In this article, we will delve into the foods that will fuel your workouts so you can achieve your goals and maintain optimal health. Together, we’ll dig into how different kinds of nutrients can help support your fitness journey.
We’ll also discuss how to assess your fitness level as well as what kinds of equipment might be helpful to have on hand and how to work out effectively within your home or a gym. Finally, we’ll explore the concepts of rest and recovery, specifically why it’s important to give your body some downtime to heal.
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When you embark on the six-week exercise plan, you’ll want to ensure you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to build lean muscle tissue. Foods are divided up into macronutrient groups: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. How much of each nutrient you need will vary based on your fitness and health goals, sex, age, height, weight, and activity levels.
You can find macronutrient and calorie calculators online at various dieting and fitness websites (check out the Resources section for suggestions). Use these to determine your level of maintenance calories (how many calories you need per day just to maintain your current weight). From there, you can also determine how many calories to cut if you want to lose weight, how to decide your macronutrient breakdown, and much more.
Protein intake is critical when it comes to building a strong body since it forms the building blocks of muscle tissue and helps your body repair and replenish itself. Protein is found in meat, dairy, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butter, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and sprouts.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences recommends approximately 0.36 gram of protein per pound of body weight (protein has four calories per gram). However, you can (and should) safely consume additional protein if you are training with weights, participating in a weight-loss program, or both. Again, you can adjust those amounts based on your doctor’s recommendations, your activity levels, and your fitness goals.
Carbohydrate intake may vary, but a good rule of thumb is to get between 45 and 65 percent of your diet from this category. Carbs, like protein, also have four calories per gram. Carbohydrates are found in potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, bread, fruits, dairy, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Carbohydrates can be broken down into distinct categories: sugars, starches, and fibre. Fruits and dairy products have a lot of sugars (fructose, sucrose, and lactose), and are useful as energizing pre-workout meals. Vegetables, beans, and grains have starch and fiber, and are great for helping you replenish post-workout. Depending on your individual fitness and health goals, you may consider focusing on fibre-rich, whole-grain foods and low-sugar and low-fat carb choices.
At nine calories per gram, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your fat intake and choose healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in avocados, olives and olive oils, nuts and nut butter, seeds, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout.
Steer clear of artificial trans fats found in prepackaged snack foods, fried foods, cakes, cookies, pastries, and foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil. Consider limiting your consumption of saturated fats to those in meats, full-fat dairy products, and oils. Try to keep your fat intake to between 20 and 35 percent of your total calories.
For a healthy boost of energy, consider breakfasts that contain protein, healthy carbohydrates, and a small amount of fat. Some options include:
- Oatmeal and blueberries with almond butter
- Whole wheat toast with half a sliced avocado
- Greek yoghurt with strawberries and almond slivers
- Half a grapefruit and Ezekiel bread with peanut butter
- Whole-grain cereal with sliced banana and almond milk
- Scrambled egg whites, one whole egg, reduced-fat cheese, Ezekiel bread
Lunch should be a balanced meal of moderate protein, moderate carbohydrates, and medium fats. Consider choices like:
- Boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast with a baked sweet potato and green beans
- Whole wheat tortilla wrap with flaked tuna, lettuce, and light dressing
- Pan-seared chicken breast in a whole wheat tortilla with grilled peppers and onions
- Baked tofu with mixed vegetables
- Shredded baked chicken over quinoa with a side salad and low-sugar barbecue sauce
- Grilled sirloin steak with broccoli and a baked potato
Keep your last meal of the day low-fat, low-carb, and high-protein. Think about options such as:
- Baked boneless, skinless chicken breast with broccoli
- Grilled salmon with wild rice and a side salad
- Grilled lean pork with red and green peppers over rice
- Pan-seared tofu with roasted carrots and spinach
- Grilled shrimp with quinoa and a diced cucumber salad
- A large baked red pepper stuffed with red beans and jasmine rice
Before a workout, you’ll want to eat lightly, getting in protein and carbohydrates while skimping on fats. The carbs will provide energy quickly, while the protein will give your muscles the nutrients to repair themselves after exercise. Consider snacking on these before your next workout:
- Nonfat Greek yoghurt with blueberries
- A protein shake with half an apple
- Cottage cheese with berries
- A banana and a glass of almond milk
- An apple with low-fat string cheese
- A fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder or nut butter
After your workout, ideally, you’ll have some protein, starchy carbs, and fewer fats. The starchy carbs will keep you full and satisfied while allowing your body to replenish the lost glycogen in your bloodstream. Satisfy yourself with:
- Oatmeal mixed with protein powder and one tablespoon of peanut butter
- Handful of almonds, an apple, and one scoop of whey protein blended with one cup of almond milk
- Diced grilled chicken and a baked sweet potato
- Half a cup of beans and half a cup of rice with mixed vegetables
- Greek yogurt with one scoop of protein powder and one tablespoon of almond butter
- Cottage cheese and mixed berries with whole wheat toast and almond butter
It’s vital that you drink plenty of fresh water every day. While plain water is best, you can also hydrate with seltzer; water-filled foods like celery, watermelon, and cucumber; and other liquids such as sports drinks. If you’re not a fan of unflavored water, add cucumbers, oranges, berries, lemons, or limes.
Aim to consume at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day—and much more if you’re in a warmer climate, you’re exercising, or you sweat frequently.
Supplements are designed to fill in nutritional gaps as you continue your workout program.
Multivitamins and minerals: These provide simple insurance against nutrient deficiencies. You want to give yourself all the tools you need to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong.
Fish oil: Fish oil, containing omega-3 fatty acids that boost heart health, is an anti-inflammatory supplement that can keep your brain healthy and eyesight sharp. Scientists say fish oil may even protect and stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps to keep your immune system strong, protects against heart disease, and keeps your eyes healthy and your skin supple.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps keep your bones strong, strengthens your immune system, stabilizes your blood sugar levels, and supports your lungs and heart. Take it with vitamin C and calcium, as it helps with the absorption of those nutrients.
Probiotics: Probiotics ensure that your intestinal flora, the good bacteria in your gut, have a chance to thrive. Healthy gut bacteria can help manage irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease, as well as bladder and yeast infections.
B vitamins: These vitamins keep your mood swings in check while helping your brain stay sharp. B vitamins also aid in the metabolism of food as it is processed into energy. With a more efficient digestive system, you can manage your weight more easily, get the most out of your dietary choices, and keep your energy levels high.
Resurge is of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.
While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews because the supplement industry is rife with scams.
Besides, it should be noted that supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. Pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise.
In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications or have any health concerns.
Taking a basic fitness test before beginning your fitness program establishes a baseline of where you are starting and ensures that you are healthy and strong enough to begin the protocol.
Ask yourself these questions, answering Yes or No to each:
2. Do I have injuries that could become worse with the use of an exercise program? (If so, consider working with a physical therapist before starting a new regimen.)
3. Do I experience dizziness or loss of balance that could prohibit me from performing any exercises?
4. Is my heart rate higher than the average? (Your resting heart rate should be somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Anything higher could be caused by stress, dehydration, certain medications, or a medical issue.)
5. Have I been prescribed medications or been at risk at any point for high blood pressure?
6. Do I need to clean up my diet?
7. Do I need to focus on my sleep hygiene?
8. Have I exercised in the past and do I know the basics? (If not, it’s okay! Everyone starts somewhere.)
9. Can I hold a basic plank (here), do a basic squat (here), touch my toes, and perform a push-up (here)?
10. Can I walk at a moderate pace for 20 minutes?
If you answered Yes to the first five questions and/or No to questions 8, 9, and 10, begin your fitness journey slowly, perhaps with permission from your doctor or with a personal trainer by your side. Especially if you’re new to the fitness scene, learning the basics in person from a professional can be key.
Although you may be eager to get started on your fitness journey—and you should be!—setting yourself up for success will pay off in the future. Learning how to improve your health across the board is valuable information that you will use for years to come.
Even if you scored well on the fitness test, it’s a good idea to discuss any fitness plans with your doctor. Being healthy isn’t a one-size-fits-all process and you may need to accommodate for things like injuries, limitations, medications, and so forth. Finally, don’t be discouraged if you’re not ready to start today. Getting healthy takes preparation, but it’ll all be worth it.
Gear and Equipment List
Having the right tools is essential for success in any endeavor. You wouldn’t set out on a camping trip without food, water, shelter, or proper shoes and clothing, so you shouldn’t embark on your fitness journey without the proper gear!
Having a few inexpensive basics on hand before you start will be immensely helpful.
Clothing: Make sure you’re comfortable in your clothes. Dressing in practical clothing that is nonrestrictive, breathable, and wicks away sweat can help keep you comfortable and focused on your exercise program. Consider dressing in layers so you can remove them as needed. If you enjoy wearing loose clothing to the gym, ensure you’re not wearing pants that could potentially get trapped in the wheel of a bicycle or snagged on a piece of equipment. Often, people will wear stretchy leggings or shorts that allow for greater movement, or tank tops so that they can observe their upper-body muscles working, helping to solidify that mind-body connection.
Footwear: Having the appropriate footwear depends on the type of activity you’re performing. If you’re running or jogging regularly, invest in a stable, cushioned running shoe. If you’re lifting weights, there are specific flat-soled stable shoes, as well as shoes dedicated for walking, and special shoes just for cycling. Regardless of the activity you choose, it’s important to have the shoes you need. Make sure to also get the right fit! Certain shoes come with extra cushioning
or stability to help prevent injuries, which won’t work properly if the shoe is too tight or too loose. Ask a salesperson at your local specialty shoe store to help you ensure you have the proper fit.
Weight lifting and other gym accessories: Consider getting a pair of weight lifting gloves to help you grip the equipment. Not only can gloves help strengthen your grip, but they can minimize calluses, and even support your wrists if you opt for gloves with wrist wraps. Invest in a sturdy gym bag to hold your gym clothes, footwear, water bottle, notebook, and anything else you might need. Bringing your own towels to dry off with or to place on the equipment is also a good idea, as well as a padlock for your locker and flip-flops if you plan to shower.
Music: Lastly, consider getting a pair of headphones or earbuds. There’s nothing more motivating than ramping up the energy of your workout with the fun music of your choice.
Dumbbells and weights: A well-stocked gym will have a full rack of dumbbells in all the weight increments from light (five pounds or lighter) up to very heavy (at least 100 pounds, if not more).
If you’re interested in weight training at home, consider purchasing a small variety of dumbbells, from very light (3 to 5 pounds) up to moderately heavy (20 to 30 pounds), depending on your budget, strength, and goals.
Universal systems: Gyms will often have what’s called a “universal” tree or system, which will be equipped with bars for pull-ups and pull-downs, as well as a cable system. If you have the space in your home and want to purchase one of these combo systems, go for it, but it isn’t necessary. Many exercises can be done at home without much equipment at all.
Resistance bands: These stretchy bands can help you get a great workout at home or in the gym without machines or dumbbells. Used to provide resistance for your muscles, they can help you stretch and become stronger and more flexible.
Stability ball: This ball gives you an unstable surface that can help you work your core even as you work other body parts. Stability balls promote stretching and flexibility, help with balance exercises and can even function as a chair or bench for certain moves.
Extras: Don’t forget how handy a yoga mat can be! Its padded nonslip surface provides exactly what you need for stretching and floor movements. Also, consider getting a jump rope to use for the warm-up portions of your cardio training or for high-intensity interval work. To improvise in a pinch, use cans and water jugs in place of dumbbells, a staircase, or the outdoors instead of equipment, and your own body weight.
Rest and Recovery
To achieve your goals without injuring or overworking yourself, your body needs both short- and long-term recovery periods, as well as active rest.
Short-term recovery is the rest in between sets of exercises and your cool-down period. Just as you do a 5- to 10-minute warm-up before your sets, you should also do a 5- to 10-minute cool-down, letting your heart rate and breathing slow, allowing your body to gently transition into rest mode. Cool-downs can include walking, stretching, balance, flexibility moves, and even yoga.
Long-term recovery refers to the days in between working the muscle group or groups in your body. This rest period is also the time when your muscles grow, as opposed to when you are exercising and tearing the fibres down.
Active recovery may sound counterintuitive, but it simply means engaging in other activities throughout your day. For example, you might play a game of basketball, go golfing or hike with friends on a day that you’re not working out.
Set your bedroom up for optimal sleep by keeping it as dark, quiet, and cool as possible. Ideal sleeping temperatures will vary based on your preferences, but somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees is a good start. If you have trouble sleeping, adding a magnesium supplement to your diet can help, because it calms your central nervous system.
How to Evaluate
Rest: How do you know if you’re getting the right amount of rest? If you are lethargic during the day, it’s probably a sign that you may need to get some additional rest. Try having a bedtime ceremony to mentally prepare your mind and to help your body wind down toward the end of the day.
Soreness: An indication of possible overtraining is muscle soreness. It’s normal for your muscles to be sore the day after you work them and even 48 hours later. However, if soreness persists for longer than three days after your workout, you may need a little extra time to recover.
Motivation: If you find yourself losing your desire to exercise or just going through the motions, you may need an extra day off to renew that internal fire. Revisit some of your goals and “whys,” recharging your internal passion for health and fitness.
Age: As you get older, you may find that you’re not recovering as quickly as you once did, which is completely normal. A good rule of thumb to follow is if the muscles you worked are still sore, give them another day and then revisit the possibility of training.