For many people, living on their own with limited distractions is the perfect environment to work on getting in shape. You don’t socialise much during the week, you have goals and targets that you are committed to and you are consistently in situations where you are in control.
However, there will always be occasions when social events come into play. This could be a get-together with some friends, a birthday, a wedding, a night out or even a short holiday. It is important to find a balance between staying on track with getting in shape but also enjoying valuable time with people you love and value, so restricting yourself from these situations is unlikely to be a good idea. But how can you ensure that you enjoy yourself during these events and still make progress?
The first thing you need to do is plan and plan well. You will need to know what you are likely to be consuming during the social event and organise your nutrition around that. So, for example, if you want to stay in a calorie deficit but you know you are going to have two pints of lager in the evening, then pulling back your calories during the day is going to ensure that you can enjoy those pints and stay in your deficit.
This does not mean starve yourself beforehand, but instead prioritising high-quality, lower-calorie foods with plenty of macro and micronutrients that fit your goal. This also means prioritising protein and still hitting your daily goal but pulling back calories that come from carbohydrates and fats.
The same goes with a meal at a restaurant – make sure you have a good idea of what you are going to have, work out how many calories you will consume and then fit in lower-calorie, higher volume meals earlier in the day, such as lean protein, lots of vegetables, and foods high in fibre, to help you stay full and satisfied. Managing your calories is one of the best skills you can learn when it comes to fat loss and getting in shape, whilst still enjoying your life.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
Despite having a great plan in place, there is a chance you will run into some challenges during your social events. One of which can come from other people at the event, such as your friends or colleagues, who will encourage you to drink or eat more than you originally planned. As a result, despite aiming to consume in moderation and stay on track, you end up binging and drastically exceeding your required calorie intake.
So, when you enter these social events, it is important not to be forced into these situations that affect your progress. This means surrounding yourself with friends, colleagues and family who understand your goals, support you and don’t force you into doing something you don’t want to do. This does not mean cutting off all ties with people you enjoy spending time around, but more about choosing wisely and knowing who is most likely to support your decisions. Once this pressure is taken away, it hugely improves your chances of staying on track.
Overly restrictive diets fail far more often than they succeed. Cutting food groups out completely in a regimented way makes the process arduous, boring, and unsustainable, which often leads to you giving up completely. So, it is very important that you allow yourself to have the foods you enjoy eating, but in a controlled manner that does not throw you off track. If you are someone who struggles to control yourself, you may have to get to a point where you choose another food, but learning to eat in moderation and stick to your target is an excellent skill to develop.
This is no different when at social events. You can have a couple of beers, you can eat out at a restaurant, you can even have a takeaway. However, the important thing to remember is that this is not a regular occurrence. A large percentage of the calories you intake (usually around 80-90%) should come from quality, nutritious whole foods, with the rest forming as other ‘cheat’ foods. So, the key is not to binge. Enjoy the foods you like, fit them into your calorie intake and you will make progress with an effective, enjoyable lifestyle.
Outside of your nutrition, it is vital that you are active on the days when you go to social events. This, again, revolves around planning and structuring your day. So, for example, if you have a social event coming up in the evening, make sure that you schedule your exercise for earlier in the day. This is so that you will have burned plenty of calories beforehand and therefore any potential damage that is caused by the social event is limited.
When it comes to what exercise you should do, there is no fixed answer. This does not have to be a resistance training session if you do not want it to be. However, make sure that you are fitting in three high-quality sessions per week regardless. You could simply fit in your exercise session by walking 8-12k steps and staying active throughout the day. If you wanted to burn more calories, playing a form of sport or doing a light cardio session (exercise bike, cross trainer, run, rowing machine) could also be a good option for you.
Prioritise Sleep and Recovery
If you want to be able to feel energised and positive for the next day after your social event, it is essential that you get plenty of sleep and recovery both before and after. Many people underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to weight loss or fat loss, but there are several reasons why it needs to be a priority, especially for having consistent high energy levels.
A high-quality night’s sleep of 7-9 hours gives your body much-needed rest and recovery from your daily exercise and tasks, which is also crucial to progression. Furthermore, you produce a large portion of your growth hormone when you sleep, particularly in the first two hours. In order to build lean muscle tissue and burn fat efficiently, we need growth hormones, and as your growth hormone levels decrease gradually in your late 20’s, the importance of sleep then increases.
Sleep also produces Melatonin in the pineal gland and is involved in energy metabolism. It also balances your cortisol levels (the stress hormone that is part of our survival mechanism), and your levels of your insulin (the major hormone that controls your blood sugar levels), which is vital for your body to be able to rest and recover from your activity during the day. So, make sure you do not stay up late, so that you are ready to get back on track for the next day.
So, the important thing to remember is that you can enjoy your social events and still make progress. However, it requires structured and organised planning, surrounding yourself with supportive people, consuming in moderation and with control, keeping active during the day, and prioritising sleep and recovery. If you combine all of these points, you will create an enjoyable, effective and sustainable lifestyle that will allow you to have fun and hit your targets at the same time.
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