I hope this article finds everyone crushing their New Year's goals. If you aren't, don't give up. Instead, take a look at your goals and see if they were realistic to your current life situation and adjust.
Whether you are or aren't hitting your stride, here are some tips to make life a little bit healthier and to get more out of your training. This article is a bit heavier on nutrition information than usual, so bear with me.
Tip 1: Don't diet. The term diet is a loaded term in the fitness industry. Diet is supposed to mean the foods that make up your individual eating habits or the eating habits of a cultural group. Unfortunately, the term has gotten a bad name by being mixed up with a quick fix to lose weight by eating one way. My advice to almost anyone, as long as they don't have a diagnosed allergy to a certain food, is to avoid any diet that cuts out an entire food group.
We should be aiming for a diet that is based on as much whole foods as possible. Whole food are foods with as little processing as possible. When you are at the grocery store, think of foods that have little to no packaging. They are foods that will go bad within a week or two.
Tip 2: People often tell me they eat well. Just because you put something healthy in your body, doesn't you absorb it all.
We look at food as two different things. First we have macronutrients - protein, fats and cards. You want to have a good balance of these.
Protein helps you grow and maintain muscle mass. Almost all food has some protein in it, but we usually think of major protein sources as meat, fish, poultry or nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.
Fats play a role in protecting the joints and helping brain health. Healthy fats come olive, coconut and macadamia nut oil. Nut butters and avocado are another great source. Fats are higher in calories than protein and carbs, so don't eat huge quantities but don't cut them out. However, avoid transfat, a man-made fat that doesn't do well in our bodies. Opt for butter, not margarine.
Carbs got a bad rap for years, but they are our bodies first source of energy. If you aren't an active person, then you will need less energy and may want less carbs, but don't cut them out. We mostly think of carbs as bread products, but they are fruit and vegetables as well. Aim for less bread and more fruit and vegetables, but don't give up on bread completely. Aim for whole grains or try, rye, spelt or buckwheat.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. There are two kinds of vitamins, water soluble, which means you need to be hydrated to absorb them, and fat soluble, which means you need fat to absorb them. Some vitamins are better absorbed when food is eaten raw, some when it is cooked. Some are absorbed best when two foods are paired together.
Tip 3: Bringing it all together. So here are a few things that you can do immediately to make yourself healthier. If you feel better, you will move better, more often, and get better results with your exercise.
Drink water as soon as you wake up. Have a bottle beside your bed. Drink it before your feet hit the ground. It doesn't matter if you feel like it. It will set your day. Stay hydrated. Remember, you need to be hydrate to absorb most vitamins.
Add fresh squeezed lemon to your greens or salad. Citrus helps you to absorb the iron in your greens. This is especially important if you don't eat much meat. To absorb fat-soluble vitamins you need to eat healthy fats. Add avocado, olive oil, or nuts to your salad as well. To get the best out of garlic, which is a super food, crush it and let it sit for a few minutes. Cooked tomatoes let you absorb more of the lycopene which is said to help keep cancer away. Mixing crushes garlic and cooked tomatoes together is even better. Most of the time, cooking yellow, red and orange plants allows you to absorb the nutrients better. It doesn't mean you should never eat a red pepper raw, just some food for thought. Most older cultures of the world already new these things. Today we are spoiled for choice and have gotten away from our roots. We live in a fast food world and our waistlines are getting bigger fast.
Tip 4: Follow a simple guide to meal preparation. This is just a general guideline. You may need more if you exercise a lot or of you are still growing. For women, protein should be the size of the palm of your hand. Vegetables like broccoli, spinach or carrots, etc., serving can be the size of your whole clenched fist. For carbs like grains, starches, or fruits, used a cupped hand. To determine fat intake, like oils, butters, and nuts, use your entire thumb size.
Ryan Cairns, a certified personal trainer from Charlottetown, currently resides in Sydney, Australia. His column is publish monthly in The Guardian. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram @tattooed_pt.