Thursday, 4 December 2014

65 Tips to supercharge your health and fitness

If you want to become healthier, there are many different ways that you can achieve this while enriching your health and well being every day.

In fact, here's 65 tips to improve your health and happiness, ranging from a few tips that are more obvious, to others that you may have never heard of before.

Get more sleep

It goes without saying that you're probably sleep deprived or not getting as much sleep as you really need. This is the case for the majority of people and very few people actually sleep as long as they should.

Getting the appropriate amount of sleep helps to avoid weight gain, stress, premature aging, and just keeps you feeling happier and healthier in general though, so it's wise to try and sleep more.

Avoid light before you go to bed

One of the ways you can help yourself to get to sleep easier and have a better quality of sleep is to avoid light exposure before you to bed. Bright lights, especially lighting that is primarily blue, reduce levels of melatonin.

Melatonin is one of the hormones your body uses to promote sleep, and levels of it are naturally influenced by day and night. If you have the lights and TV on at all hours of the day, your body is less likely to realise it's actually night time and it should be winding down.

Wherever possible, switch off all the lights, TV, and don't look at your phone screen at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. If you can't bear to go without a little TV before bed, try amber-tinted glasses to block out the blue spectrum of light. This helps to limit the effects of light exposure and allows you to sleep easier.

Avoid eating right before bed time

Eating before you go to bed is another factor in how well you sleep. Not only does eating before bed potentially result in indigestion and discomfort, but it can also keep you awake. When your body is trying to digest a large meal, sleep is the last thing it plans to do.

Aim to stop eating 1 - 2 hours before you go to sleep, or limit portion sizes and you'll sleep much better as a result.

Relax before bed time

If you go to bed and immediately try to fall asleep right after you've finished working, chances are it will take longer and you'll end up tossing and turning for longer before you actually fall asleep because you're not relaxed. Taking the time to relax before you plan to go to sleep helps get your body ready to go to sleep and makes it easier to do so once you're ready.

Take a multivitamin

Even with a varied diet, many people don't get enough vitamins and minerals for optimum health, and this is compounded if your diet isn't so good or you binge on junk food fairly often. If this is you, a multivitamin can do you a world of good, providing your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best. Not only that, but you'll feel more energetic, less stressed, and ready to take on the world.

Start the day with gentle exercise

Exercising in the morning helps to kick you into action early on, right after you wake up. This exercise should be gentle and isn't meant to exhaust you; it's primarily a way to get motivated and ready for the day.

Drink mineral water

Mineral water, depending on its source, contains beneficial necessary minerals like calcium and magnesium. This is in comparison with tap water, which can contain nasty chemicals like arsenic, perchlorate, and radon. Old pipes that have begun to corrode can even leach lead into tap water, and whilst the high levels of added fluoride benefits your teeth locally, drinking it in the form of water can have side effects for the rest of your body.

Eat more protein

Protein is vital for your body to maintain itself, repair injuries, and gain muscle. On top of this, foods that are higher in protein will make you feel fuller and leave you less likely to binge later or to eat portions that are too large.

Getting enough protein whilst on a diet can even help you avoid losing muscle when calories are cut and you start exercising. You've worked hard for your muscle—you don't want to lose it.

Fidgeting burns calories

Fidgeting burns calories, and if you can't relax in your seat, that might be more of a good thing than you think. Studies show that there is an inverse association between fidgeting and weight gain, meaning that those who fidget more, seem to gain less weight than those who do not. So if you're a chronic fidget and can't relax in your seat, relish in that fact and fidget away.

Drink a glass of orange juice

Orange juice is not only refreshing, but is also high in vitamin C. This vitamin is crucial for the health of your skin, joints, and immune systems. Anyone who avoids fruit may be at risk of a vitamin C deficiency.

Cigarette smokers require more vitamin C than other people too, and there is some belief that the usual recommended amounts of this vitamin may be below what many people really need in general.

In any case, if you plan to take more than 200 mgs per day, you should always see a doctor first. Any more than this dosage would likely offer no further health benefits.

Choose low GI foods

The nutrients and energy from low GI foods are absorbed more slowly over time compared to foods that have a higher GI. They also tend to contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than their counterparts, and are a healthier alternative overall.

Eating low GI foods helps you to avoid blood sugar spikes, crashing later on, and allows you to add more essential nutrients to your diet. Choosing a low GI food could be as simple as choosing wholegrain rye over white bread, basmati rice over white rice, or even eating pasta, which often has a very low GI.

Try basmati rice

Basmati rice is a much tastier alternative to regular white rice, with a slightly firmer texture and a greater propensity towards holding its shape.

Unlike white rice and many other kinds of rice, it is also a low GI food. This means that it will provide sustained energy instead of causing your blood glucose levels to spike. You will remain satisfied and energised for longer and are less likely to suffer a crash later on.

Add basmati to curries, Indian food, stuffed peppers, or even to Western recipes that would normally call for white rice. You may be pleasantly surprised how tasty it is in your favourite foods.

Eat yogurt as a snack

What better snack is there than yogurt? Yogurt is high in protein and calcium, easily digestible, and contains large amounts of beneficial probiotics that can help keep your digestive system running smoothly and even strengthen your immune system. What's more is that it's healthy yet ready to eat, so it can save you time without ruining your diet. It is also a low GI snack option.

HIIT training

HIIT training is a short exercise regime aimed at pushing your body to close to its maximum exertion. This has been shown in studies to have unique health benefits that aren't seen with other types of exercise. Because the regime itself takes little time and can be complemented by your regular workout, most people will have time to try HIIT training.

Eat oily fish like salmon

Oily fish is high in omega 3, and omega 3 is necessary for the health of your brain, heart, and joints. Not only do most people not get enough omega 3 in general, but they also consume too much omega 6, which decreases the benefits of the omega 3 they do get.

These different types of omega fatty acids need to be balanced for maximum benefit. Oily fish like salmon are a tasty and nutritious way of adding more protein and omega 3 to your diet.

Drink less alcohol

If you drink alcohol, it can have benefits for your cardiovascular health because it reduces the risk of blood clots and benefits your heart. This is only in smaller amounts however. Excessive consumption has the opposite effect, as well as many other damaging effects to your body. Try to consume no more than 4 standard drinks, and avoid binge drinking in order to protect your brain, liver, and heart.

Drink red wine

Whilst a small amount of alcohol is beneficial to your health in some ways, red wine differs in that it has many different health benefits beyond its alcohol content due to the numerous antioxidants and other natural plant compounds that help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and may even help you to live longer. Red wine could even be beneficial for fat loss and 1 - 2 glasses are safe and healthy to consume.

Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure

A high blood pressure and high levels of LDL cholesterol are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and a heart attack. For this reason, it is wise to keep an eye on both of these levels. Your doctor can test both your cholesterol and blood pressure and give you a better idea of where you stand, as well as provide assistance to lower levels of these risk factors that are higher than they should be.

Salt isn't evil

Salt, in the form of sodium, whilst frequently demonised in the media, is actually an important nutrient. In the body, sodium acts as an electrolyte and there are severe side effects to a low intake of salt. This all comes down to a matter of concentration.

Whilst too little salt can even cause death, too much salt raises your blood pressure and puts you at risk of a heart attack. The key is to consume around 2000 mg of sodium a day if you're healthy, or less if you have blood pressure problems and your doctor has advised you to limit your intake.

Limit sun exposure

Sunshine on your skin allows your body to produce vitamin D, but that's as far as the benefits go. No amount of sunshine is safe exposure, and every minute you spend out in the sun is putting you at a higher risk of skin cancer and prematurely aging your skin.

Wherever possible, you should try to get your vitamin D from foods or even supplements rather than relying on the sun. Always use sunscreen products when you expect lengthy exposure and you'll significantly decrease your chances of skin cancer whilst maintaining a youthful complexion.

Check your vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is crucial to your mental health as well as your physical health, yet a large proportion of the population is deficient in this necessary nutrient. Without adequate vitamin D, you are at risk for joint problems, osteoporosis, depression, and there is some evidence that a deficiency may even contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Having your vitamin D levels checked regularly is important, and you can take supplements if your vitamin D is low.

Use your brain daily

Your brain can't be exercised in the same way as the rest of your body, but it's just as important to exercise this organ daily. Solving problems, calculating figures, playing thought games, and reading are all easy ways to strengthen your brain and maintain its health.

Doing so could even help maintain your memory and intelligence later in life. Even video games are a good way to keep your brain active and properly exercised.

Reduce your sugar intake

Sugar can cause many problems for the body beyond weight gain. It damages your teeth, lowers insulin sensitivity, and causes you to feel run down and fatigued if you consume too much. This isn't to say that you should avoid all sugar like the plague, but rather, to reduce your intake to a healthier level and you will see the benefits in your energy levels, as well as your waist line.

Walk to work

If you work in an office or any other job that leaves you sitting down at a computer for most of the day, you're not getting much exercise.

Walking to work is an easy way to lose weight, improve your fitness, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and offset the negative effects of a lifestyle that is overly sedentary. What's even better is that it will save you money on fuel or transportation.

Of course, this requires you to actually be somewhat close to your workplace. Walking 10 miles to work and back isn't on the agenda for most people. If your workplace is located far away, you may be able to park your car on the way to work and walk the rest of the distance in order to get your exercise without having to run a marathon to the office.

Eat a healthy breakfast

A healthy breakfast is the cornerstone to getting the most out of every day. When you first wake up, your body has been fasting for about 8 hours and it really needs a good supply of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water to ease it back into operational mode and get you primed to perform at your best.

Eat pasta for breakfast

What's that you say? Pasta for breakfast? It sounds strange as it's not the most conventional breakfast food, but pasta is a nutritionally dense, high protein, low GI food and is well suited to breakfast meals.

Eating a low GI food like pasta can help keep you feeling full and nourished all the way into lunchtime, whilst giving you the energy to perform at your best.

Eat smaller portions

Eating smaller portions, but more often, is one of the easiest ways to provide your body with more sustained energy, prevent bloating, and to give your body more chance to effectively use the nutrients you consume.

Drink green tea

Green tea is beneficial to your health in a few ways. The antioxidants in green tea help to fight aging, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and even help you boost your metabolism.

Theanine in tea serves to calm your mind and reduce stress, supporting your mental health and working in unison with the other active ingredients in green tea to help you think clearer, and feel healthier.

Add garlic to food

Garlic is known for its strong smell and taste, but did you know it also benefits your immune system? Eating garlic is known to help strengthen the immune system and even prevent colds and flu, as well as other illnesses.

Research also suggests that garlic can lower your cholesterol when eaten or taken as a dried extract, making it a powerful natural ingredient that enhances the flavour of your food and your health at the same time.

Eat a steak

Red meat like steak is somewhat shunned these days because of the saturated fat content. Studies have failed to draw the conclusion that saturated fat itself is a significant risk factor for heart disease recently though.

Whilst it may not be the healthiest type of fat compared to unsaturated fats, which actually improve cardiovascular health, it is not likely to be detrimental to your heart.

This means that you can feel free to enjoy a steak if you want, and doing so brings with it the benefits of the protein, iron, zinc, B12, and other nutrients that are difficult to get enough of without red meat. For best results, choose a cut like scotch fillet or filet mignon as these cuts are leaner and more tender.

Eat balanced meals

Many people eat meals that aren't balanced and only include one or two of the key macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Ensuring that your larger meals contain a balance of these nutrients is the key to good health as well as feeling satisfied after a meal.

When planning meals, look at the types of ingredients you're using. If you're having a serve of potato bake for dinner, does this incorporate protein rather than just carbohydrates and fat? Can you reduce the serving size and add in some lean meat, lentils, or another source of protein as a side? Better still, can you reduce the amount of fat in the potato bake or use potatoes that have a lower GI?

These are all ways to eat meals that are more balanced and once you start looking at meals in the sense that they incorporate all of the three primary nutrients, you'll notice the benefits.

Build more muscle

Building more muscle is good for your health, appearance, and self esteem. It also acts to burn more calories even at rest, and the resistance exercise used to gain muscle is itself a great workout that burns many calories and continues to burn calories over the rest of the day as the muscles begin to repair themselves from the exertion.

Try a whey protein shake

Whey protein is one of the best and easiest ways to get more protein, especially if you're a vegetarian or can't afford quality lean meat. Whey protein shakes made from whey protein isolate are even very low in fat and carbohydrates, so they can provide a supply of relatively pure protein without the nutrients you may not need, whereas whey protein concentrate and regular whey protein are a more balanced source of every kind of nutrient.

As a source of protein, whey is high in all the essential amino acids, easily digestible, rapidly absorbed, and can be mixed up in anything from water or juice to milk, or used in cooking to make high protein cookies and other healthy recipes.

Consume protein before bed

When you go to sleep, you're about to embark on an extended period of fasting where your body starts to repair and maintain itself. It needs protein to do this, and if your protein intake is low, or you don't consume enough of it at the right times, this will impact this process and reduce your body's ability to repair damage.

Taking protein before you go to bed is the best way to give your body what it needs to maintain itself, as well as ensure your body has an ample supply of amino acids to produce hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which are crucial for your mental health and well being.

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