To help you fuel this festive season, we’ve put together a few simple tips to help you build the perfect Christmas dinner and keep you on top of your nutrition, whilst still having fun and enjoying the holiday.
With Christmas right around the corner, the temptation to live off sweet treats, buffets and boxes of chocolates is real. And while we certainly encourage young athletes to enjoy the foods they love; it doesn’t mean nutrition has to go out of the window entirely.
Christmas dinner is the ideal athlete meal. Packed full of protein and carbs and topped off with plenty of veg it’s got everything your body needs to grow, recover and stay healthy. Not only that, but its tastes great too and that’s without even mentioning everyone’s favourites; the pigs in blankets!
Although the meal might be different, the principles are the same. So, make the most of your festive feast and fill your plate according to your bodies (and training) demands.
Remember: It’s a Christmas dinner and not the last supper! Enjoy yourself, but listen to your body and don’t overeat.
Start off with the protein, whether that’s turkey, beef or a nut roast. Protein is a key macronutrient for athletes, playing a vital role in muscle growth and repair. Aim to fill 1/4 of your plate with protein. Remember to keep your intake high throughout the day as well, to prevent muscle breakdown, especially if you’re enjoying some down time from training over the holidays.
Once you’ve ticked that box off, move onto the carbs. Training hard this week? Then go big on the potatoes, parsnips and stuffing and fill about 1/3 of your plate. Or if you’re having a few days off then treat it like a normal rest day and swap some of the starchy carbs for fibrous veg, so your plate is about 1/4 full of carbs.
To keep you healthy and give your body all of the vitamins and minerals that it needs, go big on the veg! They often take a back seat at Christmas buffets and parties, so get them in while you can.
Once you’ve got those three key areas covered, then add in the things you love. Whether that’s pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings or the Christmas cake after, don’t think you can’t have the foods you enjoy just because you’re an athlete. It’s about balance after all and often being over restrictive can backfire.
While nutrition is certainly important for youth athletes all year round, the most important thing to remember at Christmas is to enjoy yourself and time with family. It only comes around once a year after all! Nail the nutrition basics during this time and enjoy all of the extra treats that you might have too.