Diet and Exercise Program for the Holiday Season | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Diet and Exercise Program for the Holiday Season

The most wonderful time of the year is quickly approaching.  Unfortunately, it’s also the most dangerous time of the year when it comes to losing focus and falling completely off the diet and exercise bandwagon.  I didn’t completely let myself go last year, but I could have achieved even better Visual Impact Muscle Building results if I had a little more restraint.  Last year I tried to time my workout schedule so that I would focus on muscle building during the holidays when my calories would be naturally increased.  This year I’ve decided to go a different route.

Pre-emptive Strike

Instead of trying to gain muscle during the holiday season, my goal is to limit fat gain this year.  As such, I decided to perform Phase 2 of Visual Impact Muscle Building leading up to Thanksgiving.  I’ve lost about 7lbs (a combination of fat and water weight from a relatively low carb diet).  That provides me a nice cushion so that I can enjoy the holidays and not worry about getting too fat.  Below are some specifics on what I’ve done for the last 4-6 weeks.

Exercise Routine

Based around the principles of Phase 2 of Visual Impact Muscle Building
4 workouts per week; 45-60 minutes per session
Split into pushing and pulling days
Combination of weight training and bodyweight training
3 sets of 5 reps with 90 seconds rest between sets
Finishers at the end of each workout: circuit training and boxing on pushing days; kettlebell swings, rowing, and plyometrics on pulling days
Optional 10-20 minutes of steady state cardio

Generally, I’d perform my HIIT routine 2-3 times per week but I’ve abstained from too much cardio during this phase.  The idea is to add back cardio during the holiday season to shock my body into fat loss (or at least avoid fat gain).

Diet Approach

Tracking calories through MyFitnessPal
Off days: 500 calories less than maintenance; 1g/lb protein, < 100g carbs, balance from fat
Exercise days: 500 calories more than maintenance; 1g/lb protein, 150-300g carbs, low fat
Post workout meal with 25-50g protein
Low carb until 5pm on weekdays (I exercise Tuesday and Thursday nights)
Stop eating at 7pm every day except exercise nights
Cheat day on Saturday and/or Sunday (both exercise days) where calories and macronutrients don’t matter
Eat Stop Eat style fast on Mondays (if Saturday and Sunday involved too much cheating)

Going Forward

While this approach has positioned me to have some more flexibility from Thanksgiving through New Years, I do have a plan of attack to limit fat gain despite the obvious diet challenges ahead.  It will be very similar to what I’ve outlined above.  For the exercise routine, I’ll perform Phase 3 of Visual Impact Muscle Building with some added conditioning finishers.  I’ll eliminate the steady state cardio since I will begin doing Visual Impact Cardio on weekday mornings.  This will add about 1-2 hours of exercise to my weekly routine but will be time well spent to enjoy some holiday treats in my mind.  While I will try to maintain my diet approach outlined above, I will likely focus on creating a caloric deficit on any day that I can.  In an ideal world, I’d limit my holiday binges to weekends, but leftovers are inevitable which means “cheat days” can suddenly turn into “cheat weeks.”  Willpower is low, and I’d generally consider myself a human garbage disposal so it’s best to save calories on days when those temptations don’t exist.

Ultimately, if I get to enjoy the holiday season and only gain a little fat, I’d be perfectly happy.  In the last 4-6 weeks, I’ve gotten myself back to around 10% body fat (after having been around 12-13%), so I have some room to spare.  Sure, if someone offered me a million dollars and a starring role in the next James Bond movie, maybe I’d be a little more cautious.  Since that’s not going to happen in this lifetime, I’ll enjoy myself while I can.  Hope everyone manages to enjoy the next few weeks without doing too much damage!

5 Responses to “Diet and Exercise Program for the Holiday Season”

  • Dave,

    The last two months of the year are always a tricky time for me. I find that the after-work social gatherings with lots of food and booze present opportunities for fat gain even before the main holidays begin. Additionally, there is less time to workout.

    I combat this in two ways. First, I really step up the intermittent fasting. I’ve been doing Lean Gains style fasting for a while, but during the holidays I’ll sometimes be even more extreme and shift to only one meal per day in the evening.

    Second, I started working out during my lunch break and doing brief but very intense circuit training sessions to keep my metabolism high throughout the day while I’m fasting amplifying my fat burn and calorie deficit and giving me even more wiggle room for the inevitable calorie bombs to come.


  • Hi Dave, you are right the holidays can be hard to keep focus. I really like the eat stop eat style fasts on Mondays. Works really well for me. Thanks for the other tips.

  • Hey Dave,

    Solid breakdown of you routine heading into the end of last year. What are you focusing on at the moment?


  • Thanks Niko. Been meaning to write a post on my workout routines from the past several months but haven’t gotten around to it. Just finished up a program focused more on mass building and now doing an approach similar to VIMB Phase 2.

  • Andy:

    It seems the holidays are a challenge for everyone. (I thought I might be the only one) All of the delicious food is so tempting, it’s hard to say no. I do enjoy the challenge of burning of the extra weight but I think I could be more preventative about the pounds I put on. I appreciate the tips.

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