A healthy guide to Christmas
How do you enjoy yourself during the season of eating, drinking and merrymaking without destroying your body? It’s all about doing things in moderation, or readdressing imbalances when you go a step too far.
In fact, partying can be beneficial in some ways. The journal Psychological Science published a study in 2008 showing that we inherit roughly 50% of our happiness levels through our genes. The rest we have to get from somewhere – and partying can sometimes provide the answer.
Serotonin is the brain’s “happy hormone” and raising its level can also increase confidence, reduce anxiety and help you to relax. This is why it’s valuable to enjoy yourself surrounded by good friends – this can include the odd glass of alcohol, too!
If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s vital to get your one and a half to two litres of water throughout the day.
Try to drink mainly between meals, as having water with food can sometimes slow down digestion and can interfere with natural levels of acid in the stomach. Also try to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink when you’re out.
A delicious way to hydrate effectively is to drink coconut water, as it contains electrolytes that help replace lost minerals such as sodium and potassium. You can also add ionically charged electrolytes to your water to hydrate after exercise.
Try Elete Electrolyte Add-In (£7.99, Eletewater), which contains the major electrolytes – magnesium, chloride, sodium and potassium.
Party food is typically high in sugar, which can create all sorts of blood sugar imbalances. Foods with a high glycaemic load (GL) are quickly broken down by your digestive system and absorbed as glucose into your blood.
As well as sugary foods, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, pastry and white rice have high GLs. As your blood glucose shoots up, your body releases insulin.
This triggers a craving for more sugary or high-GL items, and the cycle starts again.
Over the long term, continued blood sugar imbalances can put you at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes. Foods that are high in protein help to prevent these imbalances, so try to eat dairy, fish, beans or pulses before you go out.
Milk thistle is a popular supplement to help liver functions and can relieve symptoms associated with over-indulgence, such as indigestion.
The main thing is to make sure you get enough sleep before you start to party to avoid running up a ‘sleep debt’, whereby you wake up feeling groggy every morning afterwards.
Get extra sleep the night before the party and skip your lunchtime coffee, both to fall asleep more easily and to reduce the strain on your liver, which has to detox both coffee and alcohol.
Have a 20 to 30-minute nap during the big day – but don’t snooze for too long if you want to feel refreshed. The natural recovery windows are between 1pm-3pm and 5pm-7pm.
When it’s all over, catch up with your lost sleep with a 30-minute or 90-minute nap in the day after the party, or over the next two to three nights. This gives you time to catch up before the next party arrives.
Rich and fatty food that is eaten late at night will take longer to digest, keeping your body active and raising its temperature – and making sleep more difficult.