How to Overcome the Post-Thanksgiving Food Coma

So you gobbled, ‘till you wobbled, did you? You’re not alone. According to a 2015 article, the average American eats 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day. Which means, you likely woke from your post-thanksgiving food coma and all you want to do is pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. And while this act might be tempting (and no pulling the covers over one’s head does NOT count as exercise), it’s really the last thing you should be doing if you went back for Thanksgiving seconds (or thirds, or fourths).

So what’s a stuffed one to do? Here, we break down how to overcome your post-Thanksgiving food coma into four easy steps.

Step 1: Get Out of Bed (Seriously)

Get Out Of Bed AlarmEven if you’re an Olympic athlete, if you ate and drank a lot the previous evening, you’re going to feel sluggish. Why? Because you’re body spent all night digesting whatever yummy morsels you ate and drank! This means, any energy you’re used to feeling in the morning is going to be absent, and you’re going to feel really tired. And here is the decision tipping point: you either decide right now that you’re going to work out—even when feeling exhausted—or you don’t. Since you know you should work out, just get out of bed already. The longer you toss and turn in the covers, the longer you delay your body’s ability to recover from turkey day. So quickly, like a band aid, just rip off those covers and move to step 2.

Step 2: Ingest to Digest

Morning WaterAs your first act of exercise, walk (slowly) to the kitchen and grab a glass of water and some balanced morning fuel. Digestion is always a struggle after a big meal, so it’s imperative you drink a lot of water to help your body detox all the turkey, pie, and alcohol you consumed. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s still important to feed your body. One of the best post-Thanksgiving breakfasts is oatmeal because the soluble fiber in the oats will absorb many of the food/alcohol toxins, and the insoluble fiber will help, ahem, relieve you of said toxins. After you’ve responded to the call of duty, you’re ready for step 3.

Step 3: Walk, Walk, Walk it off

WalkingNow, throw on some comfy clothes, you fav athletic shoes, and head out the door. Don’t worry, you’re not going far—just for a walk around the block. Feel ok? Good! Walk around the block one or two more times. Don’t run, don’t jog, just walk. Your body’s acting under different conditions post-Thanksgiving, and asking it to do a Fartlick right now is just unkind. Are you starting to wake up, a little? Fantastic. And on to step 4.

Step 4: Go Low Stress

BikeWhile you may be itching to burn off your mom’s pumpkin pie, high intensity interval (HIIT) workouts are not your friend right now (just try to imagine that pie bouncing around in your stomach. Ugh!) Instead, say hello to HIIT’s little friend LISS, or Low-Impact Steady State aerobics, which will work your body, get your blood pumping, but will not upset your tummy. Not sure of what a LISS activity would be? Think of a low intensity, but aerobic activity. This might mean you go for a bike ride or for a swim. Or, maybe you channel your inner hamster and head to the gym to do the elliptical or rowing machines.

You may feel sluggish at first, but after 5 or ten minutes you should feel your body catching up to what you’re doing. Once your body has come alive again, increase the speed and difficulty level of what you’re doing to the maximum you can sustain for at least 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes and you haven’t tossed your cookies yet, you’re ready for step 5.

 Step 5: Flex Me Those Muscles

Muscle FlexOnce you’ve done a little LISS, it’s time to LIFT. (No acronym here, just means lift some weights!) Instead of a full-on bodybuilding workout, go for something more post-Thanksgiving appropriate like a circuit training routine. Doing a circuit will still hit all your muscles and burn some calories, without making your muscles shake and hate you. We recommend doing this circuit routine twice, using 8 to 12 reps depending on your strength level.


Table 1: Post-Thanksgiving Gym Circuit Routine
Group A Group B Group C
Tricep extensions Bench presses Military presses
Tricep extensions Standing rows Barbell curls
Leg presses Lunges Squats

Can’t make it to the gym? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Just follow this at-home total body workout. Complete it four times, with a 30-second rest in between sets, and you’re good to go.


Table 2: Post-Thanksgiving At-Home Workout
Exercise 1:

Forearm Plank

hold keep head, neck, and back straight for 30 seconds

Exercise 2:


Lift arms, legs, and chest off flood for one sec; lower down; repeat for 30 seconds

Exercise 3:

Glute Bridges

Push through heels to lift hips off floor; squeeze glutes at top; lower down; repeat for 30 seconds

Exercise 4:

Pushups Keep elbows close to body; lower chest to floor; push back up; do for 30 seconds

Exercise 5:

Bird Dogs

Reach out opposite arm and left, then bring back in without shifting weight; do for 30 seconds

Congrats! You’re almost there. Just one more step and your stuffed Turkey Day will be a caloric distant memory. (Not really, you’re going to need to do some HIIT exercises tomorrow to burn off the additional calories, but hey, today was a great start!)

Step 6: Rest Responsibly

Waking UpYou’ve worked your body past its comfort zone, and now it’s time for you to rest. But before you hit the couch with a plate full of leftovers, just repeat to yourself “thigh before pie.” (And no, all you smarty pants, this does not mean you eat the leftover chicken thigh before you eat pie.) Eat responsibly, get a good night’s (at least 6 to 7 hours), and wake determined to increase your exercise intensity. Because what better way to combat holiday stress, than to turn it into energy!



Recommended Posts