it a break from trying to process more of the same. Following a mainly paleo lifestyle myself this isn’t usually too hard for me, I stick to a high protein, moderate fat, moderate carb diet and I prepare my food in bulk in advance. Paleo isn’t for everyone though and for those who can’t live without carbs it’s all about making the right choices! Good, clean carbs like oats, sweet potatoes, and brown rice are all great staples of any fat loss nutrition plan, however, for the following days post pig-out, I highly suggest going psuedo-Paleo.
For anyone unfamiliar with “Paleo”, essentially it means eating only lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Starch breaks down into glucose in the body as part of the digestive and absorptive process and glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. With this storage, glucose brings in water particles with it, leading to water retention. This is the phenomenon that occurs when people embark on low-carb diets–there is a large initial water weight loss because glycogen stores deplete. Going paleo for a few days after indulging will decrease glycogen stores and help to shed some of that water. Add clean carbs back in then slowly over the next few days while you get back on track with your nutrition.
Don’t starve yourself or skip meals
So you have just spent a few days eating and drinking everything in sight and your body is working overtime to deal with it. You might think that eating little to compensate for this the next day is a good move but this is one of the worst things you can do. By skipping meals you’re only going to throw your body further out of whack by upsetting your metabolism as it tries to figure out what’s going on and why the influx of food has come to an ubrupt halt potentially slowing it down and also activating stress hormones in the body. These processes could actually lead your body to store excess fat, that exact opposite of what you want.
What you want to do is get back on your clean eating plan asap. Even if you really don’t feel like it or feel hungry, do not wake up and skip breakfast as it will slow your metabolism even further. You also don’t eat something that will leave you feeling heavy, my go-to is a couple of scrambled eggs with some spinach. Not only does this provide much needed energy but eggs also contain cysteine, a substance that is said to break down the hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde in the liver. Spinach is also a great source of vitamin-c which helps accelerate your liver’s ability to detoxify, allowing the alcohol to get out of your system quickly.
Eat your greens
That famous line your mom always said to you when you were younger! Well turns out mom was right, eating your greens is once of the healthiest things you can do for your body after a blow out (or any time for that matter!). Green veg like spinach, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus (which is also a natural diuretic ), kale, cucumbers, celery, etc all contain a high percentage of water and contain lots of minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium to help with the post weekend binge bloat and to flush out some of the water retention.
Aim to have two fist size portions of greens with each of your meals throughout the day, not only will they give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals but you can stuff yourself with a variety of these guilt free, it may not come with the same sense of enjoyment as milling a whole pizza but your body will thank you for it a few days later.
Supplement the right way
There’s a couple of things I take every day: a multivitamin, omega 3 fish oil, Vitamin D3 and some digestive enzymes with my meals. If you have been overindulging especially with alcohol there are a couple of extra things you can add to assist your body in getting back to its normal state:
B vitamins: In general, are important in carbohydrate (and therefore alcohol) metabolising process and also act as potent diuretics. They also help to restore energy levels and balance blood glucose levels. This is one reason why eating lots of green veg can help shed excess water in the body, they are packed with B vitamins.
Probiotic: A good-quality multi-strain probiotic (I use this one) that includes at least one strain of Bifidobacteria before bed, and again in the morning will assist in helping to break down the toxic metabolites of alcohol breakdown and get your digestive system back in proper working order.
Work it out
Probably the last thing you can think of with a hangover be it from alcohol or sugar (YES, sugar hangovers are a real thing!) but getting back to your exercise routine asap is key after a heavy weekend. Not only because the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to get back into it but after overindulging in lots of carbs and booze, your metabolism is most likely not firing on all cylinders.
Intense exercise will help to boost the metabolism and help to burn off some of those extra calories and sweating is a good way to detoxify (sweat is made up of water, sodium, sugars and other electrolytes), so sweating a lot helps to flush this out of your system also helping to de-bloat. HIIT cardio and/or heavy weight training is best and if you’re struggling to find motivation just think of how good you will feel after with all of those mood boosting endorphins pumping through your body!
If you REALLY can’t bring yourself to hit the gym at the very least you should get up off the couch and get outside for a walk and get the blood moving around your body. Any sort of exercise can help you feel better and get your body back on track again.
Get an early night
It’s when we sleep that the body does most of it recovering. Sleep raises growth hormone levels in the body and aids in fat loss in more ways than one. If you have been on a bender all weekend and didn’t get much sleep this can cause stress in the body leading the raised cortisol levels which in turn (without getting into the science behind it) causes the body to hold on to fat. Sleep is a potent stress reducer and aids in lowering cortisol over time and decreasing stress-hormone induced water retention. It also gives your body the opportunity to recover and metabolise all the shit food and booze you were eating and drinking allowing your metabolism to normalise and begin to burn fat again.
If ever there was a reason to lie in at the weekends 😉