Yesterday I asked myself what would some simple, practical, and rational fitness and nutrition tips be that I could share. This morning, I gave birth to this article.
It’s a collection of things that have helped me and my clients over the years. If you’d like to hear more common sense tips that are not so common, please let me know here. I’ve got a lot more of these and am happy to share.
Hopefully one or two of these bad boys helps you out on your journey.
Never two in a row
This is my favorite tip of them all. If you have to pick only one from this list, make it this one.
- Miss a workout? Cool, just not two in a row.
- Eat a shitty meal? Cool, just not two in a row.
Do something, anything.
Can’t get your full workout in? Cool, just get in half, one set of everything, the first exercise, 10 push-ups, or walk to the mailbox and back. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something.
Can’t get your healthy meal in? Cool, just make sure you have a serving of protein with it, or veggies, or a glass of water. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do something to keep you in the game.
Make one decision to eliminate future decisions
- Sign-up for a meal service so you don’t have to think about meal planning and prepping for a few meals each week.
- Use the 1-2-3 meal planning method
- Rotate the same 3 to 5 meals
- Set reminders to eat so you don’t allow yourself to get too hungry
- Alternate every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water
- Hire a coach to focus on your training and nutrition so you can focus on other things
- Go on a 5 to 10-minute walk after each meal (or at least one of them)
- Spend one day a week scheduling in your workouts
- In the evening ask yourself if you have any challenges tomorrow and plan for them
Make the thing you want to do easier to do and the things you want to do less of harder to do
In, James Clear’s book Atomic Habits he talks about 4 important factors for building better habits and breaking bad ones.
#1: Make it obvious
- Use implementation intentions: “I will (behavior) at (time) in (location)”
- Use habit stacking: “After (habit you already have), I will (new habit you want to build).”
- Design your environment: Make the things you want to do more of obvious, visible, and easy to get to (as little friction as possible)
#2: Make it attractive
- Use temptation bundling: Pair an action you WANT to do with an action you NEED to do. Or an action you ENJOY doing with the one you DON’T
- Join a community where the desired habit or behavior is normal (i.e. walking club/group)
- Motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy before and after doing something you find difficult
#3: Make it easy
- Reduce friction: Decrease the number of steps between you and the action/habit
- Two-minute rule: Reduce habits so they can be done in 2-minutes or less
- Automate your habits: Invest in technology and one-time purchases that unlock your intended behavior.
#4: Make it satisfying
- Reward: Give yourself a reward that supports your habit after completing it
- Streaks: Keep track of how consistent you are but don’t aim for perfection aim for 80% (i.e. walking 8,000 steps 24 days out of 30)
And for the habits, you want to break do the exact opposite. Make them invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying.
Health and fitness as a dial and not an on and off switch
When you’ve got a lot going on it can feel like you can’t give a 100% to your fitness and nutrition, which can be frustrating. You might be thinking if I can’t give it 100% why even bother? Maybe you end up flipping the “fitness switch” to off for a bit and when things settle down, you’ll flip it back on.
There’s never a “perfect time” to pour our energy into our health and fitness. Sure, things may settle down a bit but that’s only until the next challenge presents itself.
Today, create your health and fitness dial.
- Step 1: Consider your exercise and nutrition
- Step 2: Ask, “What’s the absolute MOST I could do?” That’s your 10.
- Step 3: Ask, “What’s the absolute LEAST?” There’s your 1.
- Step 4: Use 1 and 10 to fill in the other points on the dial.
- Step 5: Refer to your dial when life gets busy (or slows down!).
Lean into your discomfort (practice the hard things)
The minute I catch myself saying I don’t want to do something. I can’t do anything. I don’t have the ability to do something.
That’s the moment I know I need to go and do that thing. I need to change the narrative. The invisible script (or limiting belief) that keeps me from growing.
I can’t. I won’t. I don’t have the ability. I could never. I just don’t have the time.
Now turn into…
I can. I will. I do have the ability. I can now. I make the time.
Small steps like this slowly help you create a new identity for yourself. You get to change the narrative. Rewrite your story.
It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. If you don’t like veggies, just eat a single piece of broccoli at a meal. If you hate meditating, try it for 1-minute.
Our proudest moments often come from overcoming obstacles.
Where is my protein?
This is important for maintaining muscle when you’re in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight and body fat. Protein when combined with resistance or strength training helps to keep your body from using muscle as a fuel source when in a calorie deficit.
This is important because you want to maintain as much lean muscle as possible. It keeps your metabolism high and frankly helps you look better naked.
Protein is also very satiating. When you’re training and reducing calories to lose fat and weight you will most likely be hungry at points. Protein (especially when combined with veggies) will keep your appetite at bay and feel fuller for longer stretches.
Try and get a serving of protein with most of your meals. A serving for most people is around 20-30 grams per meal.
- 1 palm-sized serving of cooked animal protein
- 1/4 of your plate
- 3 to 4 ounces, or 85 to 115 grams of cooked animal protein
- 1 scoop of most protein powders
- 225 grams of plain greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- 3 whole eggs
Where are my veggies (or fruit)?
Aim to get a serving with most meals.
I mean, do I really need to go over how healthy veggies and fruit are? And yes, keto person – I know fruit is sugar and carbs. It also has vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and makes me happy when I eat it. Go away and let me enjoy my fruit.
Add and adjust instead of subtract and restrict
Grocery shop when you travel
Before you go on your trip find the closest grocery stores and pick up stuff immediately upon arrival. If you have Amazon Prime you can order groceries online and have them delivered to wherever you are staying.
Be 1% better (a little bit better than normal)
Focusing on bigger goals can often overwhelm us into inaction. Instead, how can you be 1% better than you were yesterday? What is a 1% improvement that you can make today that will compound over time?
I like to call these simple swaps or tiny wins.
- Grab a regular cheeseburger instead of a double from a fast food restaurant
- Have 1 adult beverage instead of 2
- Swap your morning latte for a black coffee
- Can’t get your 30-minute workout in? How about a 5 minute one?
- Go to sleep 10 minutes earlier
- Add a side salad to your meal
This may seem insignificant at first. But If you get 1% better every day for a year you’ll be 37 times better once you’re done.
Water before and after alcohol
Have a big glass of water before every drink and a big glass of water after every drink. Aside from making sure you are hydrated the biggest win here is that it slows you down so you can think of having another drink is actually what you want to do.
This leads me to…
Like, for real.
Pick one thing and practice doing it slowly.
- Eat slower
- Walk slower (Unless someone is behind you. Then you’re just annoying as fuck)
- Talk slower
- Breath slower
- Work slower by focusing on one task at a time (close those tabs).
It’s amazing what happens when we start to slow down. Nutrition coaching clients of mine have told me that when they start to slow down they feel like they get to choose how they want to respond to difficult situations versus reacting mindlessly.
Dressing on the side. Dip your fork in.
This gives enough flavor and ensures your meal isn’t soaked in it. Thus, reducing caloric intake if weight loss is your goal.
Food in mouth. Fork on plate.
I got this from Molly over at Girls Gone Strong. This will slow down your eating tremendously, help with digestion, give you time to feel full, and allows you to enjoy your food more.
You can’t fall off the wagon
This suggests that someone else is in the driver’s seat and in control. But you’re the one doing the driving. You get to make all the choices. One meal or day “off plan” doesn’t ruin anything. Just like one perfect meal or day of eating doesn’t dramatically enhance progress.
Instead of falling off the wagon, consider this a pitstop to use the restroom.
We don’t all have the same 24 hours in a day
The health and fitness industry is full of clever phrases and cliches. Most of which are dumb and not very helpful.
- No pain no gain
- Eat less, move more
- Go hard or go home
- If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it
- Eat clean, train hard
One of my least favorites is, “we all have the same 24 hours in a day.”
Truth be told, I am guilty of saying every…
one of these…
To someone, at some point in my coaching career. And for that, I would like to apologize.
On the surface sayings like this may seem inspirational. Some of them kinda, sorta, even make sense. I mean, we do all have 24 hours in a day. But what sayings like this miss is context.
I’m a 41-year-old single white male with no kids who works from home. My 24 hours look completely different than Amy’s. A 37-year-old black female, wife, and mother of 3 that works full time in an office and commutes every day.
Exercise, nutrition, work, stress, relationships, and a shit ton of other stuff are going to look very different over the course of 24 hours for Justin and Amy. And Amy’s 24 hours are going to be much different than someone else’s.
Snacks in the palm of your hand
There’s nothing inherently wrong with snacking. Snacks can be a part of your diet and adjusted for your goals. They can also be omitted and you’ll be fine.
The issue I see is that we’re just not good at knowing how much we’re eating and those snacks often end up calorie dense enough to be meals.
Use snacks to help get you to your next meal by making it fit in the palm of your hand. A piece of fruit, a handful of nuts/seeds, a handful of jerky, a couple of hard-boiled eggs or string cheese.
There are tons of snack options. Just try and make them fit inside of one hand.
Eat mostly balanced plates
A balanced plate is:
- A serving of protein (about 1/4 of your plate)
- A serving of veggies (about 1/2 of your plate)
- A serving of healthy fat (about 1-2 thumb-sized servings)
- Smart carbohydrates (about 1/4 of your plate)
- Zero calorie beverage
This is a picture of me rock climbing. It’s part of my meaningful movement. It almost takes no effort because I love it.
My friend David jumps on a trampoline every fricking day because he loved it. He does this for 30 minutes.
Have you ever jumped on a trampoline for 30 minutes? It’s fucking exhausting.
And this is what meaningful movement is.
Meaningful movement is exploring ways to move your body that you enjoy. Movement like this will make you feel good and won’t take a lot of effort.
Building fitness around meaningful movement improves consistency. And guarantees an active and healthy lifestyle.
Get really good at the basics
We waste a lot of time chasing some novel, new, or the best way to do something. When most of us just need to get better at the basics.
It’s easy to get drowned in the undertow of weight loss advice on the internet. We could argue back and forth until our faces turn blue about what diet is best and what training methods are ideal.
Over the years I’ve experimented with different diets, training methods, and other weird fitness shit.
What I’ve found that’s worked best for me and coaching clients, has little to do with a specific diet and exercise program. It’s more about the mindset, attitude, and identity we create around our health, fitness, and body.
Like most things in life. Fitness is about getting really really…. like REALLY good at fundamental behaviors. Then, practice those fundamental behaviors over and over and over again.
As a refresher, these basics include:
- Eating fewer processed foods
- Eating veggies with most meals
- Eating protein with most meals (animal or plant-based, whatever your preference)
- Understanding hunger and fullness
- Learning about calorie balance/energy balance and creating nutritional awareness
- Going on walks
Get good at these things and we’ll be super successful.
Ask Serena Williams about how she got really good at tennis. I bet it has something to do with practicing forehands over and over again.
Ask Jamie Oliver how he got really good at cooking. I don’t know what the fundamentals are of cooking – but I bet Jamie practiced them over and over again.
And as Steph Curry shows, he became one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Not by spending all his time practicing trick shots. But by shooting 3-pointers over and over again.
Cheers to the basics.