Train Seasonally To Boost Your Metabolism
Train Seasonally To Boost Your Metabolism
This time of year, holiday treats are in high supply, and your time is in high demand.
How can you battle tempting holiday food and simultaneously make time for going to the gym during this busy time of the year? The answer is that you can… if you really prioritize weight loss this time of year. And you can find all my best tips for how to do so HERE.
But there may be an easier way to “fit” fitness into your life over the holidays. The answer to this holiday conundrum is incorporating seasonal training fluctuations.
Much like athletes don’t train pedal-to-the-metal throughout the year, you can incorporate seasonal training fluctuations by altering your training to fit your lifestyle during this time of feasts and festivities.
The end of the year is perfect for focusing on a strength or muscle-building training phase! Delicious food is abundant, meaning calories are in no short supply; instead of trying to restrict yourself and HIIT the gym for hours each day, put those extra calories to good use. This will completely take the stress out of seeing your scale weight respond to the buffet – because, with this plan, you’ll gain lean muscle.
Now, many people reading that last sentence might actually freak out at the thought of adding weight to the scale. But I assure you, fluctuations in weight are natural, and if you’re putting on muscle, this will actually HELP your weight loss efforts down the road.
How?! Well, the amount of muscle you carry directly impacts your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically expensive, meaning it takes a lot of energy (calories) for your body to maintain muscle mass. By building muscle in the winter, you boost your metabolism, allowing you to enjoy extra holiday food, and making it easier to shed unwanted pounds in the springtime.
NOTE: This is not an invitation to gorge yourself on holiday cookies. You still need to be smart about what you’re eating, keeping it mostly healthy, and favoring protein and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. But with a smart plan, you can add muscle this holiday season without putting on too much body fat.
Your Holiday Training Plan
Training to build muscle size or strength is only slightly different than training for fat loss. For one thing, you’ll want to be using more sets at lower rep ranges so that you can lift heavier weights – that will build strength. Following pure strength work, you’ll want to add training volume – lots of sets and reps using moderate weights to stimulate muscle growth for that “toned” look.
Simplify your training by focusing on gaining strength in a few compound exercises (squats, lunges, hinging, pushes, and pulls). Then add 1-2 isolation movements after your strength work. Spend about 10-15 minutes on each type of exercise. With a brief warm up, you can be out of the gym in under 40 minutes.
The beauty of training this way is that the compound exercise recruits multiple muscle groups, building full-body strength and creating an optimal hormonal environment for nutrient uptake. This is a fancy way to say, “you can eat more food after compound lifts” because your muscles are primed to refuel. The addition of isolation exercises will stimulate the targeted muscles to grow, helping you to look toned.
The Fine Print
As mentioned above, training for size and strength is not an invitation to gorge yourself on junk food until spring. You’ll still need to stick to a nutrition plan that includes the right range of calories, adequate protein for muscle growth and recovery, and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
But this training plan does create extra wiggle room to enjoy higher-calorie treats over the holidays. Allow me to illustrate.
When training for fat loss, you must create a caloric deficit, eating fewer calories than your body requires to maintain your weight. A good estimate of your calorie needs on a fat loss plan is to multiply your bodyweight by 10 and by 12, and eat that many calories per day.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, multiply 150×10 and 150×12 to arrive at 1500-1800 calories. This will create an aggressive calorie deficit for rapid weight loss.
But an aggressive calorie deficit doesn’t provide enough energy for strength training. When training for strength and/or size, you’ll want to eat at or above your maintenance calorie needs. This means you get extra “wiggle room” to enjoy more holiday food – which is the whole point of this plan.
To estimate your maintenance calorie needs, multiply your bodyweight by 15-16 and eat that many calories each day. For instance, the same 150 lb individual would multiply 150×15=2250 and 150×16=2400. On a weight maintenance strength training plan, they would aim to eat 2250-2400 calories per day.
This maintenance calorie level will supply enough fuel for training, and include enough macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) for you to recover and adapt to your training sessions, becoming stronger and building lean muscle as a result.
“But I don’t want to get bulky…”
Strength training for hypertrophy (muscle growth) often turns off the ladies, and even some gents, who don’t want to “bulk up.” To the ladies, I assure you that lifting weights will not make you bulky. You simply do not have the right hormonal profile to look like the Hulk from picking up heavy dumbbells. To the gentlemen who want to maintain a lean physique without looking jacked like a bodybuilder, I repeat the points above: building muscle will boost your metabolism, and becoming stronger will make your workouts more efficient down the road. Both of these factors will result in a leaner physique.
The Wrap Up
Food is plentiful during the holiday season, and we all want to enjoy our favorite treats without feeling deprived. By adjusting your training goals this time of year, you create extra “wiggle room” in your diet and use those calories to gain strength and muscle mass.
While gaining weight may seem scary, putting on muscle will actually boost your metabolism and make it easier to lose weight (“cut”) when spring rolls around and there’s less temptation to eat delicious, calorie-dense holiday foods. Plus, when you cut in the spring, you’ll reveal a lean, toned physique that you built during the holidays.
Following this training plan during the winter will help you put those extra turkey and Christmas cookie calories to good use building muscle and strength.