The words ‘holiday’ and ‘diet and training’ are not usually found in the same sentence for most. That being said, a holiday can be a great opportunity to not only unwind and relax but to take a diet break, de-load and take an active recovery from training.
- Diet Break
Going on holiday (especially to a foreign country) is a great way to try out new foods and appreciate local delicacies. A diet break during this period is an ideal tool to give yourself flexibility whilst still adhering to your dieting protocol.
A diet break is where you increase your total caloric intake to maintenance level or just slightly above for a period of a 1-4 weeks (sometimes this can be longer). The benefits of doing this on holiday means you can eat extra calories at the all-inclusive hotel you may be staying at but provides you with an element of control and discipline so you don’t go overboard.
Try and stick with a high protein breakfast and lunch with moderate carbs and fats so you leave yourself room for an ‘enjoyable’ dinner in the evening e.g. pizza and a couple of cocktails.
During this period of lets say a week or two, you may put on a couple of pounds but think of it as taking one step back and two steps forward.
A diet break can actually reset your metabolism if you’ve been in a long cutting phrase previously, which means when you come back to your diet and macros after holiday, you may be able to lose fat at a quicker rate than before.
Taking a de-load is a solid option to use on holiday in regards to training.
De-loading basically means “taking a reduction in training volume and intensity for the purpose of recovery, injury prevention and improved performance.” In this case, the purpose is for a holiday. If you are able to have access to a gym on holiday still train and hit all your muscle groups but do it with a reduced load and intensity.
For instance, if you’re hitting a 4 day split usually back home, opt for a 2 day split (upper, lower) for that week. This will mean all the muscle groups will be worked and targeted but it won’t be a burden on your time and will allow you to still go out and do the things you would on a holiday.
In regards to volume, if you’re reducing your frequency of training (like in this case doing 2 days instead of 4), keep the volume the same. So if you usually do 4 sets of 100kg on back squat then keep this the same or even increase it if you feel like it.
If you’re de-loading by sticking to training 4 days per week or (or whatever your usual training frequency is) then reduce volume. If frequency is staying the same, I’d recommend working within 40-60% of your 1RM if weight training. If you’re working to an RPE scale (Rate of Perceived Exertion), opt for an RPE of 6/7 which would mean light weight with a moderate force. In layman's terms, just chill out and take it easy with your training!
Like a diet break, taking a de-load for a week or two can actually improve performance and cause you to come back stronger and more refreshed when you go back to your normal program.
- Stay Active/Active Recovery
Keeping active and taking an active recovery whilst on holiday is a great way to unwind, visit new places and partake in physical activity that isn’t straining.
An active recovery is similar to a de-load where you reduce intensity and volume but an active recovery means you can opt for exercise that isn’t related to your training program at all e.g. swimming, going for a brisk walk etc.
If you’re going on holiday for a week, try and keep active everyday by either going for an evening walk, surfing, doing yoga, hiking or going for a bike ride.
The point of doing this is that it will keep your energy expenditure at a moderate to high level during the days where you aren’t training.
This extra exercise will not only help account for the extra calories you may be eating at the all inclusive hotel but actually make you feel better physically and psychologically afterwards. Anecdotally, many people feel better when they exercise daily. Movement has the capability to elevate mood among other positive attributes.
Bear in mind that it is easy to push yourself too hard when doing an active recovery. Just make sure the exercise you do isn’t too strenuous and make sure it’s enjoyable!