How to stay in shape over the festive season

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They've started already and relentlessly persist into January - office parties, family dinners and holiday cocktail gatherings, all of which can put a squeeze on both your training time and the waist band of your jeans.

To survive the endless eating (and drinking) opportunities without gaining weight, follow these five best strategies for staying on track with training and keeping weight steady, while at the same time enjoying the seasonal festivities.

1. Eat breakfast

Skipping meals, especially breakfast, may lead to overeating later in the day along with the faulty rationalisation that you “deserve” to indulge. A good breakfast includes protein and fibre to keep you feeling satisfied. Best bets include porridge with nuts, Greek yoghurt with raspberries, multi-grain toast with almond butter. (Need more convincing for a.m. meals? Check out these five reasons runners need a good breakfast.)

2. Run early

While this may mean setting an earlier alarm, morning workouts help you stay on schedule. Your afternoon or early evening run plans are more likely to get derailed by impromptu parties or last-minute shopping expeditions. (Here is more advice on how to get out the door earlier.)

3. Boost the intensity

Kick up your running pace for a few minutes at a time during a normal run or add an extra workout per week to help burn more calories. The added intensity may boost your metabolism and the extra calorie burning helps offset a mince pie or two. 

4. Eat often

That is, every few hours up until party time. Regular meals and small snacks not only help fuel your training but they keep your brain fed and your decision-making keen. Getting overly hungry only sets you up for a not-smart buffet binge later. For better appetite control, be sure to include protein at each meal from healthy sources such as milk, roasted turkey or low-fat cheese.

5. Plan ahead

If you can find out ahead of time what food will be served at your holiday party, you can plan both what you’ll eat at the party and how to eat beforehand.

At cocktail parties, keep your distance from the appetisers to minimise mindless nibbling and choose holiday specialties over everyday snacks.

At buffet tables, survey the selection before getting in line and choose five dabs of your favorites.

At sit-down dinners, think of your plate as a clock and make sure you serve yourself “45 minutes” of vegetables, fruit salad, and whole grains and reserve “15 minutes” for lean protein (sauces on the side).