“No one but you determines your success in life. Making the right choices paves the way.” –Lou Holtz
Here are ten simple strategies you can use this week to make better choices and be healthier and fitter. These are research supported tips you can do immediately to increase your energy, lose fat, build muscle, develop stamina, run faster, and get rid of chronic pain.
1.) Make Yourself More Alkaline: Put Lime in Your Water
The more alkaline you are, the more anti-catabolic you are and the less cortisol you’ll produce. Having a healthy pH that is more alkaline is critical because without the correct pH blood level, the body’s enzymes can’t function, negatively impacting protein synthesis. In fact, studies show that low pH levels lead to diminished protein building, a major concern for anyone striving for high energy and a lean physique. The simplest way to shift your pH up towards alkaline is to always drink water with lime in it. Lemon is okay if lime is not available.
Eating lots of green vegetables will also help you be more alkaline. Training-wise, research shows that recovery and cool-down will help you manage pH as well. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that a long 9-minute recovery at low intensity (27 percent of max intensity) maximized lactate removal and alkaline pH levels following sprint intervals. A short-recovery for 4.5 minutes at an intensity of 38 percent of max was not nearly as effective. The key is probably the longer recovery time rather than the relatively insignificant difference in active rest intensity. This highlights the value of cool down even when strength training to clear lactic acid and take advantage of the anabolic work you completed.
2.) Include High Set/High Volume Cycles in Your Training
Just as everyone (ladies too) will benefit from lifting heavier weights, performing lots of sets for a high volume is essential for strength building and body composition. Don’t believe the myth that you only need to perform one or two sets to get gains—you’ll get much greater relative gains with four-plus sets.
A new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that training 8-sets to failure at a heavy weight (80 percent 1RM) was much more effective at eliciting rapid and large strength gains than 1 or 4 sets. By the end of the study the 1-set group improved 1RM squat performance by 17 kgs compared to the 4-set group that improved by 22 kgs, and the 8-set group that improved by a whopping 37 kgs. High set, high volume training will also support fat loss and body composition improvements because it will elevate growth hormone and support an anabolic environment.
3.) Increase Carnitine Intake: Lose Fat, Have More Energy, Train Harder
Carnitine is awesome because it is one of those nutrients that will make numerous improvements in your life and health. Carnitine is found in high-protein foods including beef, lamb, fish, poultry, and milk—all foods that can support a lean and strong body composition. Carnitine is a potent fat burner because it is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body.
Only recently have exercise scientists proven that muscle carnitine levels can be elevated through nutrition and that doing so will increase high-intensity performance, while lowering the athletes’ perception of difficulty of the exercise. This study published in the Journal of Physiology clarified the fact that in order for carnitine to “load” into the muscle and have an effect on performance and fat burning it must be accompanied by other nutrients that raise insulin—either carbs or omega-3s. Be aware that increasing your carnitine intake will not only lead to fat loss and better performance, it will support brain function, prevent oxidative stress, and fight chronic inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease.
4.) Avoid BPA: Use Glass or BPA-Free Plastic
Minimize your exposure to BPA and other toxic chemicals by being strategic about your plastic use. BPA is a chemical used to make plastic and other products, and there is an abundance of evidence that it is toxic for humans and animals. BPA is an estrogenic, meaning it mimics estrogen in the body and binds to estrogen hormone receptors. When it is ingested, BPA can influence endocrine response—essentially, it alters hormone levels in both women, men, and kids.
The easiest way to avoid it is to buy a BPA-free plastic or glass water bottle. Ditch your plastic tupperware for glass containers. Yes, they are heavier and breakable, but with a little care, you’ll be healthier and less toxic. At the very least, never microwave a plastic food container because it is at high temperatures that BPA most effectively leaches from plastic. Also, don’t take receipts because almost half of paper receipts contain BPA—there’s evidence that cashiers have very high BPA levels.
5.) Set Goals: This Gives You Control
Set goals that are well-defined and can be measured. Goal setting allows you to clarify what changes need to be made in your behavior to improve your life. If you make a concrete goal of losing five pounds of body fat in two months, you can identify how you intend to reach your goal and visualize all possible obstacles that may keep you from reaching it. Those obstacles can be addressed in advance, and you can adjust your plan accordingly. The key is to set indicators for the areas of your life that are important, whether it’s training, business, or financial. If your indicators are stalled, what you are doing is not working!
By setting that concrete goal with indicators, you take control of process. It’s not just “I want to lose weight by summer, or I want to eat healthier, or lift more weight.” For example, if you want to be able to deadlift double your body weight, set that as a goal. Look at your training program—is it a strength building program or have you been lifting for body composition? Plan your training with incremental goals to be reached by certain dates, and adjust if you don’t make the short-term increases. Go into the weight room with the mindset that you must make an improvement somewhere. Don’t let a day go by without getting better at something—you can almost always add a quarter of a kilo or perform an extra set. And if for some reason you can’t, take the experience as a motivation to make gains tomorrow.
6.) Start A Grateful Log and Fill it in Daily
A grateful log is a notebook or a calendar in which you write down one thing that you were grateful for during your day. I suggest doing it before bed every single day. Once you get in the habit of writing down one thing daily, you can work up to ten things or a full page. I use this as a strategy to calm the mind and shift my attitude positively before going to sleep. It prevents the mind from racing during the night and enriches your quality of sleep.
If you practice goal setting, a part of thinking about what your grateful for can be identifying how you might like to improve tomorrow. This is about what is important to you. It can be as simple as making training gains, or being kind to someone you encounter.
7.) Eliminate Gluten and Fried Starches
Eliminate gluten and fried starches such as French fries for better body composition and health. Even if you’re not allergic to gluten, you’ll be so much better off if you eliminate it because most foods with gluten are high-carb, high-glycemic, and even though they cause an insulin spike, they aren’t well digested. Depending on your level of tolerance for gluten, it can cause a wide variety of other health problems including weakness, anemia, malnutrition, osteoarthritis, bone disorders, stomach cancer, and abdominal bloating to name a few—all problems that will trip you up if you want to be at your best.
Starches such as potatoes should also be avoided because they contain a substance called acrylamide, which when fried or heated at a temperature above 120 degrees F, is released in high quantities. Acrylamide is a neurotoxin that modifies endocrine release and the binding of hormone receptors. If you eat French fries, potato chips and baked products (that also contain gluten), you’ll ingest high quantities of acrylamide, which can have a poisonous effect on the body. Acrylamide is particularly bad for the brain and it has been shown to cause muscle deterioration as well.
By removing starches and gluten foods from your diet, you’ll not be less toxic, but you’ll have better digestion, be at less risk of disease, and have a better body composition. To begin removing gluten, stop eating bread, sweets (pastries, cookies), and anything that has wheat in it. Opt for foods that say they are gluten- and wheat-free—more and more restaurants and food producers are offering gluten-free options.
8.) Get Green Tea: More Benefits Than You Can Imagine
Green tea is well known for being a fat burner—which it does do but you’re not going to drop pounds by drinking green tea—and it’s an even better detoxifier and protects against the ills of inflammation. Green tea contains high-powered antioxidants called catechins that do a great job at neutralizing free radicals in the body. Catechins are particularly effective at protecting the liver from damage due to alcohol. A study in the journal Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry found that green tea extract almost eradicated oxidative stress and damage to the liver from alcohol intake in rats.
If you’re planning on drinking this holiday season, take a green tea supplement to get a high content of antioxidants. For general health, drinking green tea can be beneficial as well although catechin content in brewed tea does not compare to the highly concentrated amount available in supplements. Other health benefits include protection against oxidative stress from UVB rays and less chronic inflammation from a high-cholesterol diet. Green tea can also prevent bone loss, and improve insulin health. Plus toothpaste, mouthwash, and gum containing green tea can protect the gums.
9.) Abolish Fatigue with Tea: Thyme and Rosemary Tea Is My Secret
An excellent way to fight fatigue and boost the brain is to brew organic tea out the herbs thyme and rosemary. This tea blend is useful when you need to energize the brain late in the day because it will help you concentrate and focus, but it will also allow you to go to sleep. The essential oils in thyme and rosemary will wake you up, but they don’t contain caffeine or stimulants, allowing you to wind down quickly and get restful sleep.
These herbs also kill bad gut bacteria including candida, which will contribute to better brain function because over two-thirds of the neurotransmitters are made in the gut. By fixing your gut health, you’ll boost your brain function, which will make you more motivated so that you can train harder and have a better physique!
10.) Do Sprints or Energy System Training
Perform sprint intervals or energy system training to boost fat burning and improve conditioning. Aerobic training is not effective for weight loss according to numerous research studies, but high-intensity training that stresses the short-term energy system is. Additionally, it trains more fast-twitch fibers making you more powerful and is superior for improving conditioning.
The simplest way to do energy system training is to do sprint intervals outside on a track. Sprint hill running is another option, and if your only choice is to use cardio equipment, you can perform sprints on a rowing machine, treadmill, or bike. The rowing machine is the best option because it is not electrically powered and won’t expose you to “dirty electricity” or an electromagnetic field that has been shown to lower insulin sensitivity.
A second option is to perform a circuit of two exercises that work opposite muscle groups (deadlift and lunges, or chest press and bent over rows, for example). Perform each one for thirty seconds, switching back and forth between with no rest for a set amount of time. You can start with ten minutes and work up from there. A third option is to perform a circuit with some sort of high-intensity exercise such as the following: 10 burpees, 10 squats, and 10 chin-ups. Start with three rounds with no rest and go from there.