As a former college athlete and a fitness enthusiast, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and experiencing what it takes to optimize physical health and appearance. This process can be very daunting for someone who hasn’t looked into it as much as I have, especially considering all the current fads and supplements. That’s why I’d like to share some advice on what I’ve found to be most effective for achieving physical well-being – regardless of who you are.
1) Drink A Lot of Water
This is the most important piece of advice I can offer anyone. Our livers process fats and poisons, and they need a lot of water to function well. Dehydration leads to negative effects on muscles and joints, and it prevents our livers from filtering out all the bad things we eat. This, in turn, leads to fat retention. You don’t have to measure your water intake – just make sure you drink a few glasses at every meal, when you wake up, and before you go to bed.
2) Avoid Processed Foods
Those of you who don’t know what “processed foods” comprise of are probably eating a lot of them. Anything with a high fat or sugar content should be avoided for optimal body composition. Fried foods are your nemesis, as well as any soft drinks. Cutting out these alone would give you some results, but if you want to go above and beyond, try to avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates and processed/high fat dairy products as well. This includes foods such as white bread, pizza, and nachos. Lastly, stop eating so much fast food. You can’t make healthy choices at taco bell; no one is getting the salad. Plan ahead if necessary, and be more conscious of your choices every day. Simply making an effort to eat more whole foods from the grocery store can go a long way.
3) Participate in Cardiovascular Exercise
If you’ve read this far, you might have known this was coming. In addition to cleaning up your diet, cardio is the best way for you to shed some of those extra pounds. A game of flag football once every two weeks won’t cut it – I’m counseling you to participate in some form of high intensity cardio regularly. This means getting your heart rate up and pushing yourself. If you are new to fitness, start slow, but don’t just take the easy route. People who spend hours on ellipticals at a slow pace stay overweight for a reason. If you are not a fitness newbie, look into various forms of cross-circuit training. This will burn even more calories than running alone.
4) Hit the Gym
If you already do this, good. If you don’t, it’s time to get started. Along with the points above, pumping some iron is the quickest fix for poor muscle tone. If you’re already someone that lifts and you’re not seeing the results that you crave, it’s time to change up your regimen and LIFT HEAVIER. Changing up your workout routine from the standard bro curls and bench press to more functional movements will shock new muscles, and lifting heavier will consume more calories and force greater muscle growth. Bodybuilding.com has some great beginner programs for newbies and experienced lifters alike.
5) Get More Sleep
As a former college student and athlete, I know how hard it can be to catch some Z’s. In order to optimize your body’s fat burning capacity, however, a full 8 hours of rest is paramount. Getting a full night’s rest will make sure your metabolism and testosterone levels are on point (and by extension, your sex drive). This is often a lot to demand of yourself with all of the technological distractions we have now, but if you plan ahead and you have some level of self control, you should be able to strike a balance. Try to shut down technology at least one hour prior to bedtime, and have your devices set for night mode if possible. The blue light from computer screens, phones, and TVs disrupts the circadian rhythms that regulate your body’s functionality. If you’re going to be up late one night, try to prioritize sleep on the other days of the week. When our bodies are constantly running behind on rest, they will eventually demand that we catch up. This is often why people sleep so long on the weekends. If you are disciplined enough, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is one of the healthiest choices you can make.
6) Cut Back on Alcohol
Ah yes. The sixth, and most controversial point. Many will burn me at the stake for this one, but alcohol is a primary contributor to poor body composition. It is full of empty calories, it impairs your liver’s functionality, it causes dehydration, it disrupts sleep, and it negatively impacts your cardiovascular system. There is no denying its negative effects, but with a little bit of foresight, you can decrease them significantly. Instead of drinking generic beers, opt for the great tasting craft brews that are full of nutrients. They will give you a better buzz, and you’ll consume less. If you’re more of the liquor type, try to stick to shots without chaser. If you need chaser, opt for diet soda or just straight soda water. Vodka and rum have the least amount of calories per shot in the liquor category. Finally, don’t drink as much as you usually do. This was a hard concept for me to grasp when I first tried it, but I slowly came to realize that drinking past a certain point only has negative effects. You’ll make poor decisions, you’ll put on more weight, and you’ll be worse at talking to members of the opposite sex. Find your happy medium, and try the moderate approach. You can thank me later.
You don’t have to be a fitness guru or a meathead to benefit from these lifestyle alterations – just be a little bit more mindful, and enjoy the results!
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