Could Your Workouts Protect You From Holiday Overindulgence?


The holiday season is a stressful time for lots of reasons. For the fitness enthusiasts out there, however, the overindulgence in sweet baked foods can be a major source of concern. After all, you’ve worked hard throughout the year and the social pressure to load up on…less-than-healthy foods can be pretty strong. So, you might – naturally – worry about what impact your holiday eating habits could have on your overall fitness progress. Thankfully, a new study from the American Physiological Society offers some hope and insight regarding the interplay between holiday indulgences and your fitness routine.

Some Background Information

Before we dive into the new research, though, it might help for you to understand some previous research that led up to the current scientific understanding.

Specifically, we’ve known for years that just one week of overeating can cause a marked decrease in glucose control and insulin sensitivity. If these changes are prolonged or repeated, obesity, diabetes and tons of other complications could result.

Right, so that’s all pretty bad news.

Fortunately, science has also suggested that the severity of these negative reactions is greatly reduced in regular exercises. In large part, this is because muscle fiber – especially when it’s regularly worked – gobbles up a huge amount of glucose. To accomplish this, all of that muscle increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

The question, though, is this: Do the metabolic benefits of exercise counteract the fast-acting consequences of overeating?

The New Study

And that’s exactly what this new paper was designed to find out. For one week, four lean, active individuals were placed on a diet that required them to eat about 30 percent more calories than they normally would. To put that increase in perspective, this would tack an extra 600 calories each day onto a standard 2000 calorie diet.

The participants kept up their workout routines throughout the study. Before and after the week of indulgence, the researchers measured the subjects’ glucose tolerance. Samples of fat tissue were also checked for markers of inflammation and growth.

At the end of the study, the subjects didn’t experience any change in either their glucose tolerance or fat composition. But… what does that actually mean?

Exercise warded off the previously-documented negative effects of a week-long binge.

Some Things To Consider

Now, before you use your otherwise healthy lifestyle as an excuse to party over the next few weeks, it’s important to realize a few things about this study.

First, the subjects were already lean and healthy. They went into this metabolically prepared. The study is a little unclear, then, as to whether it was their routine prior to the study or their workouts during it that made the difference.

Which brings us to the issue of their workouts. The subjects all exercised six days of the weeks. Most people don’t do that. More studies are going to be needed to translate these benefits to a more commonly used schedule.

Still, there are some promising take-aways here. Namely, if you’re sticking to routine in the weeks leading up to the holidays, you don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying those extra-large meals. Just be careful not to let all that holiday eating pattern to become the norm.