As a Personal Trainer / Strength and Conditioning Coach I have the opportunity to work with people looking to change and better their overall health and lifestyles. Typically, people will ask what they can do outside of the training sessions to reach their personal health and fitness goals.
Everyone walks a different path and have different goals from deadlifting 200kg to competing in a city run or even being able to take the stairs without pain. Everybody is so different with different personal objectives that may be challenged by long hours and travel mixed with family commitments and other stressful tasks that need to be completed – often by yesterday. The main aim of this post is to aid or offer some direction in maintaining health amongst the daily chaos we call life.
Here are some areas that need to be focussed on to achieve the best version of yourself. Some of these areas you may already be in control of, but if not, I suggest taking note and make some changes for the better.
1: Sleep more
The aim here is to have unbroken sleep patterns. Sleep is when your body recovers – it requires this to repair and prepare for another day of action ahead. I would suggest aiming for 7 – 9 hours of unbroken sleep. Note that unbroken was in bold italics! This is what I recommend focussing on – if you struggle here, I suggest switching of the television 30 minutes earlier and read a book in bed with an herbal sleep/aid tea.
2: Learn about food portion sizing
It’s very easy to lose control of your bodyweight if you don’t or can’t control how much you’re eating. Understanding portion sizes or to actually know roughly how much we should eat for your goals is the key. As a simple and basic rule of thumb (excuse the upcoming pun) you have to eat according to the scale of overall body size – so use your hand. If you look at the palm of your hand that will determine your protein portion size per meal, a fist will determine the veggie portion size, your cupped hand determines starchy carb portions and the surface area of your thumb is the portion of fats per meal. With this guideline you can always ensure you are eating a balance of macronutrients. If you are wanting to lose weight – reduce the starchy carbs to half a portion or skip it entirely unless training on that day.
3: Eat according to your body type (Somatotype)
Human beings all differ in shapes and body sizes. We vary genetically in body composition, energy levels and metabolic rates. Different body types or groups (“Somatotypes”) typically share the same following characteristics: Metabolism (how nutrients are processed and metabolic rate), morphology and skeletal structure and hormonal environment. In sport it becomes much clearer if you were to look at a long-distance runner (I Type: Ectomorph) in comparison to a sprinter (V Type: Mesomorph) – The 2 body types are very different and we can apply general nutrition strategies to this concept. The following categories are a general concept and people can adapt their body type as they wish or need through training and nutrition:
I Type (Ectomorph) – Light and lean and may have longer limbs. Metabolism is fast and excess energy can be burnt through general movement and heat. Rarely is this body type too hungry and easily full and have a high tolerance to Carbohydrates. So therefore this body type could potentially consume a higher Carb diet without gaining as much body fat as the other two types.
V Type (Mesomorph) – Naturally more muscular or athletic with a flexible metabolism. If they have excess energy it can easily build muscle mass. Typically, this body type will be hungry with heightened activity otherwise have a normal hunger for foods. They are testosterone and growth hormone dominant.
O Type (Endomorph) – Naturally heavier build with more body fat and shorter limbs. They will possess a slow metabolism and excess energy gets stored as fat. They are very sensitive to hunger cues and may always feel hungry. This body type has a low tolerance to Carbohydrates. Therefore this body type has to be careful when eating excess Carbohydrates as they can gain body fat easily.
This is a basic guideline. We tend to fall into a category however sometimes we are in between or some people will have evolved into a different body type through hard work and determination… or no training and over eating.
4: Know what you’re eating (understand your Macronutrients)
Basically, you just need to break your meals down into 3 major food groups (Macronutrients): Complex Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. Here is a basic healthy food list of all three groups.
Whole Grains: Wholegrain seedy breads, brown rice, oatmeal and starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and corn. These food sources are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins, which help slow down the release of energy in a more sustainable form.
Oatmeal: A bowl of oatmeal is a healthy breakfast option. As a great source of dietary fibre, oatmeal can help improve your bowel movements, lower cholesterol and provide sustained energy until lunchtime.
Whole-grain pasta: is great to consume over lunchtime. Unlike the refined pasta, whole-grain pasta includes B-vitamins, iron, antioxidants and several trace minerals. The slow-release of energy is ideal for a mid-day meal to prevent sluggishness and hunger pangs later in the evening.
Lentils: One cup of cooked lentils contains about 16 grams of dietary fibre, which is over 60% of your recommended daily intake. It is also a valuable source of protein. They are easy to prepare and are full of nutrients - especially folate (provides 90% of your daily value), manganese and iron.
Sweet Potatoes: are high in potassium, vitamin A, carotenoids and vitamin E, which helps protect you from heart disease.
Avoid: mostly simple carbohydrates such as table sugar, white bread and sugary drinks. These are refined, which means the natural minerals vitamins, and fibre content is removed. This makes simple carbs a source of quick energy but little nutritious value, which is why there are sometimes referred to as “empty calories”. These can be consumed occasionally but not often.
Avocado: are an excellent fruit packed with potassium and fibre – they have been shown to have major benefits for cardiovascular health.
Cheese: is a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and protein!
Nuts: provide a high amount of healthy fat and fibre. They are also a great source of plant-based protein. Healthy nuts include: Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts and Macadamia nuts just to name a few.
Avoid: overly salted peanuts – just too much salt.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil contains vitamins E and K, and is full of powerful antioxidants. Some of these antioxidants aid in fighting inflammation.
Full fat Yogurt: I personally like Greek yogurt varieties which are also high in protein. When choosing a yogurt be sure to check the amount of sugar per serving – it’s not uncommon to find lots of sugar used to sweeten the product.
Fatty Fish: Choose fish like Salmon, Trout, Sardines and Tuna. These fish are full of Omega 3 fatty acids and high-quality protein. Try to choose wild fish varieties opposed to over-farmed and undernourished fish.
Chicken Breast: Rich in protein, easy to cook and a great option with most other foods. Eat without the skin to have the healthiest option.
Eggs: Each egg contains 6 grams of protein – a great little option as a snack through-out the day to maintain your protein levels. Also, eggs contain healthy fats and minerals.
Lean Beef: A great source of protein which is high in vitamin B12 and iron.
Turkey Breast: Once again high in vitamins and minerals and another great option to chicken as another source of white meat protein.
Beans and Lentils: These are a great plant-based protein source that should be incorporated into every diet. Plenty of fibre, folate and protein.
For further help with eating the correct amounts on a daily basis, understanding your body type and ensuring you eat the right whole food Macros feel free to contact me directly.
5: Stress Less
Understandably everybody stresses – it’s totally normal and is simply a part of life, however if you find yourself stressing often your body will suffer. Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs. If the hypothalamus doesn’t tell the hormones to relax again people can be stuck with chronic stress, overeating issues and other forms of problems that greatly affect their health and wellbeing.
When we train, we apply stress to our muscles to create microtrauma – after the damage has occurred, we rest and recover in order to allow the muscle to heal and grow stronger. If you have a high stress job and train hard, possibly struggle to sleep as you have so much on your mind you will find yourself in an overtrained state. Now, just to clarify – I’m not saying don’t train or exercise, training can also be an outlet for stress – simply we need to de-stress and recover from what may be an already taxing working lifestyle on top of your training. Here are some things you can do to de-stress.
Get a massage: This is a great way to not only relax but also release tension in your muscles and help along recovery from your workouts.
Spend time on hobbies: Hobbies are a great way to fully immerse yourself into something that you derive pleasure from – if it’s active, even better! Personally, for me Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and surfing completely absorb my focus. This helps to clear the head and really, I have to live in the moment – if your distracted you will either be tapped out or cop a wave on the head! It’s nice to live in the moment when we are surrounded by distractions.
6: Stay Hydrated
I’m sure this point has been preached to you many times – but it’s a simple daily task everybody should undertake. Here in Switzerland the tap water is amazing! I drink litres of basic tap water (sometimes with vitamins added) throughout the day. This stuff comes straight from the tap and is truly important for you to function properly through the day. If you don’t drink enough water you can feel the following symptoms:
Loss of attention span
As a rule of thumb you should be drinking 35ml for every kilo of your weight. So if you’re 60kg, you should be drinking a minimum of 2.1l
7: Eat within a 9 – 12-hour window (Restrictive eating)
This is simply a great way to allow your body to fast during your rested and sleeping hours. We burn more fat when we sleep than when we are awake and our muscles recover from any type of strenuous activities carried out through the day. If we can eat within a window of time during the day it allows our body to function more efficiently in breaking down the foods we have consumed during the non-eating window. Our body is a magnificent machine that functions best when allowed time to distribute and burn the nutrients provided from our foods.
Hopefully some of these healthy lifestyle tips are already being utilised by anyone who takes the time to read this blog post – if not, maybe consider making to changes and see how it can improve your health through a small shift in some lifestyle habits.