Tis the season to be jolly Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la….

Tis also the season for higher food consumption, lowered training demands and the perfect recipe for weight gain. But that’s fine, because January is fast approaching where we can undo ‘the damage’ and ‘get back on track’.

Well, I have a better idea for you – why don’t we proactively approach Xmas by putting eating strategies in place to maintain body fatness whilst still having the ability to enjoy our Xmas meal(s), drinks and cake...and therefore we can hit the ground running in 2021?

As to strategies, there’s many, but here’s a nice one outlined in a study by Hirsh et al (2019) – During the six week holiday period in USA (End of Nov-start of Jan), overweight adults were placed in one of two groups:

1) Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) = two fasting days of 730kcal (mostly shakes and supplements) followed by 5 days of normal holiday intake.

2) Control group = normal holiday intake.

After the six week period, the IER group dropped 1.3kg body fat and the control group who ate normal holiday foods actually maintained weight (-0.3kg). Although these results aren’t ground-breaking, there are some good lessons to be drawn from this:

1) The IER were able to drop body fat during the holiday period with zero calorie counting and food restrictions on 5 days of the week. So, if you want to ditch My Fitness Pal for the Xmas period and not worry too much about negative body composition changes, this might be an effective method.

2) Adherence to this 5:2 method of dieting was very high as it’s very easy to implement.

3) The control group surprisingly maintained weight by following their normal intake. However, these individuals were enrolled into a ‘weight management study’ so I would highly suspect they changed their food intake. Therefore showing that being accountable to someone will change your eating habits regardless of the intervention.

4) For athletes who wish to try IER during the Xmas period, I would recommend implementing this on your rest days or very light training days. Therefore higher calories can be allocated for hard training sessions.

5) The fasting days don’t need to be done consecutively – it’s simply a method of reducing your total weekly calorie intake.

6) These individuals did not reportedly exercise during the study – so you (the athlete) who will do some form of training with greater energy expenditure won’t have to take your calorie intake anywhere near as low during fasting days. Therefore these fasting days could simply be classed as ‘low calorie days’ – perhaps a 16:8 fast would suffice?


Either way, be proactive, enjoy your food, be jolly, don’t eat like an asshole all of the time and you’ll find yourself in a great position heading into 2021.

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