Although the Zika virus may have cast a shadow on the Summer Olympics this year, we thought this would be a great opportunity to share with you some helpful tips on how to maintain optimal health and improve your own athletic performance, whether you’re an ardent athlete or a weekend warrior.
- Eat a healthy diet. Know the best macronutrient ratio (protein/fats/carbs you consume at each meal and snack) for your body. What makes you feel your best (mood, mental clarity, energy, satiety, etc.)?
- Drink plenty of pure water daily. Avoid sugary electrolyte drinks. A healthy homemade alternative would be 1 quart water, ¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Avoid all sodas, especially diet sodas.
- Consume healthy fats (grass-fed butter, pastured eggs, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, etc.)
- Include raw foods in your diet – eat as many foods as possible in their unprocessed state; typically organic, biodynamic foods that have been grown locally, and are therefore in season (naturally grown fresh vegetables, sun-ripened fruits, etc.).
- Avoid genetically modified foods (soy, corn, canola oil, cottonseed oil, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, sugar from sugar beets, some varieties of zucchini, crookneck squash).
- Optimize your gut flora by consuming fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, etc.).
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption – alcohol is converted by your body to simple sugar that turns into fat. No alcohol consumption is even better, but not always realistic for everyone.
- Post-workout meals do not need to be carbohydrate heavy. It is actually protein that is key to stimulating your insulin response. Insulin increases your muscles’ intake of glucose, which refuels your body.
- Prioritize health and fitness no matter what. Once you build up the habit, it will become more difficult NOT to exercise because you’ve become so conditioned to making it a priority in your life.
- Exercise regularly – find a way to enjoy exercise by doing something you like (sports, boot camps, dance, CrossFit, etc.) so you can look forward to your workouts as opposed to dreading them. Remember, besides the food you eat, exercise is one of the most powerful tools to lower your insulin level to an optimal range. High insulin levels are one of the primary causative factors for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain.
- Consider using fitness apps to track your performance (like Fitbit, or Jawbone Up); cardio-based apps (Pumatrac), all purpose training apps (DailyBurn), marathon training apps (My ASICS), or core training (Runtastic Six Abs Trainer).
- Spend time with like-minded people – if you hang out with friends who are into healthy cooking, want to check out the new healthy restaurants, and want to go bike riding or play a game of soccer – you’ll be more likely to be active as a result. Make healthy living a part of your lifestyle.
- Stay active outside the gym – walk whenever possible, pick active weekend activities, take the stairs, go on active vacations (hiking, skiing, swimming, biking, etc.), move whenever possible because as we all now know – sitting is bad for you!
- Get an appropriate amount of sunlight to optimize your Vitamin D levels (the amount of sun you need to meet your vitamin D requirements varies hugely, depending on your location, your skin type, the time of year, the time of day, and even the atmospheric conditions).
- Get plenty of sleep – most people need 7-8 hours of sleep nightly, and set a regular bed time (consistency is key).
- Manage your stress levels – practice some form of stress management daily (guided imagery, visualization, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, etc.).
- Limit toxic exposures – use eco-friendly household cleaning products, avoid plastic bottles, use environmentally-friendly cosmetic and body products, etc.