July 4th weekend is upon us, which likely means invitations to food-filled barbecues and long, lazy days by the pool. Good weather, good company and oh-so-good eats (and drinks) that are not oh-so-good for your bod. And while one afternoon of continuous boozing and indulgent eats won’t pack on the pounds, multiply that by a season of cookouts and you’ve concocted the perfect recipe for fat gain. Maintain balance and your waistline through the summer season with a few of my tried-and-true back pocket tricks for navigating the backyard BBQ with ease.
1. Workout early. Intense exercise (e.g. weight training) primes the body to build muscle and increases insulin sensitivity post-workout. This means that additional calories and/or carbs consumed in that window are less likely to go toward fat storage and instead, toward muscle repair and growth. We want to create post-exercise oxygen deficit, or EPOC, which puts our body in a calorie-burning state. High-intensity interval training, a Metabolic Effect-type workout that employs rest-based training principles, CrossFit or something similar is preferable, but be it a heavy lift, bodyweight workout that incorporates plyometric movements, a hike or even just a leisure walk, something beats nothing. The mental benefits of a workout are just as important - it’s often easier to commit to making the healthier food choices when we’ve already committed a portion of the day to our health in the form of a sweat sesh. Get it in and done early, even make it a family affair, so that you can enjoy the day without it hanging over your head. I don’t know about you, but a workout is the last thing on my mind after an afternoon under the sun. Don’t wait!
2. Hydrate. Drink plenty of plain water to help offset what is likely to be a higher than usual sodium consumption and stay hydrated in the summer sun. Drink a non-negotiable 1L before bed. If you choose to indulge in any adult beverages, set a two-drink max and avoid the sugary stuff. A vodka or club soda with a squeeze of lime is a smarter choice, or better yet? Sparkling water with a slice of citrus or unsweetened iced tea with lemon. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water.
3. Bring your favorite healthy dish to share. Don’t want to be the only one eating something different? Bring enough of your favorite fat loss-friendly dish to share! If there’s nothing else that meets your nutritional needs and dietary preferences, eat nothing but that.
4. Skip the bread. Ditch the bun! Be it grilled chicken, a grass-fed burger or even a hot dog (look for nitrate-free if you can), going bun-less is an easy way to reduce your carbohydrate intake and minimize associated insulin spikes which can lead to fat storage. Get creative - grab some veggies and make your own lettuce wrap, or pile your plate high with salad (see #5) and top with your grilled protein of choice. Another great way to slash empty carbs & cals? Swap your chips for raw veggies and use those as a vehicle for your bean dip, guacamole, salsa etc. Choose carbs or alcohol, but not both. And if you do choose the former, make them complex and from real, whole food sources.
5. Be a salad snob. Avoid mayo- and carb-laden salads (pasta, potato, egg/chicken/tuna, coleslaw) which can pack unnecessary fat, sugar and cals. Instead, choose salads packed with fibrous (aka non-starchy) veggies and use oil and vinegar, salsa, guacamole, mustard or a mindful spoonful of hummus as dressing. Up the fat loss friendly factor by ditching croutons, cheese and fattier meats (e.g. bacon) or use them, but sparingly - consider them garnish for satisfaction versus primary ingredients.
6. Preempt your hunger. Have you ever deprived yourself in the hours leading up to an event, “saving” your cals for later, only to arrive ravenous and wanting to eat and drink everything in sight? Eat as you would before and make adjustments accordingly, not the reverse. By stressing less, you’ll leave yourself the mental energy to make the better choices come time of the event. Try a Vukoo bar (or half) before, then throw the other half in your bag (guys - ask your spouse, significant other or girl friend to hold the other half for you - she surely has room in her purse, just hope that she doesn’t eat it before you reconnect). Worst-case scenario? You’re prepared. We’ve got your back.
7. “Three polite bites” of dessert. I learned this one from my friend Jade Teta. This “rule” allows you a taste of anything, but not everything which is fine, because you can have and get more of anything, anytime - no need for food FOMO (fear of missing out). These bites pose little detriment to your health and will not derail you from your fat loss efforts. In fact, they can prevent you from craving (and binging on) way worse things later. Or, play dessert defense and bring your favorite healthier treat to share (like this and this). Foods like these won’t necessarily get you lean but, used strategically and in moderation, also won’t add inches to your waistline. If you feel so inclined to share the Vukoo love (and your stash!) with friends, cut your favorite bar (these are mine!) into bite-sized squares, stick toothpicks in them and arrange on a festive platter.
8. Mindset matters. If you do overindulge, accept, acknowledge and move on! You’re only ever one meal, one potential workout away from being back on track. Don’t forget: physiques are built over months and years of consistent practices, not destroyed in a single day or weekend of less than stellar eats.
How will you navigate the backyard BBQs this weekend and make them healthier? Let us know on our Facebook page, or snap a pic and tag us on Instagram @vukoobar so that we can catch a glimpse into your 4th fun!
“9 Tips for a Fit Fourth”; by Vukoo®