Your Cheat Sheet for Health and Fitness Success

It’s time to declutter all of the noise that is spewed at us from fitness “experts” across the internet. My Facebook News Feed and Google Ads are populated with nothing but the “Four Minute Workout to Six-Pack Abs” and “Lose Ten Pounds in a Week”. Every morning I get into my car and hear, “Think you’re fat? You might just be bloated!” followed up by an advertisement to some weight loss supplement with research riddled with fallacies. I can’t help but feel frustrated every single.

If these claims were true, I wouldn’t have a job.

There are people that fall into these traps because they simply don’t know better. Bad health and subpar body composition are not overnight occurrences. Correcting these issues take just as much time, if not more, to reverse. Sustainable shortcuts do not exist, but that doesn’t mean achieving your goals will be impossible. To be successful with fitness and overall health, you need to develop a checklist that helps you stay on track to achieve your desired outcome. These could be split up into daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual agendas in order to provide structure and timetables for your goals.

My fitness-related goals include getting as strong as possible while also improving my mobility and maintaining a degree of athleticism. To stay on track, I have a program designed for me by my coach, Tony Bonvechio, who I have to report back to weekly with my training results. We have long-term training, short-term training , daily nutrition, hydration, and sleep goals implemented that help prevent me from falling off the wagon.

Obviously, nutrition, hydration, and sleep are the categories other than fitness that we need to highlight individually. The more we improve these factors, the better we can exert ourselves within the fitness realm. Instead of talking about more ways to improve your training, today I’d like to break down the outside factors that compliment it exponentially. Below, I broke each category down to develop a better understanding of the “big rocks” we should be focusing on to improve our overall fitness experience.

Nutrition

As a Precision Nutrition coach, my objective is to show my clients that good nutrition is based off reasonable behavioral changes, not a template of sample meals. While having access to recipes is nice, they won’t do much for you if you’re not targeting the underlying factors that are ruining your health. A six-week meal plan might guide you initially, but what happens after you complete it? Here’s a few of the questions I use to figure out the best plan of attack:

What’s your definition of good nutrition? As simple as this sounds, almost everybody has their own opinion. Once I figure out the answer to this question, it’s easier to help make suggestions that work with or against a client’s beliefs.

How many meals per day are you currently eating? Is this optimal, or do you suffer from cravings that lead to bad choices?

What kind of food do you have in your house? If you keep sweets and processed foods in your nearby surroundings, you’re more likely to cave in and cheat.

In what environment do you tend to fall off the bandwagon most? Dinners out with loved ones, work-related lunch meetings, and sweet cravings at home are amongst the typical settings I see.

Do you take supplements? If you do, which? Are your supplements actually supplementing your nutrition, or are they masking the unhealthy foods your diet is primarily composed of.

What colored fruits and veggies do you eat daily? If you’re just limiting yourself to green-colored produce, you’re missing out on a bunch of micronutrients supplied by produce of different colors.

What are your protein sources? Protein is important for both muscle development and weight loss. If you’re a vegetarian, how are you hitting your needs without animal sources?

If body composition is your goal, are you tracking what you’re eating and drinking? We track our numbers in a training log with exercise, why don’t we with nutrition? If you’re looking to gain muscle or lose weight, it’s in your best interest to log your intake to develop awareness and understand your limiting factors.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with my nutrition consultations, but most follow-up questions come from these seven main bullet points. After gaining a basic understanding, it’s easy to create smaller, achievable goals en route to what I like to call your “Mount Everest” goal.

Hydration

Fun fact: based off body composition and sex, the human body is composed of anywhere between 55-65% water. Most bodily processes require water; excretion, transportation of nutrients, and body temperature regulation through sweat are just a few. Hydration is important for healthy living, yet most people don’t drink nearly enough water.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that men drink at least 13 cups of water daily, and women consume 9. This number also increases in individuals that are physically active to prevent dehydration and maintaining electrolyte balance. While the clear-cut answer is either yes or no for whether your drinking adequate amounts of water, here’s a few methods to help you consume more:

Have a glass of water with every meal you consume. Instead of the beverages loaded with sugar, replace them with calorie-free flavored water or seltzer. You cut all of the excess calories out while substituting towards your daily water intake. Sounds like a win-win to me.

If you drink from a water bottle, wrap five rubber bands around the bottle. Once you completely finish the bottle, take a rubber band off and refill it. Your goal is to remove all five rubber bands by the end of the day. This will be a challenge at first if you’re not used to drinking a ton of water, but if you do it consistently it will become a habit.

Setting reminders on your phone every hour or so is a great way to alert you that it’s time to get some water in your system. By constantly reminding yourself to drink water, you’re more likely to hit your recommended consumption levels.

Each person will have a different way of attacking this. Regardless of what route you take, if you’re drinking more water, you’re right.

Sleep

As we all know, quality sleep goes hand-in-hand with optimal health. Lack of sleep causes havoc on the endocrine system, altering the secretion of certain hormones.

We all know cortisol, the stress hormone, becomes much more prevalent in the absence of sleep. Lesser known hormones like leptin, and ghrelin are also affected. Leptin, which suppresses our appetite, isn’t secreted at normal levels. On the other hand, ghrelin, the hunger hormone, production increases when we don’t sleep adequately. It’s easy to see why people that sleep poorly also have a tendency of overeating and drowning in stress everyday. Sleep deprivation is a slippery slope. It might not hit you right away, but overtime it will come crashing down hard.

While professional medical treatment might be needed in certain cases, there are ways to combat your current sleep with your current habits.

If you’re a person that’s on their phone up until the minute they fall asleep, you might want to call it quits earlier in the evening. Light disrupts pineal gland activity, which secretes melatonin.

I’ve personally found that reading helps prior to shutting down for the day. This doesn’t work as well with books that I’m glued to, but I’ve had a fair share of books that have helped put me to bed.

Going to bed stressed out is a surefire way to ensure that you won’t sleep well that night. Retreating with meditation is a great way to promote parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system activity. Even in stressful situations, the ability to relax will help a ton when it comes to getting to bed at night.

A consistent daily routine for waking up and going to bed will help your chances with sleep quality. As with everything previously mentioned, a planned schedule and sticking to it will only benefit you in the long run.

Now that we’ve covered our basics on proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep, your plan of action going forward should entail creating a brief daily checklist that highlights each of these topics. Here’s an example:

Fitness: Did I partake in at least 30 minutes of physical activity today? Yes / No

Nutrition: Did I eat natural protein, carbohydrate, and fat sources while also eating fruits and/or vegetables with each meal? Yes / No

Hydration: Did I drink at least five bottles of water today? Yes / No

Sleep: Did I soundlessly sleep at least 8 hours last night? Yes / No

If I answered no to any of these questions, what could I do tomorrow to make sure I hit these daily goals?

The questions on our checklist above will vary from person to person based off their goals. By staying true to yourself and following this checklist, you’re maintaining a sense of accountability with all of these aspects. If you’re an individual that needs someone to hold them accountable (like myself), it’s in your best interest to seek out a coach that will do so. While your training is a great first step, the three factors mentioned above are cornerstones towards achieving optimal health. Don’t neglect them as they will end up being the limiting factors one day, regardless of your goals.

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