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Your Guide To Braai

There is no where in South African where you will go to a braai and not want to have a great time and enjoy the amazing food that is being prepared. However, it can be difficult to really enjoy a braai if you have goals that you are trying to stick to, particularly weight loss or fat loss goals. So, how we do we go about navigating our way through a braai and doing our best to come out unscathed? We will have a look at a couple of guidelines and rules to follow to make sure you can still hang out with your friends and family, eat together, and have a great time.

Guideline 1 – Bring You Own (BYO)

The easiest and most simple step you can take to ensuring that everything remains within your domain of control is to bring your own meat and rolls, etc. If the parameters of the braai are bring your own, then this one should be pretty easy to manage. Just try to avoid the additional snacks that are likely lying around. If the standard of the braai you are at is a pooling of the food (everyone brings a whole bunch of stuff, braais it all together and shares amongst everyone), then make sure you bring additional food to contribute to the pooling and then just ask whoever is braaiing to set aside your predetermined food.

For those who are trackers of calories and macros, doing this should be sinch. The rest just relies on your self-discipline to not eat over above. If you don’t track. Just be mindful of your portion sizing and be reasonable with what you will allow yourself to eat.

You have been able to limit your portioning up until this point, you can do so again.

Guideline 2 – None of the Sauce, All of the Flavour

Sauces are one of the silent killers of all your goals. They are riddled with sugars and fats and these guys add serious calories in bulk to any meal if they are applied unchecked. The same goes for marinades. It is typical culture to marinade the hell out of the meat we are about to braai and give it great taste. But those calories could really damper your goals, especially if you are close to a goal mark of some sort (photoshoot or prep, etc).

So how do we still get a good flavour in?

Herbs and spices, guys. Now before someone screams sodium, sodium isn’t going to make you fatter or even make you hold onto any water if your water intake is high enough and consistent (please don’t go trying to drown yourself now). Use herbs and spices that pair well with the meat that you will braai. If you want a juicier form of flavouring, using tomato, onions, and peppers in a simple gravy mixture with a small amount water and a small dash of oil will marinade things ups quite well too. Again, if you are a tracker, coming up with a makeshift marinade should be a simple task. If not, just be mindful and conservative.

But there is no need to skimp out on the dry herbs and spices. Use them generously. 

Guideline 3 – Lower Week, Higher Day

If don’t want to have to sit and conserve and limit yourself too much at a braai, another strategy you can take to stay on course is lowering your caloric intake a few days before the braai is about to happen. This strategy will give you caloric buffer for enjoying your braai. 

Let’s say that you reduce maybe 200 or 300 calories a few days or even a week before the braai. You have now given yourself an excellent caloric buffer to eat a little higher than your normally would on a given day because those “missing calories” can now be allocated to the day of the braai. Essentially, in principle, this ensures that your “weekly” target isn’t overshot and that your progress moves along smoothly.

As long as you don’t behave like a glutton and eat everything in sight, you should have created enough of space to enjoy the braai comfortably.

Also, please don’t rely on a “leptin spike” to burn through calories from a higher calorie day. Leptin doesn’t work that way.

Guideline 4 – Stay Away from the Snacks

Snacks are a major part of a braai. The bakkie with chips and mini chocolates and sweets sitting in them is a sure-fire way to blow your caloric intake out of the water long before you even get to the main course.

I know they are tempting; I know they are small, and I know that they seem harmless, but snacks like that are a major contributor to fat gain. So being mindful of their presence and having a little self-control might be handy here.

In the same light, the drinks might be an issue too. So, just bring a whole bunch of “zero” drinks. I have not been to a braai where there aren’t at least three 2l bottles of “zero” cokes, fantas, sprites, etc. These are all pretty much harmless and I even recommend having them on hand during the week if you need to fill a “non-eating” space with something sweet in your mouth.

Guideline 5 – It’s Just One Day

I’m going to start this one and end the article on this cliché. Life is short and should be enjoyed. One day isn’t going to ruin your life or weeks of progress for that matter. If you are not close to a show, contest, or anything, then trying to micromanage a braai will honestly result a subpar time.

Get back on the horse the next day and everything will move along the way it has been for the last couple of weeks. You really won’t even feel it.

Have a good time with friends and family, don’t compensate for it the day or days after, and take the memories of a good time with you while you are smashing your goals in the days that follow.