By Paul Stevenson
There is a familiar scenario that takes place when I have conversations when I walk into either of our personal training gym’s in Sydney CBD and Chatswood with our members. The conversation might go something like this:
Me: So tell me how your diet went last week?
Client: Well, compliance-wise I was spot-on
between Monday and Friday….
Client: And then things went somewhat awry over the weekend. It all started with work drinks on Friday night resulting in me over-sleeping on Saturday morning and missing my scheduled training session. I was somewhat hung-over so food choices weren’t the best on Saturday which was compounded by having a friend’s birthday dinner to attend on Saturday evening….
Does this sound familiar? Often we do so many positive things to improve our health, well-being and body composition during the week, only to see our efforts go to waste over the weekend.
There has been a good deal of research on weekend-weekday differences in dietary patterns. For example Ruopeng (2016) looked weekday and weekend consumption of US adults between 2003-2012 and unsurprisingly found that weekends were associated with an increased discretionary calorie intake, with a concurrent reduced intake of fruit and/or vegetables and fibre.
This increase in calorie consumption, combined with lower fruit/veg and fibre intake is likely explained by the increased prevalence of fast food and full service restaurant consumption (Ruopeng, 2016). Coinciding with less healthful eating patterns on weekends, reduced physical activity levels and increased sedentary behaviour tend to be more prevalent.
Similarly Rothausen et al (2012) studied the differences in diet quality between weekdays and weekends in Danish children. This study found a greater intake of energy from sugar-rich foods and drinks.
So the picture so far is that weekends are associated with:
- Increased calorie intake – largely from ‘unhealthy’ sources such sugar-rich food and beverages, alcohol and saturated fat.
- Decreased consumption of fruit/veg and fibre
- Decreased levels of physical activity
- Increased sedentary behaviour
The changes that take place over weekends can largely be attributed to a lack of routine that is more prevalent during weekdays (McCarthy, 2014). Generally-speaking people do not work over the weekend and children do not attend school. This creates a disruption to the normal routine present from Monday to Friday.
Practical Tips for Weekends:
Given the importance of routine on body composition and health, it would be wise to try and maintain some kind of routine over weekends to ensure that progress does not stall or go backwards. Here are some practical tips you could try and implement:
- Maintain similar sleep-wake times: Your circadian rhythm is a daily (24-hour) cycle of biological activity. When your circadian rhythm gets desynchronised your body does not perform optimally, resulting in decreased metabolism, increased cortisol production, lower insulin sensitivity, impaired recovery from exercise, increased appetite and impaired mental performance. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most fundamental components of your circadian rhythm so it is suggested you try and stick to similar sleep and wake times, even at weekends.
- Schedule exercise early on a Saturday and/or Sunday morning: By scheduling some exercise you are making a commitment to it. Try booking a class such as the Modified Strongman Class run at both the Chatswood and Sydney CBD gyms or a Personal Training session to ensure attendance. If you like things a bit easier why not take a 30-45 minute walk before breakfast on both days, taking advantage of the fact there is less of a rush at weekends.
- Plan activities in advance and involve the whole family: Try to do something active every weekend. Maybe you play a sport such as rugby, soccer, cricket. Or maybe you do martial arts. Maybe you like to swim. Either way take part in something you like doing. Try to involve the whole family, such as going on a bike ride or a long walk.
- Seek healthier eating options when eating out: Eating out is much more common at weekends, so if you are going to eat out, try to seek out cafes and restaurants that have healthy menus or dishes that loosely fit in with the kinds of foods/portion sizes that you are eating normally throughout the week.
- Take the opportunity to brush up on your cooking skills: Whilst the weekends provide an opportunity to eat out, be social and see friends, you can always try cooking for friends and family at the weekend. Try a healthy recipe and invite your friends over.
- Set Goals: Often I like to give clients goals to achieve with regard to nutrition and lifestyle, such as drink a minimum of 2 litres of water per day or take a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Try to ensure the continuation of these goals during weekends. If you manage to achieve these set goals at weekends, the chances of you blowing your progress is minimal. Try setting 2 weekend goals and make them small and achievable to begin with, then expand from there. Here are a few examples:
- Drink a minimum of 2 litres of water
- Drink a maximum of 3 alcoholic beverages
- Exercise for at least 30 mins on both Saturday and Sunday
- Take a minimum of 10,000 steps on both Saturday and Sunday
- Get to bed before midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday
- Watch a maximum of 3 hours television over the weekend
Clients come to Clean Health Fitness Institute Personal Trainers to get results. One of the keys to ensuring success is to ensure you do not de-rail progress over the weekends. Research clearly demonstrates that at weekend’s calorie intake goes up, whilst activity levels tend to decline. Try using some of the practical advice given here to ensure that weekends are as productive to your fat loss and body composition goals as weekdays are.
For more information on our industry leading personal training and nutrition programs CONTACT US today!
Ruopeng, A, “Weekend-Weekday Differences In Diet Among US Adults 2003-2012”, Annals of Epidemiology, 2016.
Rothausen, B, et al, “Differences in Danish Children’s Diet Quality on Weekdays vs. Weekend Days”, Public Health Nutrition, 2012.
McCarthy, S, “Weekly Patterns, Diet Quality and Energy Balance”, Physiology and Behaviour, 2014.