With such an enormous amount of information available on diet and exercise it can be a daunting prospect to wade through it all and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Much of the information is complex, contradictory and, sadly, sometimes just plain wrong! With those points in mind, here are top tips for leading a happy and healthy fitness life. If you do your best to follow these tips, you will be well on the way to developing high levels of fitness and health and you’ll look great too!
1. Eat the rainbow. The brighter and more multi-coloured the fruits and vegetables you eat, the broader the spectrum of nutrients you will be consuming. If you eat the same coloured foods over and over you may well find that your diet is deficient in certain nutrients. Eat a wide variety of foods to maximize your intake of essential vitamins, minerals and other healthful nutrients.
2. Cut down on refined sugar. Fat gets a lot of negative attention but the truth is that refined sugar is responsible for at least as many health and weight related problems as fat. Refined sugar is usually found in baked goods, sweets, processed meals and shop-bought sauces, breakfast cereals and confectionary. Refined sugar causes a rapid rise in blood glucose, which triggers a corresponding spike in insulin levels. Insulin inhibits fat burning and can also cause a blood glucose crash. The subsequent drop in blood glucose triggers a craving for more sugar and so the cycle continues. Stable blood glucose levels ensure that your body is primed for fat burning and not fat storage and it is being overweight as opposed to dietary fat that presents the biggest risk to health.
3. Get your EFAs. Polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega three and omega six are so healthful that they have earned the moniker “essential fatty acids” or EFAs for short. Found in fish, nuts, seeds and some vegetables, EFAs are naturally anti-inflammatory, help to regulate blood volume and pressure, keep your hair and skin healthy, are vital for brain function and are linked to reduced incidences of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease. If oily fish and walnuts aren’t your favourite foods, supplementation may be the best way forward – aim for around 1000mg of EFAs per day.
4. Adjust your carbohydrate intake to meet your activity levels. Carbohydrates are our main source of quick energy and are essential for fuelling an active lifestyle. In addition to energy, carbs also provide most of your fibre as well as vitamins and minerals. On the downside, if you are not very active, carbohydrates are very easily converted to fat and stored for later use. The more active you are, the more carbohydrate you need to eat. If on the other hand, you are relatively sedentary except for a couple of hours of exercise a week, your need for carbohydrate is greatly reduced. Consume the majority of your daily carb allotment before and after exercise. The rest of the time, focus on protein and vegetables. Keep the grains and potatoes for when you really need them.
5. Supplement wisely. Many exercisers take a plethora of supplements in the hope that the powders, pills and potions they consume will deliver spectacular results. Supplements such as whey protein, creatine, branch chain amino acids and carb drinks have been around for ages and because they have stood the test of time, chances are they actually work. Many other supplements are here today and gone tomorrow and this strongly suggests that they are ineffective. Remember that even the most powerful supplement will not work unless your training, recovery strategies, sleep patterns and diet are optimal.
Follow these tips and you’ll be 90% there with your fitness and nutrition – all you need to do is put them into action!