7 Tips to Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Everyone wants to stay young and look great, but it is much easier said than done. Life gets in the way, causing you to put your health and fitness goals on the back burner, and before you know it, you’re “Googling” the latest and greatest new method to get your body looking the way you’d like.
Rather than "crushing" your metabolism with a juice cleanse or restricting your caloric intake to that of a rabbit, use these seven lifestyle tips to ensure you always look amazing.
1. THE MORNING RITUAL
Lots of experts tout the benefits of starting the day with lemon water, and I think it’s important. However, I like to upgrade our morning cocktail to include ¼ tsp of pink Himalayan sea salt. The salt is rich in trace minerals that, when combined with the lemon, are going to have an anti-inflammatory effect as well as jump start your hydration for the day. Another benefit is the discipline of a good start. No matter how terrible the day before, or what you have in store, this habit ensures that you start each day off on a good note. BONUS: some people even see improvements in the clarity of their skin!
Simple tip: start the day off with 8 ounces of warm water, juice from a 1/2 of a lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
2. SLEEP YOUR WAY TO A 6-PACK
Sleep is the fountain of youth. Plain and simple. And if you’re serious about getting the body you want, you must start taking your sleep seriously. During the night our bodies decrease our levels of the hormone cortisol (a.k.a. your stress hormone). And one of the MANY negative side effects of elevated cortisol levels is fat storage around the abdomen. Let me repeat: sleep can actually help lose that stubborn belly fat! So discipline yourself to get between 7-8 hours per night, and take time in the evening to unwind so that you can get a good night’s sleep. Start thinking about preparing yourself for sleep, the same way you would prepare for an important business meeting.
Simple tip: stop checking your email 1 - 2 hours before bed.
3. NO CARBS. . . . UNTIL DINNER!
Yes, you heard that right: eat carbs at dinner and still lose fat. Most people have been told to eat carbs in the morning so that you can burn them off during the day. But think about the way it works with our cars: it’s best to fill up your tank in the evening so that when you wake up the next day, you have a full tank of gas. Our bodies work the same way. By eating carbs at night, you replenish your glycogen stores so that you wake up with plenty of energy for the day ahead. In addition, to piggyback off of the point above, eating carbs at dinner will help you sleep! Most people agree that carbs make us happy. That happy feeling you get from a big carb-laden meal is actually a physiological response where the carbs boost levels of brain serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy)! So go ahead, load up on carbs at dinner. It will only help your waistline.
Simple tip: make enough gluten-free carbs (my favorites are rice and sweet potatoes) for dinner so that there are left-overs for a few days.
4. GUT CHECK
With approximately 75 percent of your immune response coming from within the digestive system, this makes gut health one of the leading indicators of overall health. However, it also has far reaching effects on your body composition. Poor gut health can leave you dealing with bloating, distension, and systemic inflammation that will not only make you feel horrible, but it will pack on some unsightly pounds. Some of the remedies for poor gut health include hydrochloric acid (HCL), digestive enzymes, and probiotics. However, fixing gut problems can be very complicated, so I recommend working with a naturopathic doctor to assess the specific digestive issues that may be plaguing you and coming up with an appropriate plan.
Simple tip: chew your food thoroughly!
5. CUT OUT THE "BIG 3"
It makes no sense to have a conversation about gut health without addressing inflammation. It will eventually kill you, or worse … make you fat! The best way to immediately reduce your levels of inflammation is to cut out what I call the “Big 3”: sugar, gluten, and dairy. These three are the most common sources of food-based inflammation in the American diet. These aren’t the only foods that can cause inflammation, but it is a great place to start if you want to look lean and fit. When you look in the mirror, do you see bags under your eyes? That’s one of the regions of your body with the lowest levels of connective tissue; therefore, when you’re suffering from systemic inflammation (general puffiness), it shows most dramatically under your eyes. You should see a change within a couple of weeks if you really cut those foods out.
Simple tip: try to keep dining out to a maximum of two meals per week to keep the ‘’Big 3” to a minimum.
6. MOVE EVERY DAY
Most people grow more and more stiff and inflexible and generally just chalk it up to getting older. But it doesn’t have to be that way! The rule of thumb when it comes to movement is this: use it or lose it. Depending on your age, it’s possible that you’ve spent decades being sedentary. That alone will have a tragic effect on your quality of life. Not only will that lead to serious postural problems, but a sedentary lifestyle will be a crushing blow to your metabolism and will actually increase your risk of mortality! Life can be broken down into seven basic movements: push, pull, twist, lunge, bend, squat, and gait (walking/running). Make sure that you’re constantly employing your body’s ability to do all of these movements. One great way to cover your bases is through a well-designed weight training program, but at a bare minimum make sure you take time each day to move, stretch, walk, or do activities that help maintain your body’s ability to move.
Simple tip: if all else fails, go for a walk.
7. RECOVER LIKE A CHAMP
A workout is only as good as the recovery after. Ok, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but it is important to understand that a lot of the benefit from your workouts come as a result of the recovery your body does afterward. If you really want to get into amazing shape, then you should definitely push harder and work out more frequently, right? Wrong! There’s something to be said about intentional recovery and relaxation being as effective, if not more, than that extra workout you were thinking about doing. Remember when we talked about sleep and cortisol earlier? Well, intense exercise is another form of stress that causes cortisol production (think stubborn belly fat!). Meditation, deep breathing, leisurely walks, massages, acupuncture, etc. are all tools to help combat the effects of cortisol and are sometimes even more effective for an amazing figure than another spin class or weight training session.
Simple tip: try the “Get Some Headspace” app for simple, step-by-step coaching on meditation.
There you have it. Forget about the raw food diet, pressed juice cleanse, or lap band surgery. Make these seven tips part of your lifestyle, and you will always look young, healthy, and fit! MS&F