When you start your fitness journey, it is common for the main thought in your mind to be improving your body shape. In all likelihood, you will have let things go and become upset with how you look, prompting you to either seek help or start exercising more on your own.
Having a goal to work towards is vital, especially when it comes to motivation and consistency. However, what often gets overlooked is the goal to improve their health alongside that. Due to the several bad habits developed beforehand which led to you getting out of shape, the chances are that your health will have taken a hit too.
It is important to understand that, while reaching your goal of fat loss and improving your body shape should remain at the forefront of what you work towards, making better choices from a health perspective should also be high on your priority list. So, here are five ways which you can do exactly that.
A big mistake many people make is overdoing cardio and not performing enough or any resistance training sessions. Building muscle is essential for fat loss because, aside from adding a better structure and overall look to your body, your body requires a lot of energy to maintain the muscle that you have gained. This means that your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories you burn every day without doing anything) goes up and your body’s calorie-burning efficiency increases. So, your exercise routine needs to be based around resistance training, with a sustainable, low-intensity form of cardio alongside that.
However, what is even more underestimated are the benefits that resistance training brings to your health. As well as building stronger muscles and bones, which delay the negative effects of aging, it also helps prevent osteoporosis – a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Resistance training also regulates insulin and lowers inflammation in the body, as well as improving posture, sleep, mood, and energy levels. Training regularly will most certainly help you love a stronger, healthier, more energetic life.
Variety with Nutrition
It is very common for people to stick to foods that they prefer to consume and do this repeatedly for a long period of time. In some ways, particularly when it comes to fat loss, this can be a good thing as tracking food becomes a lot easier and enjoyment leads to diet adherence. However, when looking to improve overall health, making sure that you have variety in your diet is one of the best things you can do.
This means having a wide range of protein sources, such as lean meats, fish, seafood, dairy, and plant-based. When it comes to carbohydrates, aim to consume those that release energy slowly, such as oatmeal, rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread, alongside some fruit. The same goes with vegetables – look at five to six sources you enjoy consuming and mix these up during the week. This will mean that your body receives an excellent variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy and strong. Overconsumption of anything is bad, so make sure you are mixing your foods up and enjoying tasty, effective meals.
The final key area, outside of training and nutrition to focus on is hydration. Getting enough water in throughout the day is a huge determining factor in how your body will function, both in terms of health and fitness. Your body is 60% water, so it is vital that you stay hydrated. When you wake up in the morning, more often than not, your body is dehydrated, so make sure you have a couple of glasses of water as soon as you can. This will allow important nutrients to flow through to important body parts, flush toxins out of your body, help deliver oxygen all over the body, allow your body’s cells to grow, reproduce and survive, and act as a ‘shock absorber’ for you brain and spinal cord.
When it comes to fat loss, water plays a big role because it helps you feel full and satisfied throughout the day, which leads to less temptation to snack on other foods. Often when you wake up in the morning and you think you are hungry, you are actually dehydrated, so drinking water first thing will also help you delay your first meal if that is something you like to do. Drinking plenty of water also boosts your metabolism, the chemical process inside your body that turns food into energy, which is vital for efficient fat burning.
This is an area that is crucial, not only to your fat loss progress but also to your overall health. A high-quality night’s sleep of 7-9 hours gives your body much-needed rest and recovery from your daily exercise and tasks, which is also vital to progression. Furthermore, you produce a large portion of your growth hormone when you sleep, particularly in the first two hours. In order to build lean muscle tissue and burn fat efficiently, we need growth hormones, and as your growth hormone levels decrease gradually in your late 20’s, the importance of sleep then increases.
Sleep also produces Melatonin in the pineal gland and is involved in energy metabolism. It also balances your cortisol levels (the stress hormone that is part of our survival mechanism), and your levels of your insulin (the major hormone that controls your blood sugar levels), which is vital for your body to be able to rest and recover from your activity during the day. So, make sure that you are prioritising consistent, high-quality sleep – it is a gamechanger to your progression and health.
Foods High in Antioxidants
One of the best things you can do for your internal health is to regularly consume foods that are high in antioxidants. When you eat highly processed, poor quality, low nutrient foods and combine that with poor sleep, lack of exercise, and poor hydration, oxidative stress builds up in the body, leading to inflammation and even disease. Of course, improving areas such as sleep, stress, digestion, and water intake are going to lead to a healthier body, but foods that are high in antioxidants can protect your body even further from potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.
Such foods include most fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, oatmeal, dark chocolate, nuts, and fatty fish. Adding more of these into your diet and making sure that you have a variety will mean that you receive a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants, which will protect your body and lower your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, as well as general flu and illness.
So, while it is normal to have your fitness goal at the forefront of your mind, it is also vital to look after your overall health. You can do this by doing resistance training, having variety with your nutrition, regularly hydrating, improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, and consuming foods that are high in antioxidants. Make this part of your routine and you will give yourself a much better chance of living a longer, healthier life.
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