It’s possible to learn HOW to better your health in only 4 steps and this article will show you how. Each step is a bite-sized nugget of healthy living information you can actually use.
Let’s get started…
Step 1: Nutritional Supplements
In my opinion, they are very necessary and very beneficial- especially when combined with healthy eating habits. It’s very difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs through food alone, but combining proper nutrition with nutritional supplements is very powerful.
That being said, the one supplement everyone should be taking is a good multi vitamin/mineral. Look at it as added insurance- eating well is crucial, but now that you’re also taking a multi, you can rest assured you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
Step 2: Nutrition
If you’re interested in health and fitness, you probably already know that being on top of your nutrition is a huge part of reaching your goals.
There is so much contrary information out there, so in this blog post, I want to introduce the big players in nutrition, macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat.
I want to help you understand what they are, what they do, where to find them and why they’re important.
If you take care of these big guys, the smaller things should fall into line.
Protein is the gym-goer’s favorite macronutrient. During strength training, you cause trauma to your muscles, and without protein, our body can’t repair, can’t get stronger, and will be more susceptible to injury in subsequent workouts. Without protein, the muscle will not recover and you won’t see any results.
The main sources of protein are animal-based. If it used to be a muscle on something, then it’s going to be a good source of protein.
Chicken, beef and fish are all excellent protein providers. If meat isn’t your thing, then eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes provide great protein, too. Vegetables also have some protein but for the most part, they don’t contain all the essential amino acids our muscles need.
As great as protein is, it is possible to consume too much of it. The body can only process so much in one day, around one gram per pound of bodyweight. If you’re consuming large quantities of protein it’s important to keep your water intake up, too. Water will help your kidneys process the protein and flush out any excess.
Carbohydrates, or “carbs,” are essentially energy. Carbs are the fuel that keeps you going though your workout.
They fall into two distinct categories, simple and complex. Simple carbs are sugars; think candy, soda, juice and all those other sweet guilty pleasures.
Simple carbs are a great source of quick energy; they enter your bloodstream quickly and are either used up or stored as fat.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, are sources of extended energy; pasta, potatoes, brown rice, sweet potatoes and bread all fall into this category.
The energy from complex carbs takes longer to enter the bloodstream, providing a more sustained form of energy.
The glycemic index breaks carbs down into even more specific categories. The index is a scale based on how quickly the energy from food will hit the bloodstream. The faster it hits the bloodstream, the higher it appears on the index.
The energy source you choose will depend on your goal. For instance, if you begin to fade in the middle of an intense workout, you need something quick like a sports drink.
However, if you plan on spending the day taking a long, leisurely hike, you’ll be looking for a source of sustained energy, like a sweet potato.
Fat is also an important source of energy, however, it has been demonized over the years simply because of our use of the word “fat.”
People think that fat makes you fat, but despite what people may lead you to believe, the fat you consume does not get stored unchanged as fat on your body.
Fats can be categorized as either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are considered to be unhealthy and can promote heart disease, high cholesterol and abdominal fat. Think fried foods, red meat, chocolate, baked goods and potato chips.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are thought to clear out arteries and veins. They include olive oil, almonds and fish.
Fats like these are important to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. In terms of athletic performance, you’ll want to consume unsaturated fats; they have the biggest health benefits and most bang for your buck.
Protein, fat and carbohydrate are the cornerstones of nutrition. If you’re an athlete, you need them all in good measure. Be aware of what you’re eating, think about your goals, and feed your body accordingly.
Step 3: Exercise
Exercise is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to better health. There are so many benefits of exercising, including stronger bones and improved libido- it’s a no brainer to start doing it.
Your goal should be to exercise 3-5 times a week with a combination of cardio exercises and strength training (but no more than 1 hour per workout session).
It’s been measured that if you add 3 pounds of muscle to your body, this added muscle will burn as many calories as if you ran 1 mile. Muscle burns calories!
Even long-term exercisers may have misconceptions about exactly what some fitness terms mean. Here are some definition of words and phrases you’re likely to encounter:
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Aerobic/cardiovascular activity. These are exercises that are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up your breathing and heart rate. Running, cycling, walking, swimming, and dancing fall in this category.
Maximum Heart Rate is based on the person’s age. An estimate of a person’s maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting the person’s age from 220.
Flexibility training or stretching. This type of workout enhances the range of motion of joints. Age and inactivity tend to cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten over time. Contrary to popular belief, however, stretching and warming up are not synonymous. In fact, stretching cold muscles and joints can make them prone to injury.
Strength, weight, or resistance training. This type of exercise is aimed at improving the strength and function of muscles. Specific exercises are done to strengthen each muscle group. Weight lifting and exercising with stretchy resistance bands are examples of resistance training activities, as are exercises like pushups in which you work against the weight of your own body.
Set. Usually used in discussing strength training exercises, this term refers to repeating the same exercise a certain number of times. For instance, a weight lifter may do 10 biceps curls, rest for a few moments, then perform another “set” of 10 more biceps curls.
Repetition or “rep.” This refers to the number of times you perform an exercise during a set. For example, the weight lifter mentioned above performed 10 reps of the bicep curl exercise in each set.
Warm up. This is the act of preparing your body for the stress of exercise. The body can be warmed up with light intensity aerobic movements like walking slowly. These movements increase blood flow, which in turn heats up muscles and joints. “Think of it as a lube job for the body,” Bryant explains. At the end of your warm-up, it’s a good idea to do a little light stretching.
Cooldown. This is the less-strenuous exercise you do to cool your body down after the more intense part of your workout. For example, after a walk on a treadmill, you might walk at a reduced speed and incline for several minutes until your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stretching is often part of a cooldown.
Once you’re warmed up, experts recommend three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness: cardiovascular activity, strength conditioning, and flexibility training. These don’t all have to be done at once, but doing each on a regular basis will result in balanced fitness.
Cardiovascular activity. Start by doing an aerobic activity, like walking or running, for a sustained 20-30 minutes, four to five times a week, says Bryant. To ensure you’re working at an optimum level, try the “talk test”: Make sure you can carry on a basic level of conversation without being too winded. But if you can easily sing a song, you’re not working hard enough.
Strength conditioning. Start by doing one set of exercises targeting each of the major muscle groups. Bryant suggests using a weight at which you can comfortably perform the exercise eight to 12 times in a set.
When you think you can handle more, gradually increase either the weight, the number of repetitions, or number of sets. To maximize the benefits, do strength training at least twice a week. Never work the same body part two days in a row.
Flexibility training. The American College on Exercise recommends doing slow, sustained static stretches three to seven days per week. Each stretch should last 10-30 seconds.
Step 4: Stress Management and Sleep
Stress management and getting good sleep each night round out your path to better health. Until you find a way to manage your stress, it will continue to do damage to your body.
Two tips you might want to implement include prioritizing your day each morning and practicing deep breathing exercises (yes, you probably already knew this, but have you tried it?).
Getting enough sleep each night is equally important when you consider your body uses this time to repair itself.
You should aim for 7-9 hours each night. Two tips you might want to implement include exercising and avoiding late night eating.
Now that you have the basics, expand on this information. Step 1 research more about Nutritional Supplements, Step 2 research more about Nutrition and so on.
I guarantee after the 4 steps you’ll feel more confident about reaching your health & fitness goals.