Friday, 22 November 2013

Staying Healthy During The Party Season by James Haskell, Professional Rugby Player



Wearing my professional rugby player’s hat, I would suggest it’s actually not that hard to stay healthy during the up-coming party season. However, I am acutely aware that being and indeed staying healthy and fit is part of my job; the fact we have to continue to play over Christmas is also a big contributing factor!

So while I appreciate most of you will be reaching out for a sugary treat or flagon of ale, I’ll be trying my best stay on water and a high protein diet. No doubt for most of you that sounds hideously boring and extremely dull. So instead of standing in my ivory tower preaching, I am going to give you some top tips to try and help you stay in the best possible shape whilst enjoying yourself.

The key foundation is to get your base day-to-day diet right. Achieve this and there is no problem in indulging and eating the foods you want providing the meals you have the rest of the time are good and healthy. Try as a firm rule to stay away from processed foods; high sugar and salt content meals as well as white carbs. For example white bread and white pasta.

Sadly most of the Christmas and New Year treats you want will contain sugar and other rubbish, so you’ll get your fix from these. Try to have a lot of vegetables with every meal. The more colours you can have on your plate the better it is. You can’t overdose on vegetables, so please don’t panic! This should give you a good hit of vitamins and nutrients, as late nights and big drinking sessions can run you down and lead to illness. Every meal should have a good source of protein as well. Please don’t fill-up on potatoes and starches, as that will only have you head-in-hands when you look in the mirror in the New Year.

Good hydration is absolutely key. All those office parties, Christmas drinks and drunken sessions are going to mean you consume a lot of alcohol. So before you stumble into bed, try and take on some water, which should reduce your hangover to some degree.

The morning after the night before is going to be pivotal in getting you back into some reasonable shape. So drinking lots of water and electrolytes will help you along the way. It can be as simple as putting a little bit of salt in some water, or my favourite trick is to take a sachet of Dioralyte, if I ever find myself hung-over. A good sign of whether you are hydrated again is if your urine runs clear. Bright yellow and you are most probably dehydrated.

What you drink has a great effect on the number of calories you consume; how you will feel the next day; the state of your body weight and so forth.  If you normally put on a bit of festive padding over Xmas then it might be a good thing to watch. I would say try to avoid drinking loads of carb-heavy drinks, although I appreciate we all need to let our hair down.

Try and think about avoiding really sugary mixers or the dreaded Alchopops. If you want to have a drink have a trusty Vodka, fresh lime and soda - it's the drink of champions. It won’t make you want to die the next day. If you like drinking, then try to enjoy more high-end alcohol like pure agave tequila, as following this, the less likely you are to have impurities or rubbish. Cranberry juice is another good mixer to have if you don’t fancy the lime and soda approach.

Try to make sure you set some realistic training targets during this period. It’s often a really busy time for everyone and feeling bloated and hangover, you are less likely to want to train. So instead of saying you are going to do a one hour training session, why not set yourself, some basic and readily achievable fifteen minutes sessions of some circuit training with some cardio work thrown in. Making sure you get a sweat on and some calories burnt!

Try to maintain your current level of fitness, or use this party period as a time to actually get off the sofa and do some exercise. Walking the dog, or going for jog with some mates. By doing this I find a blow out and party feels way better and guilt-free once you have done the work. If you do the crime, you need to do the time.

You can always look to boost your health by taking on some supplements. I would recommend taking Vitamin D, as this can help with recovery! We would normally get this from the sun, but seeing it during the party period sadly a few rays are few and far between. I would also suggest taking some Omega 3 (EPA) fish oils which most people are deficient in. Omega 3 helps in growth and repair, as studies have shown it can be a factor in helping prevent disease.

You should add Virgin Coconut oil to your diet to help with immune boosting. It’s a great saturated fat that your body needs, and is full of MCTs to provide energy. It is very high in Lauric Acid and Monolaurin, which help support the immune system, killing bacteria and pathogens, which makes it ideal for people suffering from any digestive complaint. I suggest using to cook with, or have with a cup of coffee to boost your day.


Finally, sleep and good quality is also key to trying to remain healthy during this period. It sounds simple but if you know you have a big night planned or a party, then try and make sure you get a good night's sleep pre the event and then post, try and get your recovery in. Having an afternoon nap, if you can do it, will help you stay fresh. Try and do no longer than an hour.

Remember, if you push your body you need to make sure you equally push the recovery. 

If you want to try coconut oil, please visit James's website, www.jhbodyfire.com and look out for Tagaloa extra virgin organic coconut oil.

James Haskell is a professional rugby player, who plays for London Wasps. To find out more, visit www.jameshaskell.com and follow him on Twitter @jameshaskell and Facebook.

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