5 Easy Hacks for a Healthier Life
here are so many tips, tricks and how tos for good nutrition and overall health available to us guys these days, plans that promise nothing short of ways to get shredded abs and smoking biceps to one-handed 400-pound, sure-fire deadlift techniques.
While it's nice to be able to do all of these things, we still want to have the flexibility in our lifestyle to also have a good drink or two. None of us want to be that guy who can't go out or grab a great burger because we have to stay strict. And once you have those baseline health basics down and you're hanging onto a pretty good fitness level, maybe you'd like to level up — to become a little leaner, a little stronger, and a lot healthier.
Here's a rundown of my top five diet and wellness tactics that will optimize your health and looks while still making sure you can go out to eat on the weekends.
Not the outer gut, hopefully — the inner gut, the digestive system. Our digestive system is like a sink disposal — it processes all our food, breaks it up, and sends it packing. The difference is that our sink doesn't have hormones, and balance and regulation comes largely from the state of our inside gut. This means that if the inside gut isn't working right, then we get bloated, increase our stress hormones, decrease the hormones that keep our belts loose, and then feel lazy and unmotivated to get up off the couch and go for a run.
To keep your gut working right and avoid all these negative side affects, try these tips:
Do a Detox
No, not those dumb juicing ones. Try cutting out things like sugar, dairy, and alcohol for a week at a time to see if you — and your gut — feel better.
Increase Your Raw Veggies
More greens means more roughage which means better digestion. Eat just one and a half times more than you're already are and you'll be better off for it.
Your recovery program should be at least the same amount of time as your workouts over the course of a week. Wait, you don't have a recovery program? No, it's not finally being able to sit on your ass come Sunday football.
When I was strength coaching at Stanford, our head performance coordinator had us coaches focusing a ton on the players recovery as well as their training. And those guys were really lighting it up on the field as a result. To keep it simple, we are only as good as our recovery. If you are under-recovered, then your workout will suck, the weight you're lifting will feel heavier than it should, and you're likely to hurt some strange part of your body that you weren't even previously aware of. Take your total gym time in hours and that's at least as much time you will need to focus on your recovery.
Here are few of many recovery methods to boost your ROI from all that gym time:
Ideally, do some static stretching before your workout as insurance against injury (doing it after your workout is your call). Pick one day per week where you stretch two to three major muscle groups for a collective total time of 30 minutes or more. This video will point you in the right direction.
Take .66 times your body weight in pounds and that will give you a total daily amount in ounces you need to drink of water. Yes, that number will probably wow you.
Two supplements come to mind when dealing with recovery: BCAAs and glutamine. These are amino acids that aid in the recovery of your muscles (and even aid the inside gut). For glutamine, calculate .15 times your body weight in pounds and that will be how many grams to take. As for BCAAs, divide your body weight by 2.2, multiply that number by .25, and that will give you how many grams to take.
I know, it's contradictory to what you guys are talking about at lunch. The common adage is, "Eat less, move more" to become leaner, but that's not completely true.
Think about you and your friends' spending habits: when you're low on cash, spending dips; if you're flush with cash, it's off to Vegas! When it come to your body, if not enough food is coming in, the body goes on reserve mode. This means that while you might be getting leaner, what also goes on hold is muscle growth and increasing your overall fitness.
Now, this is not an invitation to crush it at the all-you-can-eat bar. But if you take in the right amount of food, and of the right type of food — protein, lots of veggies, etc — then your body will work with you, sign all of your peace treaties, and end the 10-year war on your waistline.
Only babies eat the same thing all the time; you need lots of different kinds. Varying your protein sources should start with your powder protein first. This means that if you're pounding the post-workout whey shake for longer than a month, or even just having it for breakfast, then it's time to try a new powder. Reason? Once your body sees the same food over and over, it starts to process it as an antigen (like bacteria). So that means you'll start to have an immune response instead of actually digesting the food, therefore making all that goodness of a protein shake moot.
Aim to use a new powder every 15-30 days. My rotation goes like this: whey concentrate, whey isolate, casein, egg, veggie (pea), hemp. Repeat.
It's becoming more common knowledge that when it comes to looks and health, nutrition holds more weight than what you do in the gym. And while that's true, sleep is actually more important than both! Sleep is massively important. Al Pacino might have said you'll sleep when you're dead, but to that I say you'll be dead a lot sooner than you should.
The amount of growth hormone released, muscle regeneration, and neural recovery you get simply from sleep is unmatched. Sleep is important in two different ways: how long you sleep and how well. You have to address both in different ways.
If you're trying to get more sleep, then start by going to bed earlier — try doing this in five-minute increments over the course of a few weeks. This way, you won't be staring up at the ceiling until you fall asleep and it will also be easier, habit-wise.
As for quality, the most important things are being in a completely dark room, wearing ear plugs if you wake easily, and keeping the constant room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you're doing that, start leaving a 30 minute window open where you have no electronics — phone, TV, computer, Kindle, anything. The blue light emitted from these delay certain hormone releases that tell your body to go to sleep.
The final take away? Start by picking one of these categories and slowly work the tips and tricks into you lifestyle. From there, you can dive into the others, and you'll be healthier before you know it. [H]
Want more information on all of the above, from which brands of protein powder to buy to information on smart detoxes? Find it all here.
Will Maloney is a lifestyle blogger who writes about nutrition and recovery.
He's a nationally-ranked Equinox trainer, a former coach at Stanford, and founder of Metabolic Kitchen.
Check out his website.
Images courtesy of Will Maloney