Battling The Holiday Fluff

It’s that time of year folks. Time to build our Santa bellies for the little kiddo’s, right? Oh how quickly those pumpkin rolls and Christmas cookies add layers of insulation for the winter chill. Now that you’re in the off-season it is very easy to become careless about what we shovel in; it’s time to grow.

Well, let me give you some food for thought. Whether you just finished your last show of the year or you are already prepping for the Arnold Classic (less than 12 weeks out by the way) it is very important that you stick to the bodybuilding and not bodyfluffing life-style. The more subcutaneous and visceral (abdominal) fat you add on, the more difficult it will be to tighten that skin and belly back up for the next show.

The fear is that we don’t eat enough to optimize muscle growth (anabolism). Intense training leads to muscle catabolism (break down) that can be combated by protein and insulin promoting effects of carbohydrate. However, the switch to turn on muscle growth is largely controlled by protein intake. It is actually possible to add extra protein to your diet and significantly increase your lean mass without significant increases in body fat while weight training1.

People often say to me, all you really need is 30 grams of protein per meal, as the rest is just wasted. True, there is a finite amount of protein needed to optimize muscle protein synthesis machinery but the growth equation requires not only synthesis, but prevention of breakdown. The more protein we add the more we prevent breakdown2.

The other issue with the “30 gram” myth is that all proteins are not created equal. Some proteins are better at turning on muscle protein synthesis “gram for gram” than others. For instance, it takes nearly 40 grams of soy protein to get the same synthetic effect as 30 grams of whey isolate. This has been shown to be related to the fact that whey protein has 12% leucine content vs. soy’s 8%3.

Leucine is the branched-chain amino acid that preferentially turns on muscle protein synthesis. It is the basis of my Leucine Factor Diet ( Since some proteins like whey, beef, or lean chicken breasts have more leucine than soy, turkey, or shrimp you will have to bump up your protein intake when consuming these other proteins. In the lesser quality foods, this may bump up cholesterol, fat, or carbohydrate content as well.

When it comes to beating the battle of the bulge during the holiday season as well as building muscle to be better than yesterday’s self, here are a few tips:

  • Build muscle through added protein. Control your appetite with ready to drink whey shakes adding 40-60 extra grams at least 2 times per day. Add extra whey to greek yogurt or oatmeal. Make whey fortified desserts.
  • Try intermittent carbohydrate restriction. One of my favorite ways to limit fat gain is high protein moderate fat and low to no carb meals 1,2, and 3 and then eat fairly liberally for the last 2 meals of the day. This way you are eating your protein, getting your workout in and then re-fueling with carbs and whatever other treats the holidays might bring.
  • Perform morning cardio. Try 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity (around 70% HRmax) after consuming a whey isolate or hydrolysate shake with HMB added; try making protein coffee. Doing this routinely 3-4 days per week will open your mind up in the mornings and keep your metabolism revving. Build metabolism via muscle as metabolic currency!
  • Keep an Eye on the Prize. Have your goals planned out just like I discussed in my previous article (Recovery, reset, reboot, rebuild). Have immediate, short, and long term goals that keep you on track for your next shot at the title.
  • Plan your cheats on the big holidays. Don’t be a party pooper by bringing your prepared meals to Grama’s house. Be prepared to eat hardy and celebrate the holidays!

Good luck in 2017!

By Victor R. Prisk, M.D.

@drvictorprisk on IG

@victorprisk on Twitter


  1. Antonio J, et al. A High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects: A One-Year Crossover Study in Resistance-Trained Males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792.
  2. Kim IY, et al. The anabolic response to a meal containing different amounts of protein is not limited by the maximal stimulation of protein synthesis in healthy young adults. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Jan 1;310(1):E73-80
  3. Norton LE, et al. Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jul 20;9(1):67