In today’s world most of us face a very demanding professional lifestyle but still, one way or another, no matter how many barriers we face we can have our body in an optimum physical condition. And we can do this not only to achieve a better physical appearance but also to reduce stress and enjoy a healthier life. This will improve our performance in our diverse everyday activities like our job (either in an office or in the street), and in our relationships with our couple, our family and our friends.
How we can follow an adequate diet every day
No matter how many responsibilities we face everyday we can give ourselves a couple of minutes to eat 5 or 6 small adequately balanced meals (either solid or liquid), which will accelerate our metabolism and provide our body with a better capacity to process foods efficiently and use fats as a source of energy. The reason why eating 5 or 6 small meals everyday accelerates our metabolism is because our body spends energy in “each” process of digestion, absorption and storage of food.
For example, what I do everyday is to leave from home in the morning with a suitcase filled with “tuppers and all sort of recipients” to be capable of following my diet in a very strict manner form Monday to Saturday. This is an everyday burden but I assure you it does make the difference (especially in your budget, because preparing 5 or 6 home meals are usually going to be much cheaper than eating outside). I know this might seem ridiculous to some of you who already have to carry a suitcase filled with a Laptop, books, or something else, but I am sure that if I can do it you can do it too. Besides, carrying a suitcase with your everyday meals will make you burn more calories and it might actually make you look more interesting… in my case carrying 2 suitcases makes me look like… say… an elite gangster.
Another thing most of you might be thinking is “how am I going to eat on my way to a meeting or in the middle of it?” Well, that’s where your creativity comes into play. For example, you can put a meal replacement powder in a recipient so when it is necessary you just add water, shake it, and drink it in less than a minute. I am sure most of you can excuse yourself from a meeting for just one minute (just as some people go to the bathroom, or take a very important phone call outside of the meeting room). I actually never let my body stay for more than 3 hours without receiving a meal. Even when I cannot leave the meeting room for some reason I actually sometimes eat a shake in front of the people I am dealing with (when I go to supervise a brokerage firm) and they actually feel very interested into my lifestyle. When they ask me what I am drinking and for what reason, and I tell them, most of them say they are going to start doing something similar to achieve a better physical shape (well, that’s what they say in front of me… you know, I am the financial authority in that case…). By the way, when I was younger and I did not have enough money to buy supplements I used to prepare a shake with 120 grams of tuna in water and that was my “home made supplement” for one or two of my daily meals, so a tight budget is not a valid excuse.
Anyway, it’s a fact that if we don’t feed our body several times throughout the day it gets used to store anything we eat as fat, to get the energy resource we don’t provide it in a sufficient and continuous manner. This happens because our body is not designed to look the best (“the look” is actually something very subjective which changes every couple of decades, and human evolution takes much more than that), our body is designed to survive (like most living species in the planet). And if we don’t feed our body several times during the day it enters in a certain stage of “survival mode” because it is not sure when it is going to have available food again, and starts to store fat, just as any person would store groceries in the event of a catastrophe because they are not sure when they are going to have available food again.
So feeding your body 5 or 6 times a day = utilizing the food you eat as a source of energy and providing your body of a way to avoid fat storage. Of course the quality of the foods you eat during the day is extremely important, and I will address this issue later on.
How we can exercise and still have time to do the rest of our daily activities
Having covered the issue of what to do to maintain an adequate diet every day (which is extremely important because without this everything else will not work well) let’s see how to exercise and still have time to do “everything else”. Now, have in mind that obviously in a 24 hour day dedicating time for exercise means taking away time from other activities. So having time to do “everything else” is a matter of priorities (which depend on each of us) and here I just mention a way to administer your daily professional schedule in an efficient manner (like I do) to be capable of exercising every day, but if going window shopping to a mall is one of your top priorities (which I doubt if you are reading an article in this website) then I cannot help you.
If we administer our schedule in an efficient way we can definitely find at least between 30 and 60 minutes, from 3 to 5 days a week, to do exercise (meaning cardio, weights or both). This will accelerate even more our metabolism (like eating 5 or 6 meals a day instead of just 2 or 3) and will help us develop our muscles. I personally have a bicycle in my bedroom and I wake up every day to do at least 30 minutes of cardio from Monday to Saturday, on an empty stomach before doing anything else (to take advantage of the morning low glycogen stores in my body to burn more fat). It doesn’t matter if some days I have to wake up earlier as long as I do my cardio. And at the same time I watch the news to get informed about what is going on the world or just watch some music videos if I a feel tired.
Now, the benefit of doing cardio on an empty stomach is quite debatable but it has worked wonders for me. What some people criticize about this method is that because of the low glycogen stores in your body, it will burn fat “and muscle” as a source of energy. In my case I go to sleep and leave a recipient with protein powder (no carbs and no fat) next to my bed, and if I wake up for any reason in the middle of the night (to go to the bathroom, or just because) I put water in it, shake it, and drink it (that day I would be ingesting 7 meals). This makes me feel that I am giving my body enough protein to avoid wasting muscle (and remember the mind is so powerful that what you truly believe is very likely to happen). Now, don’t get me wrong here, I don’t wake up to drink the shake, I drink the shake “if” I wake up (because sleeping deeply enough is an integral part of recovering from a stressful day, so I don’t interrupt my sleep intentionally).
Anyway, what works best for me is doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach but I advice people to experience different methods for a couple of weeks and see which work best for them. Some other methods you could try are:
1. Ingesting a protein shake immediately when you wake up before doing cardio to have something in your stomach (still with no carbs and no fat).
2. Doing cardio after weight training (when your glycogen stores are also very low and your body turns to fat as a source of energy).
3. Doing cardio after eating any normal meal to feel energized and ready to “run for miles”. I personally don’t like this method because the reason I do cardio is to burn fat and stay lean, and I am a firm believer that when you exercise with a full stomach your body uses first what you have in your digestive system before turning to fat stores.
Another benefit I have found of doing cardio first thing in the morning is that it makes me feel much more energized during the day (because of an accelerated metabolism, and a sense of discipline and accomplishment), compared to the energy I could get from any additional rest (this doesn’t mean that enough sleep hours are not important, it just means that they are not an excuse to avoid exercising in the morning).
On another issue, we can find additional ways during the day to force our body to burn more calories without having to use an exercise machine. Here are some examples:
1. We can use the stairs and avoid the elevator as much as possible (of course I am not talking about going up 48 floors and arriving to a meeting all sweaty and stinky).
2. We can walk to a colleague’s office to talk about an issue instead of addressing it by phone. Actually, standing from your work place form time to time refreshes your mind so much that you usually come back with new ideas. And, of course, I am not promoting standing up to “chat and waste work time” I am promoting standing up to address a “work related issue” in person.3. We can also try to walk as much as possible instead of taking a ride.
Finally, In the case of people like me who like working out with weights, I personally find it very satisfying to go to the gym at night, after all my everyday activities, because this way I can take out all of the stress accumulated from my daily professional lifestyle (instead of taking it home). Believe me when I tell you that supervising daily operations that take place in the Mexican securities market is usually very stressful, so it’s either going to the gym or beating the hell out of anyone who crosses my path… And another benefit from visiting the gym at the end of my day is that I don’t feel the pressure of having to finish as quickly as possible to arrive to the office on time (because of potential traffic). Anyway, I still try to keep my workouts intense and do sessions of less than 60 minutes, to prevent my body from releasing “cortisol” and burning my hard-earned muscles as a source of energy (to further avoid this I take Glutamine immediately after any workout – weights or cardio – and also take 3 grams of vitamin C every day in divided doses of 1 gram with meals).
How we can keep ourselves motivated to reach our goals
To keep our motivation (and not give up) we have to focus on clear and realistic goals that we can achieve in 1 or 2 months, so when we achieve these we can substitute them for new ones. For example, some clear and realistic goals are to lower one size our waist measurement, to improve our physical condition and be capable of doing cardio for 10 more minutes, or to increase 5% our strength in the gym. Now, we have to distinguish between short term and long term goals to achieve them efficiently.
Short Term Goals
To achieve our objectives in the short term we have to start by gradually introducing small improvements in our eating habits. Here are some main improvements to take care of:
1. Substituting soda and other drinks with simple water. This might be difficult at the beginning but in the long term most of you are going to find very satisfying to drink just simple water (your muscles will actually feel much fuller, and your body much healthier). This is exactly what happened to me because now even on Sunday (my cheat day – I will explain this latter) I just like to drink simple water (I personally drink around 1 gallon of water throughout any given day).
2. Knowing which type of fats to avoid completely. I personally just eat avocado and EPA and DHA (Omega-3 fatty acids), and keep my fat intake to 20% of my daily calories (I don’t advice going lower than this percentage because it negatively affects your hormone balance).
3. Knowing what is the ideal quantity of protein to consume. This issue is very debatable because some people believe that if you take too much protein you will just cause damage to your kidneys without developing any more muscle. In my case I usually weight around 80 kg (176 lb) and I have found beneficial to include between 30 and 40 grams of protein in each of my meals (depending on which meal). And what I personally do is to take a blood test to monitor my kidney and liver values (and general health) at least every 3 months. I know this is a cost but I rather pay it with my money than pay it with my health. I have been eating protein like this for around 10 years and I have never had a kidney problem. What you really have to realize is that the sole fact of eating a lot of protein is very unlikely to hurt your kidneys, but if you already have a kidney disease they most likely won’t tolerate the extra amount of protein. Another thing you have to realize is that eating too much of anything will make your body store the excess calories as fat. I have personally made changes in my protein intake, leaving everything else constant, and have found that eating 250 calories more of protein everyday during two weeks (above my normal consumption) does indeed make me loose some quality under my skin.
4. Knowing at which time of the day is better to ingest each type of carbohydrate. This has to do with the glycemic index of each carbohydrate and its effect on insulin, and the general rule is that the lower the glycemic index of a carbohydrate it is usually the better. Why? Because for any type of food containing carbohydrate the lower that the glycemic index is, the slower that the food gets digested and absorbed into your body. This leads to a more gradual and stable raise of glucose in your blood and a more gradual release of insulin in your body (because insulin is the hormone that is released to lower the glucose level in your blood, which rises when you eat carbs). Now, a rapid insulin release is beneficial only in two occasions during the day: In your first meal and in the meal after you exercise. This is because at those two times of the day the glycogen stores in your body are so low that when insulin is released to lower the glucose level in your blood it does so by storing it as glycogen in your muscles (and in the liver). In any other case (when the glycogen stores of your body are already relatively full) the release of insulin can only lower the glucose in your blood by storing it in fat cells (and very few people want that). Anyway, something to keep in mind is that eating carbs with a low glycemic index means that the glucose level in your blood will rise slowly, but this doesn’t mean that you can indiscriminately eat more of those carbs because increasing the quantity ingested of a low glycemic index carb will also increase the glucose level in your blood (just not as fast). I personally eat cero fat corn tortillas all day long (because of their very low glycemic index) and just add one sweet fruit in my first morning meal. I know this sounds crazy and extreme but it is what I have found to give me the best results (some people say I am the difference between discipline and obsession…). Personally, because I workout with weights at night, when I am in a cutting regime I just eat fish and green vegetables after exercising, and only when I am in a bulking regime I eat carbs after exercising. When I am in a cutting regime I avoid eating carbs at least during my last 2 meals of the day (I eat 6 times a day), because if I eat carbs a few hours before going to sleep my body probably won’t have time to exhaust them as energy and will store them as fat. Besides, my last meal consists entirely of protein to avoid inhibiting nocturnal Growth Hormone secretion, because a high blood glucose level promotes the release of insulin (and this hormone inhibits GH secretion). Finally, another fact is that rapid changes in the blood glucose level make you tired, so any of you who has felt very tired after eating a meal was because of the rapid changes in the glucose level of your blood (which means that after that particular meal you where most likely storing fat…). So another benefit from avoiding sudden increases in the glucose level of your blood is that you will have a more stable level of energy throughout the day.
Long Term Goals
To efficiently reach our goals in the long term we have to know how to accurately follow our progress. For example, I personally weight myself and take measurements of all my body parts every Sunday morning. I do this to see if I made any improvements during the week (or the opposite) and take action next week according to my results. I also take a picture on Sunday evening (every couple of weeks) to try to detect any visible changes (positive or negative). I do this on Sunday because that is always the only day of the week I do not exercise at all, and if I take the picture any other day my body is going to show a size difference depending on which body part I trained that day. By the way, when I am in a cutting regime Sunday is also my “cheat day”, the only day of the week when I eat whatever I want (meaning any type of food, not any quantity OK?), and when I am in a bulking regime I add Thursday as a cheat day too.
I deeply consider that having a “cheat day” at least once a week is extremely healthy for your body and especially for you mind, since following a strict regime forever is like being in a permanent nightmare. I personally once tried an everyday diet program for 4 months and the result was that at the end I did have an extremely fit body, but at the cost that when I finally couldn’t hold that regime anymore I went like crazy eating any junk food I found in my way (and lost in a matter of days the quality a had achieved in months). To get the picture just imagine how a heroin addict would feel when taking another dose of drug after months of rehab… he would most likely not have enough willpower to stop, right? By having a “cheat day” once a week I actually don’t feel “the urge to cheat” during the other days, and can keep that regime for as long as I want. Besides, during the days of the week when I take care of my diet I actually look forward for my “cheat day” to see if I made any progress in my measurements and to reward myself with any type of delicious food. Again, I really mean “any type of food” and not “any quantity of food” OK? This means that on your “cheat day” you should eat any type of food you want but still restrict your daily calorie intake. For example, in my cutting regime I normally eat 2,200 calories everyday (yes, I do weight and measure everything I eat) so I definitely don’t completely loose myself to eat 8,800 calories on my “cheat day”. When I do eat so much I find myself having to wait until Friday or Saturday to achieve my fit look again, which means that in that particular week I won’t make any new progress, and that is definitely not a good incentive (unless I am extremely ripped and shredded already).
All the small gradual improvements I mentioned, like giving our body only the necessary nutrients through out the day to maintain a stable energy level and avoid accumulating fat, will definitely help our body achieve a better shape. There are really no insuperable barriers to achieve a better physical appearance which will make us feel and look younger and healthier, and will actually help us improve our performance in our diverse everyday activities. We just have to focus on clear and realistic goals, have the necessary discipline to achieve them, and adequately follow our progress to keep ourselves motivated.