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Managing Stress during the Holidays

By: Wieke von Scheidt

Photo Credit: Holiday Stress


It’s this time of the year again, Thanksgiving has just passed, Christmas is right around the corner and New Year’s is not too far behind either. This can be a very stressful time for families – holiday parties, Christmas shopping, cookie exchanges, and the pressure of New Years Eve plans. With people having all kinds of obligations, November and December are two of the busiest months of the year. That’s why it is important to learn how to manage stress during this time. Here are some tips to help you remain sane.

Plan ahead

Got parties to plan, guests to invite and dinners to organize? Why wait till the last minute? I know it’s hard to get into holiday mood and start planning when Halloween is still two weeks out, but it will take a lot of pressure off of you later. Get your Calendar out, pick some dates, invite guests early, plan your menus, and make a shopping list. If you plan ahead you don’t have to worry about having multiple things on your plate at the same time. Once the organizational part is over, you can sit back, relax a little and start thinking about Christmas gifts. People are also more likely to be able to attend your festivities if you invite them early; most likely their calendar is still empty.

Make a list

If you are one of those last minute shoppers it is no wonder that you are stressed out. Buying gifts takes some thought, especially when you have a big family. Last minute shopping only adds to your stress level because shopping Malls are jam packed with people hurrying to get the last minute presents, just like you. Even if you are jumping into the turmoil with a calm attitude, which I doubt, considering Christmas is only a couple days away, the atmosphere of rush and impatience will rub off on you as soon as you step foot into that Mall. So why do we want to do this to ourselves? Again, plan ahead and make a list early. One of the things I do that helps me get my Christmas shopping done early is listening to friends and family year round and taking note about their complaints regarding a product or a mention of something they want. This way, when Christmas or even birthdays roll around, I always have something handy.

Stick to a budget

Money is probably one of the main factors leading to stress. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot or not you want to have a budget no matter what. Not only for presents but also for the holiday parties you are throwing and those you are attending. So before you go shopping for presents and food decide how much money you have to spend and don’t go over your budget. If you have some money left over from that budget, stick it into a family piggy bank or give back to your community by making a donation. This will not only make someone else happy, it will also make you feel great.

 Leave the planning to someone else

You have been the one planning all the holiday parties, making meal plans and inviting everyone for the past, you cannot even remember how long. Let someone else take charge for once. Ask one of your family members to move Thanksgiving or Christmas to their house this year. “We go overboard to please others during the holidays: shopping, cooking, sending cards, and attending every event,” says George Pratt, PhD, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in California. “Instead, take care of yourself by saying no at least once—and maybe more.”


 Coping with the Holiday Blues

It’s not unusual to feel sad or depressed during this time of the year. Instead of the joy we are expecting to feel, loneliness often overcomes us when, for instance, thinking of loved ones we have lost. Emotions like that are only normal and need to be recognized as such, especially when still in the grieving period. During this time it is important to stay busy and spent time with the people we care about and who care about us. Try out something new, volunteer, or do something active. Under significant circumstances it may help to seek professional help.

No matter what the case may be that’s adding to your stress level, make a change and learn to manage it better. That way you can really enjoy the holiday period.

The Post-Workout Protein Window

A Collaboration between Captain Clarex AKA Eric Ballenger and Dr. Eugene Y. Chan M.D.

Why is it, that so many people put such an enormous amount of thought into what they eat all day long, and not immediately post-workout? Everyone training muscle, regardless of their chosen mode of exercise, must take their post-exercise nutrition seriously in order to provide their muscle with the required raw materials. Since all types of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, it is inevitable that muscles require carbohydrates afterwards. Therefore, post-workout carbohydrates are important to refill this key ingredient in your muscles.

However, any amount of carbohydrates will not do. You need to consume enough carbohydrates to promote a substantial insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling glucose into muscle cells. Furthermore, insulin leads to increased glycogen synthesis in liver and muscle cells. Insulin has overall anabolic, or “building up,” effects on the body. The addition of protein to this post-workout carbohydrate routine adds the basic building blocks for this overall anabolic process (Miller et al., 2003; Volek, 2004). There many recommended ratios out there concentrating on the glycemic index and the carbohydrate to protein ratio, including a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio (Cordain, 2010). Researchers have utilized a 0.8 g of carbohydrates per kg of body weight as a recommended amount for stimulating anabolic effects of insulin (van Loon et al., 2000). At a 4:1 ratio, this is 0.2 g protein per kg of body weight. An increased consumption of essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance. For instance a 0.4 g/kg may by better. A protein intake range of 0.2 g/kg to 0.4 g/kg is therefore appropriate.

While your post-workout feeding should be rich protein and carbohydrate, this meal should be fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can actually decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins.



Cordain, L. The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance. December 16, 2010.

Miller, S.L., K.D. Tipton, D.L. Chinkes, S.E. Wolf, and R.R. Wolfe. Independent and combined effects of amino acids and glucose after resistance exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 34:449-55, 2003

Van Loon, L., Saris, W.H., Kruijshoop, M., and Wagenmakers, A.J. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 72(1):106-111, 2000.

Volek, J.S. Influence of nutrition on responses to resistance training. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:689-96,2004.

Food for Thought for the Holidays

By Eugene Y. Chan, MD

The holidays are approaching us fast and typically there are two big fears that confront us:  (1) how do I not gain weight? and (2) how do I survive my holiday party?  Thanksgiving and the holidays are synonymous with gluttony, binge eating, and over indulgence.  Furthermore, there are numerous holiday parties that you need to attend, whether out of obligation or for fun.  Given the joyous time of year, there is plenty of opportunity to get carried away.  Fortunately, there is time to prepare.  

First, regarding weight gain, there are several key realizations.  The first is that the stomach has unique properties.  It is an expandable container, made of smooth muscle.  If it is in a compact state for weeks prior to your binge eating episode, you will feel full faster and will not consume as much.  On the flip side, if you occasionally have large meals, you stomach will have lost its elasticity, very much like a balloon that has been inflated and deflated multiple times, and you will be able to consume a lot more.  Second, your stomach and digestive tract secrete enzymes that require a certain time of upregulation, through gene expression and protein translation.  Without certain key enzymes, the nutrients of certain foods do not make it into the body.  So you could utilize this to your advantage.  If you avoid fatty foods routinely, it is unlikely that a single meal of fatty foods will lead to significant weight gain.  The lesson here in understanding the anatomy of your stomach as well as the molecular response of it to food is simple:  if you eat healthy and in small portions on a routine basis, the impact of a single large meal is unlikely to have significant impact on your daily trip to the scale.  Of course, it all goes without saying that you should continue to remain active and exercise often.

Ok, what should you do about those holiday parties?  Holiday parties tend to be a great time to network, build camaraderie with your colleagues, all through a relaxed atmosphere.  Part of this is a liberal amount of beer, wine, and cocktails that loosen up even your stiffest co-worker.  The key here is moderation for you.  Since you don’t want to be the individual that gets talked about the day after, setting a drink limit and goal for yourself prior to the party is most important.  Discussing your goals with a colleague of similar professional mindset would help you solidify your resolve.  In the event you did have one too many, how do you make it to work?  The answer is simple:  drink plenty of water and take a product designed for post-celebration recovery.  The key is to get your Kreb’s cycle back up and running since an excess of ethanol builds up NADH, which signals the Kreb’s cycle to slow down.  As you know the Kreb’s cycle is central to generating ATP, your body’s main form of energy.  By supplementing key cofactors for enzymes in your Kreb’s cycle, you can get it back up and running in no time, and feel great in the process.  

With that, good cheers for the holidays and be well.


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