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Preserving the Gift of Health

Holiday maintenance

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Preserving the Gift of Health

During the holiday season, temptation abounds. Indulge in holiday treats guilt-free by maintaining your fitness level and your metabolism through exercise.

The holiday season can test even the strongest willpower. You may have the best of intentions to avoid holiday overindulgences, ruining the health and fitness gains you’ve worked so hard for all year. But by maintaining your metabolism through exercise, you don't need to say no to Mom’s butter tarts!

While the occasional Christmas treat isn’t going to kill you, enough of them, along with a few too many missed workouts, will definitely wreak havoc on your body’s ability to fight fat.

Let’s face it, holiday time is for relaxing, letting go–within reason, of course–getting together with family and friends, and enjoying a feast or two, along with the occasional alcoholic beverage. The problem is that too often a happy holiday turns into another New Year’s resolution about losing what we didn’t want to gain in the first place! The good news is there are a few proven ways to ensure your metabolism can maintain its ability to keep the fat from accumulating, even if you slip up more than you had planned to.

Maintain Your Metabolism Through Exercise

If, over the holidays, you can’t seem to find the time you usually dedicate to working out, the workouts you do have time for still count. Your main objective is to maintain lean body mass by fitting in at least a couple of resistance workouts each week–you can find time for two workouts, right? One of the main reasons we get fatter with age is because we lose too much muscle and our metabolism therefore slows down. Dieting will only hasten this loss of muscle mass, further reducing our ability to burn calories.

Research indicates that, as we age, we lose the genetic material needed to make energy within our muscles. According to a May 2007 study in the online journal Public Library of Science,­­ 25 healthy seniors (average age 70) who exercised with light weights for only two hours a week over six months were able to improve their muscle strength by a whopping 50 percent. This study and more like it have demonstrated that even a relatively small amount of exercise can be highly beneficial to your metabolism.

Supplements can Help Your Metabolism

Almost every health expert will tell you that excess insulin production in the body is not helpful when you want to burn fat. Insulin, which is stimulated every time you eat (especially when you consume high-glycemic foods such as cookies, cakes, and oh, yes, butter tarts), can stop your body from using its own fat reserves for energy.

The obvious choice would be to avoid these fat-promoting foods; however, during this time of the year, that’s not always a reasonable option. Thankfully, nutritional scientists are studying supplements that may help block at least a certain portion of the carbohydrates and fats from these foods. One study has shown that a white kidney bean extract, for example, may significantly impede calories from starch by blocking the alpha-amylase enzyme. Some nonsoluble fibres have also been shown to bind to dietary fats.

The bottom line? Enjoy the holidays, exercise when you can (how about an after-dinner family walk?), and use supplements wisely to keep your metabolism humming through the holidays.

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