Optimal fitness is not something that just happens by accident. If you spend a little bit of time around people in great shape, you will notice that they live their life slightly differently to most.
See, going to the gym is just the start of it. That alone is not likely to be enough to give you an amazing body, superior strength, athletic performance and be an all-around badass. This fitness jive is a lifestyle. To really get the most out of your body, you need a lifestyle that supports your fitness goals.
Here I will describe the main lifestyle components that you can ‘hack’ to maximize your fitness – the ideal life practices for achieving superior fitness and physiques.
Refine Your Nutritional Support
I’m sure this one is not a revelation for you. To get the most out of your efforts in the gym, you need to be eating to support that. I will quickly overview the important parts and the practicalities of how to make this work in your lifestyle.
We need to consider what our goals are before establishing the right eating plan. Clearly a guy looking to bulk up and gain muscle mass is not going to do the same thing as someone who is trying to lose weight and slim down.
If you want to lose weight – you need a slight caloric deficit. Not too large because it will lower your metabolism and increase stress levels, making it harder to lose weight in the long term, while causing you to lose muscle mass rather than fat in the short term.
One of the easiest ways to control what you eat and ensure you’re not hungry is to lower your carbohydrates. Carbs tend to set off our hunger hormones (ghrelin), encouraging us to eat more. Focusing on eating sufficient protein to maintain muscle mass, enough essential fats for proper hormonal function and bulking out with veggies to meet all of your nutrient needs is a simple and easy weight loss strategy.
Meanwhile, if you want to gain muscle or strength – you need a slight caloric surplus. Again, the easiest way to achieve this is by manipulating carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate rich foods are often energy dense and not as filling as high protein/fat foods; making it easier to eat a lot of them. Couple this with a higher than average protein intake to build muscle and strength.
To make eating the right way easier you can pre-prepare your meals, perhaps at the weekend; spend a couple of hours cooking and getting meals ready for the rest of the week, so that the works is already done and you don’t have to worry about it when you are pushed for time or tired around your work schedule.
Other useful tips for getting control of your nutrition are:
- Have the fridge and cupboards stocked with the foods you want to eat, getting rid of everything you are trying to avoid.
- Get to know convenient eateries near your home and work so that you can get good food in a pinch.
- Finally, have some rules that you abide by, such as always eating a protein and veg based meal before allowing yourself sweet treats.
Recovery is Where the Magic Happens
You don’t progress while you are in the gym. You’re actually breaking your body down and it is during the recovery phase you come back stronger, fitter, leaner, bigger. Get the best recovery to get the best progress.
This means nutrition – which we already covered, sleep, stress management, treatments, mobility and physical recovery.
While you are asleep the body regenerates and grows. The muscles need to recover and repair after a workout, to heal the micro-tears that occur during training, each time growing back slightly stronger.
Stress needs to be managed because it impacts your hormones and sleep quality. Hormonally, stress hormones cause weight gain and muscle wasting, while opposing muscle building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone.
To manage stress, ensure that you are getting a good night’s sleep in a pitch black room, getting adequate sunlight during the day and taking time to do things that you enjoy. Everyone should have a daily practice of doing something that de-stresses them, such as meditation, working out or walking in nature. It’s very easy in our ever-connecting world to be always ‘tapped in’ to work and social media, never taking any down time. You’ve probably never considered how this affects your body, but it does and it’s an easy way to improve your results in the gym with a small amount of effort, that will actually be making life better in every sense.
Take Control of Your Habits
We are defined by our behaviors and the majority of our behavior is habitual. If you want to live a healthy, fit lifestyle, it must be supported by the right habits. This is something you will always see in those people who are successful with their fitness. They don’t really think about it or have to exert any effort, it just happens naturally for them. This could be the same for you – you can take control of your habits and make the fitness lifestyle effortless.
First things first, you need a clear vision of where you are going and why – what does it mean to you? Digging deep in to the emotional reasons for improving your fitness; to build confidence, live a long and healthy life with your kids, etc.
When you have vision it is much easier to do the day to day stuff, because you have a clear connection to why you are doing it. Maintain consistency and you will see progress. Progress makes you feel good, which motivates you more and you get in to a positive feedback loop. Eventually it becomes second nature and you default to doing all of these things without thinking about it.
There you have a few simple but important ways to realign your lifestyle for optimal fitness and success in your health and physique. Give them all a consideration and you will see your results sky-rocket, even without changing your routine or adding more time in the gym.