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Christmas inevitably includes time spent with loved ones, when you can enjoy beautiful moments together, including good food and drink. All those social and festive events are just the ticket. A lot of people suffer from decision paralysis and from the first Advent onwards, questions like “Is all this candy and all the other calorie-laden food worth it? Am I going to ruin the shape that took a year’s worth of effort in just a few days?”
Is it really necessary to worry so much and try to prepare all those delicious dishes in a more dietary version, or can you indulge in the classics with peace of mind? It is written everywhere that some people gain more than 5 kg over Christmas. But is that true? In most cases, the reality is somewhat different and tells a different story.
Why do you gain weight over the holidays?
With the first hint of Christmas decorations, people often start to panic that they have no presents and not enough time to do everything. But then the typically relaxed, festive atmosphere comes over. For a few days (sometimes even weeks) you switch into a completely different mode than you’ve been used to all year. You spend a lot more time with family and friends, which doesn’t come without sampling all sorts of goodies that are on the table.
You eat more sugary and fatty foods and larger portions overall. Now and then you even indulge in a mug of mulled wine or a glass of prosecco or wine. If you add less exercise, because there is no time for a proper workout because of all the parties and Christmas preparations, you can easily gain weight. For a few days, you get into a calorie surplus, where your energy intake far exceeds your energy expenditure. 
Is it possible to gain five or more kilograms over Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
A lot of people are prepared that they will put on some kilos during the holidays and then try to lose them after the New Year. Often they are worried that this time it won’t be too much, like the five kilos that various lifestyle articles from women’s magazines threaten. Have you ever wondered if it is really possible to gain a few kilos in just eight days (from 24-31 December)?
Let’s calculate how much energy it would take to gain five kilograms of fat. One kilogram of fat contains energy approximately equivalent to 7,700 kcal. Multiply this number by five, and you get a respectable 38,500 kcal. This is the amount of energy you would need to ingest to gain five kilos of fat over and above your maintenance intake. 
Theoretically, this would mean an increase in daily energy intake of 4,800 kcal over eight days. Most people take in something between 2,000 – 3,000 kcal to maintain their body weight. As a result, they would then have to manage to take in 6,800 – 7,800 kcal each day. That’s a heck of a task, because that’s an intake that even professional athletes often fall short of. Getting in that many calories in one day is not easy, even for the biggest lovers of Christmas goodies. Just to give you an idea, you would have to eat more than 7 kg of cookies, lollies, chocolates, doughnuts, or ice cream in those eight days combined. You probably won’t eat that many calories or food during the holidays, so you definitely don’t have to worry about gaining that much fat.
Wondering how to lighten up your Christmas menu? Read our article 10 Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight During Christmas.
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What is a realistic amount of weight to gain over Christmas?
For most of you, the amount of body fat before and after the holidays probably won’t be much different. You may find that you eat and drink 1 000 – 2 000 kcal more than your normal intake over the festive period. But you don’t have to make a big deal out of it. After the holidays, you’ll probably go back to your normal routine and diet and everything will even out again.
Science is also clear. According to studies that have looked into the subject, most people in developed countries gain an average of 0.5 – 1 kg over the holidays. According to the results, greater weight gain typically occurs in people who are overweight or obese. In their case, this suggests greater caution in festive feasting. [3-5]
If, despite all this, the scale shows that you have a few kilos more after the holidays, it is quite possible that it is not pure fat. The body stores carbohydrates in the form of muscle and liver glycogen. Each gram of glycogen then binds to approximately three grams of water, which is mostly stored in the muscles. Also, increased salt intake, in the form of chips and other salty treats, can cause greater water retention. However, greater gut contents may also play a part in the increased weight. All this should return to normal within a few days, when you are eating a healthy diet again. [6–7]
You can read what else can cause weight gain in our article Why the Scales Are Showing a Higher Number and It’s Not Fat?
How is it possible that someone gained extra 5 kg after the holiday season?
If someone does manage to gain five kilograms or more, it’s not just the Christmas holidays that are to blame. It’s probably due to the way their lifestyle has been in recent months. First of all, it is common knowledge that people are often less active in autumn and winter. We spend more time relaxing in the comfort of our homes than outdoors walking, cycling or at the gym.
You may also have a greater appetite for fattier and more calorific foods at this time, which you may associate with feelings of comfort and contentment. Add the occasional sipping of alcohol, and you have a guaranteed recipe for weight gain. So it makes no sense to only address what you do during the few festive days, but rather your habits for the vast majority of the year. 
Do you need to embark on New Year’s diets and detoxes?
In the case of athletes and other healthy lifestyle enthusiasts, it is usually enough to return to their normal routine after the holidays. They’re used to exercising regularly, and they’re also more likely to eat a balanced diet. As a result, they gradually get back to their normal weight without having to follow strict diets.
Many people go on strict diets, fasting and various detoxes after the New Year. During this period, they are often driven by guilt about what they ate and drank. The biggest driver, however, is the vision of quick results. This is far from ideal and typically leads to a cycle of starvation and overeating. On the other hand, it’s also not a good idea to throw the extra kilos completely behind you and start dealing with them years later.
It’s much easier and more sustainable to set your calorie deficit using our online calorie calculator to easily adjust your diet. This, in combination with regular exercise, will guarantee gradual and non-aggressive weight loss.
Find out how to set a calorie deficit in our article A Simple Guide to Counting Calories to Reach Your Goals.
How long will it take you to burn off the five kilos of fat you (didn’t) gain over Christmas?
Sport, and in fact any physical activity, is an ideal way to burn calories and accelerate weight loss. Thanks to this, there is no need to dramatically reduce the amount of food you eat. At the same time, through sporting activity, you will work on your fitness and appearance.
If you want to burn excess kilos of fat, especially through sport, you may be interested to know how long it takes. As we said above, to burn the energy hidden in 5 kilos of fat, you need to get rid of 38,500 kcal. How many hours of walking, running, or swimming does it take?
How long does it take an average 65 kg woman and 80 kg man to burn 5 kg of fat?
Expenditure of a 65 kg woman per hour
How long does it take a 65 kg woman to burn 5 kg of fat?
Expenditure of a 80 kg man per hour
How long does it take a 80 kg man to burn 5 kg of fat?
|Fast walking on flat ground at an average speed of 5.6 km/h||280 kcal||137 hours and 30 minutes||344 kcal||111 hours and 54 minutes|
|Swimming freestyle at light to moderate intensity||377 kcal||102 hours and 6 minutes||464 kcal||82 hours and 54 minutes|
|Riding an exercise bike at moderate to high intensity||442 kcal||87 hours and 6 minutes||544 kcal||70 hours and 42 minutes|
|Bodyweight HIIT workout||520 kcal||74 hours||640 kcal||60 hours and 6 minutes|
|Running at an average speed of 8km/h||540 kcal||71 hours and 12 minutes||664 kcal||58 hours|
Looking at the table, you might be a little scared by the number of hours you have to spend on a given activity. However, bear in mind that these values are only average and are influenced by the intensity of the activity, age or physical condition of the person, in addition to weight and length of time undertaken.
When you translate these numbers into everyday life, you will find that it is not as dramatic as it seems. If you’re a 65 kg woman, and you run four times a week for thirty minutes, you’ll lose 5 kg of fat in about eight and a half months. That’s without adjusting your diet or other activities. If you add to that, for example, strength training two times a week and slightly reduce your energy intake, it will fall off a lot faster. 
Do you know how long it takes to burn one kilogram of fat with winter sports? If you are interested, read our article How to Lose a Kilogram of Fat and How Much Energy Is Actually Hidden in It?
What should you remember?
If you are not planning to take part in a several-day marathon of eating sweets and fried cutlets during the holidays, you don’t have to worry about gaining a lot of weight. Nor is it necessary to prepare all your meals in a lighter, lower-calorie version. Feel free to indulge in whatever you feel like and enjoy. After the New Year, though, be sure to get back to your normal routine. You can then burn the energy you’ve built up into a high performance at the gym or on the cross-country ski trails. Finally, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
If you liked the article and found it useful, share it with your friends. Let them know that they don’t have to worry about gaining a few kilos over Christmas.
 Díaz-Zavala, R. G., Castro-Cantú, M. F., Valencia, M. E., Álvarez-Hernández, G., Haby, M. M., & Esparza-Romero, J. Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. – https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2085136
 Hall, K. D. What is the required energy deficit per unit weight loss? – https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803720
 Reynolds, R. C. Will you gain weight this Christmas? The – http://theconversation.com/will-you-gain-weight-this-christmas-50192
 Schoeller, D. A. The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. – https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.018
 Nutsci.org. Holidays & weight gain: What the science suggests.– http://nutsci.org/2011/11/22/holidays-weight-gain-what-the-science-suggests/
 Ve, F.-E., Jf, O., Rk, N., & R, M.-R. Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. – https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z
 Salt and Water Retention—Action on Salt. – https://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salthealth/salt-and-water-retention/
 Men’s Journal. How to Avoid Winter Weight Gain (And Why It Happens).– https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/heres-scientific-reason-you-gain-weight-winter-and-how-avoid-it/
 Compendium of Physical Activities. – https://sites.google.com/site/compendiumofphysicalactivities/home?authuser=0