It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are among us, which means plenty of delicious festive foods at our fingertips. Most athletes do not think about what they are putting into their body over the holiday break and often indulge in everything there is at anytime. Does your mom’s mashed potatoes, your grandmother's Christmas cookies or your sister's eggnog come to mind? I wish I understood when the right time to eat these holiday foods would have been to not only enjoy them, but also benefit my performance!
For athletes needing a performance oriented reason to enjoy holiday food I am giving you a holiday gift: my advice on how holiday foods can actually support a top athletic performance when eaten at the right time! I am encouraging you to look at holiday foods in a different light and to try some of the classic holiday foods for their performance boosting effects. Here are my top 5 holiday foods to eat and enjoy while still getting a performance benefit. Enjoy!
An athlete who has a camp or tournament over the holidays will benefit from the extra carbohydrate boost that would come from eating a few helpings of turkey stuffing. Classic recipes use bread crumbs or rice, both of which can provide copious amounts of energy to an athlete’s muscles. If you want to add a health twist to a stuffing recipe make the grain a whole grain for added fibre!
You must be wondering how candy could be on this list? Well 1 mini candy cane contains ⅓ the sugar you will find in 1 cup of sports drink. If an athlete needs an energy boost in between periods or following a game to recover quickly then the small amount of sugar found in the candy cane could be performance enhancing (actually even just a few licks of candy cane have a performance effect! – true scientific fact). Essentially you could use a mini candy cane in place of a sports food. But you have to know that there are only certain situations where this food will be performance enhancing, the rest of the time it would be a dessert like any of the other holiday desserts.
In place of chocolate milk you could have a holiday recovery drink using light eggnog (2% M.F. or less). The protein and the sugar content are comparable to chocolate milk so you would be wise to add another protein source to this recovery snack such as peanuts, light cheese, or even a hard-boiled egg. The combination of protein, liquid, and sugar can speed up recovery of energy and repair of muscles after a hard game or practice so that you are more prepared for the next game or practice.
Again a dessert makes my top 5 list! Eating vegetables may be more fun in dessert form and pumpkin pie is a way to get one of the ET4P Superfoods. Pumpkin is high in antioxidants and precursors to vitamin A. This makes eating pumpkin a great option for an athlete as athletes are thought to benefit from eating high amounts of antioxidants from fruit and vegetables. My advice is to find a recipe that is substantially lower in sugar than your typical recipe and one that uses milk instead of cream in the filling. However, likely still a food you'd want to eat after a workout and not before!
Last on the top 5 list is a classic roast turkey. Eating turkey throughout the holidays is a super way to preserve lean body mass and reach satiety at a feast (so you don’t overeat)! One palm sized piece of Turkey will get your body the muscle building materials you want in a tasty, tradition-filled way.
So dig in and enjoy what the holidays have to offer while also benefiting your performance!
Don’t wait until the new year to start eating for performance!
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What holiday foods do you enjoy around sport?