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Christmas can be every dieter’s worst nightmare, with the amount of self control needed not to go on a festive splurge. For athletes and bodybuilders however, it’s actually the perfect time to fuel up, pack on some muscle and make gains.

Bodybuilders like to eat. So do athletes for that matter.

While they may appear lean, ripped and svelte in competition, the amount these guys and girls have to eat to maintain muscle and strength, train numerous times per week, and often more than once a day, and keep a constant supply of energy could shock you.

This is why, despite it’s connections with food binges, stodgy calorie dense foods, weight gain and eating so much you finish the day in a sugar coma, Christmas dinner is an awesome time for bodybuilders and athletes to eat for optimum performance.

Now, clearly, athletes still need to eat healthily – a meal consisting entirely of chocolate, cherry pie and goose fat roast potatoes wouldn't be the best fuel for anyone’s training schedule. 

That said, the high calorie treats on offer at the Christmas dinner table should be seen as potential performance enhancers.

First up, before you stuff your face, you need to plan your festive season accordingly. Throughout the year, it’s highly likely you've been on a fairly rigorous eating plan. While this will have included many higher calorie items, and your diet might not have been as strict as if you were trying to lose weight, you’ll still have had guidelines in place, and these should be kept to over Christmas.

If you’re used to eating four to six meals per day, stick with that. Fasting for a short period of the day can be a useful trick for weight loss guys and girls to cut calories, but it’s the last thing you want to do.

Aim to stick to your regular meal schedule as often as possible.

Chances are your regular eating pattern is based around training sessions, and hopefully you’re still training over the holidays, so make sure you remain regimented in that respect.

Balance each meal properly too. The idea of splitting your plate into thirds, and aiming for a third protein, a third carbs and a third fat is a great approach. Your usual in-season meal might be chicken breast, brown rice, broccoli and olive oil, but don’t feel like you have to stick to this over Christmas, provided you hit a balance of each macronutrient at each meal. Your plate might be turkey or sausage meat for the protein, mashed potatoes or roasted root vegetables for carbs, and some pate for your fat source.

A final general pointer is to keep your protein intake up. Besides turkey and maybe some cooked ham or bacon, Christmas dinner tends to be heavily weighted in the favor of carbs and fats. Protein is absolutely vital for muscle preservation and growth, as well as for hormone production and keeping a healthy immune system, so make sure you’re still getting yours in.

This could mean something as simple as having a protein shake before you go out for dinner, or even drinking a glass of skimmed milk while you’re eating. If the worst comes to the worst, ask for extra turkey.

If your request is turned down, flex your biceps and DEMAND more turkey – that’s bound to work.

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