How to Make Sweet, Sweet Holiday Gainz

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A Strategic Plan to Take Advantage of Seasonal Indulgence


Turn christmas cookies into swolepertrophy-inducing calorie bombs.           [Photo Credit: Jared Polin]

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of the obsessive dieter more than the holiday season. It’s everything that’s wrong with healthy lifestyles and everything that’s right with culinary excellence.

From late November and into the New Year, food baby pregnancy rates explode. This leads to an abundance of guilty souls drowning in pools of sweat and shame come January 1st as they look to burn off that newfound holiday weight.

The calorie fest is real, my friends. Take a look at the damage you just did to yourself on Thanksgiving alone.The average plate of Turkey Day deliciousness will set you back almost 4,000 calories.

And we haven’t even cracked December yet. 

Let’s figure out how to keep the good times rolling without packing on the rolls. 

Start Tracking

Now, just to mess with our calorie-tracking friends (because we’re sick and twisted like that), let’s review how much exercise it’ll take to burn all those potatoes and gravy and stuffing off: 

  • Walking the entire Thanksgiving Day Parade through New York City. Like three or four times.
  • Just over 17 hours of holding that Warrior-1 pose in a sweat session of yoga.
  • For the cardio-compulsives out there, hop on your friendly neighborhood treadmill and precede to jog … for at least 5-6 hours straight.
  • Nothing beats calorie annihilation like swimming. So, to eliminate the guilt from the holidays, why not just lap the English Channel?

Here’s the cold hard truth: Carbageddon is coming, so be prepared for it. Embrace it. Accept it. In fact, let’s just flip this bad boy on it’s head and use it to our advantage to make some real gainnnnzzz.

Bring on the mashed potatoes and stuffing and cornbread and casserole. Let’s shovel some more of that turkey on our plates. Screw it, enjoy some pie, too. With careful planning and a dedication to getting jacked, you’ll turn this month of gluttony into a season of serious pump. 

Court, Crush, and Cultivate Swoleocity

What are some of the three core tenants of hypertrophy? Train big. Eat big. Sleep often. And that is preciely the name of the game of with this program, the Official Holiday Gainz plan. 

Crank out your regular training protocols and routine. Which means picking up heavy things and putting them down on a consistent basis, three to four times per week. However, to truly capitalize on the excess calories, we’re going to add some extra credit.

Make this the day that you make a contract with yourself. For every meal that you overdo it, that’s one more ticket to the gym to work on a lagging body part. Add carbs to your belly and turn that into added weight on the bar.

Use this time wisely, my friends.

It really isn’t that difficult. Just accept that you’re going to eat a bit extra, and instead of driving yourself crazy, use it to your advantage.

And taking full advantage of some extra holiday calories is as simple as adding a few extra specialization sessions a week. Down too many cookies at the office holiday party? Awesome. Instead of feeling like shit, here’s the three step plan to make it work:

  1. Get your ass in the gym and apply some extra training to kill your arms.
  2. Head home slam a protein shake with no carbs or fat.
  3. Hit the sheets and sleep like you’re dead.

That’s it.

Sound too easy? Just think about what you’ve just accomplished by following those three simple steps: 

  • you’ve drastically increased volume, allowing you to capitalized on the excess carb and calorie load;
  • you’ve fed the body with more protein to preserve muscle;
  • and you’ve ensured the adequate rest necessary for recovery and rebuilding.

It’s like the holy trinity of muscle growth.

All of that said, this is a suited best for short term use. Allowing for supercompensation is one thing, but it won’t work forever.

As a result, this is not a method that you should follow beyond the holiday season. The idea being that you’re going to be in a caloric surplus anyway, you might as well take advantage of that.

Once January 1st hits and that food coma has subsided, it’s back to your regularly-scheduled training and nutritional protocols. Friends don’t let friends overtrain. Period.

This isn’t a license to have a month-long period of cheat days, it is an extremely effective strategy that allows you to enjoy yourself a little without the guilt.

Starts with Protein

With all that covered, let’s talk diet. Like all good nutritional plans, we want to address the King of Macronutrients first.

So, protein: we need it. And this time of year the star of just about any holiday meal is a huge dead animal just waiting to be devoured. Turkey is jacked with protein and the breast is totally lean and approved. Load up on this stuff. 

Continue to get your daily recommended protein dosage (usually about 1.0 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight). If your protein source of choice carries a little more fat – like ham, pot roast, meatloaf, or sausage – just limit your fat intake from other areas throughout the day to make up for it.

When it comes to carb loading, this is truly the most wonderful time of the year no matter what culture you bring to the holiday table, from yams to pasta to challah bread. Screw the carb guilt. You have the plan in place to make that plate of lasagna your muscle-pumping bitch now. 

Word to the wise: make sure you continue to get the healthier carb and vegetable sources into your body, too. Your digestive system will thank you later. But the nature of this beast is still to feed the beast. Eat hardy. 

Even when that family get-together is over, there are still the temptations for indulgence. View them as opportunities for excellence. 

Can you think of a better pre-workout meal than a huge turkey sandwich on whole wheat toast? Of course not.

Still have some pumpkin pie calling your name? Hit up that second session of specialization work and then head home to slug some protein powder along with that slice of pie. The fast-acting carbs will allow the body to maximize glycogen stores and make muscle happen even faster. 

Sleepy on a Saturday afternoon while the wifey is out shopping? Nap time. Muscles don’t grow in the gym; they get bigger and better from rest and recovery.

Dat Next Level Damage Control

Yeah, the holiday weight gain guilt is real. This is just unavoidable. Yet there are ways to limit the damage, too. This is perfect time to incorporate Roman’s Feast/Fast strategies to allow your body to more efficiently break down the gunk you just ingested by slamming that extra slice of pecan pie and ice cream. 

Simply enjoy that meal at grandma’s and the holiday party that follows, heck have your cake and eat it, too. Follow this day of feasting with a total day of fasting. No food whatsoever. You’ll capitalize on the up-regulation of leptin while giving your digestive system a day off to recover.

Look, ideally you’d eat clean and choose good quality, whole, and natural foods not just during the holiday season, but all the seasons. But we know the truth. You’re going to try that special cookie that your coworker brought to the office. You’re going to top some whipped cream on top of that slice of pie. You’re going to grab another plate full of those potatoes, because they’re awesome. 

So, you may as well get something out of your indulgences and build some mass. And I’ve got just the workouts to help you do it. 

Introducing the Holiday Gainz Plan

Below are three workouts guaranteed to add size, strength and sexiness to your shoulders, arms and chest. Toss in these extra sessions no more than two or three times per week, in addition to your normal training routine. The added volume will provide a boost in hypertrophy and lower that feeling of guilt after a gluttonous feast.

Notice the four-digit code following each rep count. That’s the tempo of each lift, or how many seconds it should take to lower the weight (eccentric), stretch or pause and then raise or contract with the weight. 

For example, a 2-0-1-0 tempo looks like this:

  • Eccentric: 2 seconds
  • Stretch/Pause: 0 seconds
  • Concentric: 1 second
  • Contraction/pause: 0 seconds

 Got it? Good. With that said, let’s move on to the workouts. 

Holiday GAINZ Shoulder Workout

A) DB Seated Press – 3 x 8 (4-0-2-0)
Rest 1 minute

B) DB Upright Row – 3x 12 (4-0-2-0)
Rest 1 minute

C) DB Lying Rear Lateral Raise – 2 x 50 repetitions (2-0-1-0)
Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Holiday GAINZ Chest Workout

A) DB Alternating Flat Bench Press – 4 x 10 (4-0-2-0)
Rest 1 minute between sets

B) DB Incline Fly – 6 x 8 (4-0-2-0)
Rest 90 seconds between sets 

C) Decline Pushup – 2 x AMRAP
Rest 1-2 minutes between sets

Holiday GAINZ Arms Workout

A) Barbell Curls – 3 x 10 (2-0-1-0)
Rest 30 seconds

A2) Close-grip Pushup – 3 x 10-15 (2-0-1-0)
Rest 60 seconds

Perform A1 & A2 alternately, resting as noted between for a total of 3 rounds.

B1) Lying Tricep Extension – 4 x 10 repetitions (2-0-1-0)
No rest

B2) DB Incline Curl – 4 x 10 repetitions (2-0-1-0)
Rest 60 seconds

Perform B1 & B2 alternately, resting as noted between for a total of 4 rounds.

Final Thoughts 

Enjoy the holiday season and use it to add some serious size and muscle to your frame. Look, either way, you’re going to be adding, “drop some pounds” to your New Year’s resolution list anyway, right? Might as well approach January 1st with a head start on some extra muscle.

From there, I’ve got something awesome for you that will help you do both–without going to the gym. 

As much as I love my time under the iron, the fact is that the New Year’s rush is incredibly inconvenient; every gym is packed to the gills with new trainees who don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going. 


Four Weeks of Amazing Workouts, NO GYM Required

At most commercial gyms, getting a decent workout in between Jan 1 and Feb 15 is almost impossible. That’s why I recommend that people DO NOT go to the gym during the month of January. 

Blasphemy!? Not really. I want people to get great results, especially as the New Year start off — but I don’t dealing with the insanity of a packed gym is the only way to do it.

If you’re training smart, and have the right programming, you can get amazing workouts (and amazing results) with minimal equipment, and without even leaving home.

I believe this so strongly I developed an entire program for this exact purpose. I call it #NoGymJanuary — a 4-week program designed to help you lose fat and build muscle without setting foot in the gym during the rush season. 

While I’m definitely biased, I believe that #NoGymJan is the perfect program for just about anyone during the month of January. 

Brand new trainees can use it to get in shape without dealing with “gym intimidation”, and more experienced people get all the benefits of a great workout program while avoiding all of the headaches of dealing with a crowded gym. 

All of the workout can be done at home with minimal equipment, and can be modified to be easier or harder. 

Roman has been kind enough to let me write for RFS, so I want extend this special offer to all members of  the Roman Empire: For this week only, you can grab #NoGymJan for the super-low introductory price of just $17. That’s right: less than 20 bucks for 4 weeks worth of awesome workouts you can do anywhere. 

If you’re looking to start off the New Year RIGHT, #NoGymJan is pretty much the way to go. Unless you want to deal with people stealing your benches, not wiping down equipment, and just generally being pains in the ass. 

But don’t worry — they’re only there for a month or so! 



About the Author

Pete Cataldo is a former TV sports anchor turned certified fitness and nutrition coach who's made it his mission to help both men and women achieve the best shape of their lives. When he's not in the gym, he's writing for his blog or behind the microphone as a professional voiceover actor.

Comments for This Entry

  • Jamie Senior Sellors

    This is great and will help in making sure that l monitor my weight and keep track of it thank you....

    January 19, 2015 at 9:59 am

  • Mitch Calvert

    The Gainz are 1600% more likely to happen if you drop a "z" on the end instead of an "s" (you have to say it in your head and out loud with the "z" pronunciation to maximize the pump).

    December 24, 2014 at 10:37 pm

  • Philip Kastinger

    I really like the approach of the article and the suggestions. This surely helps everyone to focus on the most important things in life.

    December 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    • Ty C

      Absolutely! Can't waste a great holiday worrying about macros and cuts...feast up with the family and enjoy the benefits of doing so, a win-win! Can every day be the holidays?

      December 17, 2014 at 10:21 pm

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