Why athletes and bodybuilders will always have a lean advantage...and can eat mostly whatever they want!

copyright Max Wettstein 2007, revised 2009

Originally written on Holiday Indulging and Carb Loading Principle...

    You know, as busy as life is, typically the only time I get to see a lot of my friends is when there is a social or holiday event that brings us together.  And most of the time these type of events or parties are accompanied by decadent treats and cocktails.  It just so happens that I plan ahead and plan my 'cheat-day' to coincide with these events so that I can enjoy myself and indulge.  I also may workout extra hard that day to create more of a calorie deficit, or, even replace some of my earlier meals with pure protein shakes.  However, my friends of course are not aware of my preliminary actions, so when they see me first in line at the buffet table, eating deserts, and drinking cocktails, they often ask me, "How do you eat like that and look the way you do?!"

    Then they'll typically say something like, "If I ate that I'd blow up like a balloon.", or, "You're lucky you have good genetics and can eat whatever you want to.", giving me no credit whatsoever for maintaining a lean, tone physique all year 'round.

    But it is simple really: My motto at holiday parties, is 'Go ahead and indulge.'  If you have been disciplined the rest of the week and eaten consistently clean, then you deserve to indulge.  In fact one day of over-eating canNOT make you fat, and WILL boost your metabolism.  This is because essentially, you are carbo-loading, pumping your muscles full of glycogen and water, not fat, and your digestive system is slammed into overdrive to process all of the extra food you just hit it with.  The 2 to 3 pounds of temporary weight you gain the next day after ambushing the desert table, is NOT fat.  That is physiologically impossible.  As I already stated this weight is caused by topped off muscle and liver glycogen stores, along with water in the muscle cells.  Throw in a little extra water retention from sodium, and there you have accounted for your 2 to 3 pounds, easily metabolized and utilized over the course of the next day and burned during your next work-out, which by the way, you will be stronger during thanks to all the extra muscle-glycogen to make more ATP.

    Finally, by allowing yourself a weekly cheat-day to enjoy your favorite foods, you will eliminate cravings, and out-of-control binge sessions, and, you will show your family and friends that you are not always an anal, OCD, picky food eater.  The host of the party will be happy that you are partaking in their traditional fruit cake, and your mother-in-law will take pride in you eating her cheese-log, and cream pie.  Honestly, most of the top fit-models I hang out with know when it is time to indulge and enjoy...and give dieting a rest.  Besides, they know they'll burn it off the next day no problem.  I feel so sorry for the new models, who are constantly watching what they eat 24/7/365, with rocket science precision.  This is a sure way to bog your metabolism or worse, create an eating disorder.  And remember, a cocktail a day is proven to help keep heart disease away, so drink up (again in moderation:) while you're at it.

    Perhaps fit-models and athletes do have a bit of an advantage over the rest of the crowd when it comes to metabolizing huge amounts of sugar.  This is because, from all of the years of exercising, our muscle cells are very sensitive to glucose and insulin, known as 'glucose-tolerant'.  We are insulin-efficient, and our muscle cells suck up blood-sugar/glucose very easily for fuel, whereas sedentary folks become 'insulin-resistant' and have a hard time metabolizing sugar.  Also, fit-models & athletes tend to carry a greater amount of muscle-mass or lean-body mass in ratio to our body weight.  Extra muscle mass means extra storage capacity for muscle-glycogen (again, the stored from of carbs or glucose).  And finally, because we are always exercising so much, we're constantly in a state of post-training recovery, (AKA E.P.O.C.), so our resting metabolism is always a bit revved up!

     The moral of the story is, if you want sugar to be your friend again, and not a causal factor to pre-diabetes, then YOU NEED TO EXERCISE consistently.

    For more on coping with holiday eating, please check out 'Holiday Indulging' in my library, and another valuable read this time of year is my 'Alcohol: Myths and Metabolism' article.

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