Health and fitness hacks to get you through the festive fun
1 SQUASH FLU THREATS
Your new power breakfast? Move over avo.
Your toast topping du jour is butternut squash – just steam it and spread it on gut-friendly sourdough. Thanks to its ridiculously high levels of beta-carotene (which is then converted into vitamin A in the body) as well as vitamin C, it’s one big immunity-boosting, liver-supporting, collagen pumping powerhouse. Our tip? Top with nuts and seeds for the protein hit and a small drizzle of maple syrup. Just because.
2 WORKOUT SMARTER
How to hold on to your fitness when you’re hitting the free bar more often than the gym? Scientists at Canada’s Mcmaster University have the answer – three 20-second sprints provide the same improvement to your respiratory system as 50 minutes of low-intensity exercise. Even with a warm-up and cool-down that’s a 10-minute sesh, tops. Do three sprint sessions a week in December and you’ll be ready to hit it hard again in the New Year. Capeesh?
3 KEEP IT SUNNY
If you haven’t already heeded the warnings and started taking a vitamin D supplement, then do it now. Obviously you know it’s a bone strengthener – so, er, less chance of fracturing your face when you fall out of that club, but, bonus, topped-up levels also reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections. Get yours in Betteryou Dlux 300 Vitamin D Oral Spray (£7.99, hollandandbarrett.com). More effective than pills, the spray gets straight into the bloodstream.
4 CRANK IT UP
For the quickest way to tone up, pimp your burpees. ‘Add a press-up and tuck jump to the end of a normal burpee to ramp up the intensity,’ says Jess Schuring, founder of London studio Heartcore. ‘As well as burning calories, these work biceps, triceps, pecs and deltoids.’ Strapless dress sorted. According to Schuring – and scientists at Nottingham University – they also encourage the faster release of endorphins. The result? You’re mentally and physically ready.
5 DURACELL BUNNY IT ON VENISON
Of course you know regular protein should be your shorcut to those lean party-body goals. But don’t limit yourself to a festive helping of turkey. Venison should be your meat of choice for the party season, providing double the amount of natural iron than beef. According to Swiss research, increasing your daily intake of iron by 80mg can reduce tiredness by almost 50%. Lights on to that.
6 GET BITTER IMMUNITY
Uh-oh: alcohol compromises your immune system within just 20 minutes of your first quaff. So start pepping up your defences now. US research has shown that the beta-glucans in red reishi mushrooms are one of the best immune boosters. They taste bitter, so go for a supplement such as Reishi Mushoroom Vitamin D (£19.99 for 30 capsules, hollandandbarrett.com). Magic.
7 PARTY ON VEGAN STYLE
To ensure you’re partying from now until 31 December, embrace a nutritional yeast (try Marigold Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes, £2.84, goodnessdirect.co.uk). It’s a great source of protein – which will fire up the detox process – and heavy on the vitamin B12, an important nutrient for beating fatigue. Nutritional therapist and author of The De-stress Effect Charlotte Watts suggests sprinkling the cheese variety over your pasta or mixing with olive oil and tossing through veg before roasting. Delish.
8 TIME FOR TEA
Booze wreaks havoc on your gut by increasing intestinal permeability – when unwanted bacteria ‘leak’ through the gut and enter the bloodstream. ‘Your immune system tries to fight this, triggering an inflammatory response that can lead to weight gain,’ says Lambert. Your saviour: dandelion greens. ‘The leaves keep the digestive tract moving,’ she says. Try a cuppa, steeping dried leaves for five minutes. Dandelion Root Tea (£3.60, tealyra.co.uk).
9 STICK WITH SALMON
Bad news: anxiety peaks during the festive season – office stress, sleepless nights, festive shopping, family pressure – but don’t let a low mood stop you mid-flow. Salmon is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids which, according to multiple studies, can help prevent you spiralling into a pit of despair. Protect yourself with smoked salmon breakfasts and sushi lunches then head straight for those fish-topped blinis at your do.
10 PUT YOUR FEET FIRST
You look hot, but your killer heels are, well, killer. Try taping your second and third toes together. Seriously. Podiatrist Margaret Dabbs says the space between the third and fourth toes is prone to producing a Morton’s neuroma: extra-sensitive nerve endings. ‘Taping these toes can help to alleviate this pressure,’ she says. More dancing for you.
11 BRING ON BUBBLES…
’Tis the season, right? Well, now we have a bona-fide excuse to embrace the fizz. It’s true, the bubbles do get you drunk quicker because they increase alcohol absorption into the blood stream. If you stick to them, you’ll end up drinking less, according to the University of Manchester. And the recent trend for low-sugar bubbly means fewer calories, too. Look for ‘zero dosage’, it means no sugar added after fermentation Get in.
12 … OR STICK TO RED
Red wine is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but the extra bit of good news is that it might also help your waistline. Oregon State University found that people who drink red in moderation burn fat better than those who don’t, thanks to the ellagic acid. Booze assisted fat burn? Yes!
13 SWERVE THE SALSA
Beware the double dip. All that toing and froing can turn salsa and hummus into a hotbed of bacteria. Studies show you can catch some pretty grim diseases from other people’s saliva, including glandular fever, herpes and even TB. So avoid double-dipped dips like the plague. Or risk catching one.
14 REACH FOR THE OLIVES
Most party nibbles are full of fat and processed carbs. Not so the humble olive. Packed with vitamin E and phenolic compounds such as oleuropein, they’re great for helping the body tackle the toxins you pump in at this time of year. Better still, research shows they contain oleocanthal, which helps reduce inflammation. Gotta help with the morning after, right?
15 CURB YOUR APPETITE
How to keep those party nibbles under control? Moderate your mixers. A study by the University of Sydney found that sweeteners like the ones in fizzy drinks can increase your appetite. ‘The sweet taste tells your brain that you must have received a food stuffed with calories, but then none are actually registered,’ says Charlotte Watts. Stick to water to keep your munching in check; or have your whisky on the rocks (as long as it’s past 2pm).
16 PERFECT YOUR PERFUME
Want to impress your boss at the office do? Wear a fragrance with rosemary. A Northumbria University study showed it sharpens your mind – ideal when you’re trying to impress your manager by reeling off past achievements. ‘Target pulse points where blood vessels are closest to the skin and emit the most heat,’ says perfume expert Ruth Mastenbroek. We can smell that January pay rise from here.
17 POST-PARTY BLOAT BEATER
Fancy a nightcap? Make yours a cup of milky cocoa and you’ll reap the benefits. A study by the University of Copenhagen has shown that calcium helps your body metabolise fat more efficiently by increasing the rate at which it processes it as waste. And, major plus: cocoa contains more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. Have it Wh-style with cacao, cinnamon and honey and you’ll feel slimmer – and more virtuous – by sunrise.
18 START THE DAY RIGHT
Dodge the morning after fry-up – porridge is your hangover’s new enemy. ‘Oats have cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down acetaldehyde – a toxin produced by metabolised alcohol that damages the liver,’ says nutritionist Rob Hobson. ‘Mix in Manuka honey, which has antibacterial properties and top with slices of banana to further support your liver.’
19 REHYDRATE DESERT STYLE
Forget coconut water. With half the calories and sugar, cactus water is what you really need to rehydrate when you’re feeling, er, woolly headed. It contains powerful antioxidants such as taurine, which helps to reverse muscle tissue damage (read: hangover) and betalains, which are proven to help make the skin glow. The result? No one will know any prosecco even passed your lips.
20 POP THE RIGHT PILLS
Can’t shift that splitting headache? If you must reach for the pills, make ibuprofen your go-to. Aspirin can upset your stomach, while research has shown that drinking hinders your liver’s capacity to break down paracetamol. Want to speed up your recovery before you get to work? Drinking grapefruit juice will give ibuprofen a helping hand, advises nutritionist Hannah Richards. It limits the activity of the enzyme that breaks down drugs. Happy days.
21 BATTLE BREAKOUTS
Late night + all-day eating + body weight in bubbles + another late night = skin disaster. ‘The party season puts your body under a lot of stress,’ says Richards. ‘Hormones and digestion are linked so your skin is a mirror of your gut.’ Zap spots by topping up on zinc, calcium, potassium and magnesium that can help undo the damage*.
Try this skin-boosting snack: 125g low-fat yoghurt, 1 tbsp almonds, 1 tsp seeds, ½ banana. All clear. Just like your skin.
22 LIQUID LUNCH
Didn’t get up in time for breakfast? Soup for lunch is your saviour. A study by the American Chemical Society has shown that the salt in Yaka-mein soup (a kind of beef broth) replenishes potassium and sodium lost thanks to the diuretic effects of alcohol. Added bonus: the extra salt will make you thirsty so you’ll drink more fluids and rehydrate more quickly. Just don’t make it more booze…
23 SWEAT IT OUT
Just don’t go nuts. Exercise can offset some of the effects of alcohol, but go gently on a hangover. High-intensity exercise lowers immunity, which makes recovery slower. Jonathan Lomax recommends 45 minutes of steady exercise such as jogging or cycling, where your heart rate doesn’t exceed 120bpm. For weights, take your pulse for 15 seconds then multiply by four to work out your heart rate.
24 STAY IN BED
Okay, you might not be able to have a lie-in and swan into work at midday, but a solid amount of sleep will reduce your chances of excessive grazing the next day, found a study in the Journal of
Health Psychology. Your easiest option is to ditch the morning run to catch extra zeds. Don’t feel guilty though – research has shown that just thinking about exercise can increase muscle strength. So picture yourself crossing that finish line. See? Stronger already. 25
BE OMMM POINT
Put that hangover to bed with some restorative yoga. Support your liver with a simple child’s pose – sit back on your heels and then fold over to touch your head to the floor. Triyoga’s Bridget Woods Kramer recommends putting a blanket or soft pillow over your thighs to help compress your abdominal muscles and improve circulation to the lymphatic system for five to 10 minutes or 10 breaths.
Your body will thank you for it. Trust us.