Black Friday deals this year will be even better than usual. According to Bloomberg, if customers bought everything on the Toys "R" Us circular this year, they would save $12,500, up from $11,000 last year. Stores are opening earlier, giving you and the other ravenous holiday deal shoppers even more time to claw, kick, and elbow your ways to $19 Gap jeans and J.C. Penney's $30 kids' camcorders.
With competition this fierce, you've got to fuel up like a champion endurance athlete if you're going to score the best schwag. Otherwise, you'll be panting and sweating on the sidelines, watching the better-hydrated, better-fed shoppers scoop up the $275 laptops you've been salivating over all week.
Luckily, we've got a nutritional plan that will ensure you take gold in the Black Friday deal-grabbing Olympics. However, we are not responsible for anyone who sustains injuries at your enraged and over-fortified shopping-obsessed hands.
1. Thanksgiving night: Carbo load.
All endurance athletes know that the trick to avoiding the "bonk" (the horrific, leg-stopping, mid-race feeling that all your energy stores are totally used up) is to load up on carbohydrates the night before your big athletic performance.
Even though you've already gorged yourself into a new pants size during your compulsive Thanksgiving day consumption, we recommend going the extra mile and throwing yourself a post-feast, pre-shopping pasta party.
Don't you dare protest. Do you want to be a winner or a loser?
If you plan to get up and start raiding retailers at 6 a.m., prepare yourself a massive spaghetti platter or three at about 7 p.m. the night before. Shove as much pasta into your mouth as you can before you pass out in a carbohydrate coma. This will ensure your blood is rich with glycogen when you wake up in the morning, to keep you hanging tough at the head of the frantic Friday pack. The only wall you'll be hitting is the one lined with all the 50 percent off junk you can fit in the line of five shopping carts you're pushing with your pinky.
2. 5 a.m. Black Friday morning: Caffeinate.
A pot of coffee is a good start, but serious competition calls for even more serious caffeination. Red Bull, Monster, Yerba Mate, and whatever else it takes - just gulp it down, champ.
You want to be so amped up on the stimulant that you're on the verge of fist-flying rage at any given moment. Those fits of frenzy will prove useful when you're trying to snag the last set of $5 Disney pajamas out from under the four people in front of you at the Wal-Mart shelf. Just think of your little nephew. What are a couple of broken jaws compared to his holiday happiness?
3. 5:15 a.m. Hydrate.
By now, bucket loads of caffeinated concoctions are coursing through your veins and your blood is as sugar-rich as the river at Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Time to make sure you've got enough H2O in your system to allow you to sweat out a gallon and a half of liquid, minimum. Water is a good start, but don't forget competitive athlete favorites like coconut water and good old Gatorade, to make sure your electrolyte count is high.
4. 7:30 a.m. Maintenance snack: Energy gel.
By now you've been pounding the aisles for at least an hour and a half, but there's no time to let up now. You're still in the thick of the drooling droves, and you need a boost that will help set you apart.
Reach for an endurance athletes' favorite that won't require you to slow your roll or take your hand off that deeply discounted cashmere sweater, even for a second: a packet of glucose gel you can tear into with your teeth and a single hand. In seconds, those gooey simple sugars will give you a rush that will have you climbing to unreachable shelves and leaping over the heads of those pathetic, unprepared amateurs.
5. 9:30 a.m. Re-up with protein powder.
By this hour, the dedicated endurance shopper has run the equivalent of a marathon, with the additional burden of several times his own body weight in consumer goods draped over his back at any given moment. By this point, your day at the mall has become a wasting exercise, and replacing lost nutrition is necessary if you're to persevere.
The supremely prepared performance consumer will have a belt strapped to his waist, holding several small water bottles at the ready. Save one of those spots for a bottle of dry protein powder, ready to mix into an impromptu shake to replenish your overtaxed system before your body starts eating its own muscle as a result of your exhausting energy expenditure.
6. 11:30 a.m. Maca powder smoothie.
This Incan superfood is widely known and celebrated for its superior energy enhancing properties. Five and a half hours after your shopping extravaganza began, your carbo-loaded glycogen stores have surely dissipated and your early morning caffeinations have worn off.
It's time to recharge with one of the most potent legal stimulants known to man. Mix it up, slurp it down, and start raiding the shelves with a wild-eyed desperation that will scare all mortal mall-goers clear out of your path. But watch out; maca powder is also well known as a powerful aphrodisiac. Overdo it and you may find yourself humping an unsuspecting Salvation Army Santa, which, in addition to making you a pretty heinous sex offender, will do nothing to quiet the incessant ringing of those goddamn bells.
7. 1 p.m. onwards: Graze.
Take in nibbles of trail mix, protein bars, more energy gels, granola, and mouthfuls of bee pollen at one hour intervals for the remainder of your personal Black Friday shopping race. If you're especially resourceful, you can make a pulverized mixture of all of the above and funnel it steadily into your mouth by modifying one of those classy beer can hats.
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8. 5 p.m. Post-race cocktail.
Drop your bags, kick off your shoes, and let down your sweat-soaked hair, champ. You did it. Time to unwind with a martini or an ice cold brewsky.
But be cautious: after 11 hours of sprinting, orienteering, wrangling, haggling, and schlepping, your body will be so depleted you'll probably be wasted after a single sip.
But what the hell? We say go for it. At the very least, it will make the now-inevitable gift wrapping a little more bearable. (Oh, we're sorry, did you forget about that part?)