It’s not a surprise that the average American doesn’t drink enough water each day.
With such a wide array of conveniently available flavored beverages to choose from–fruit juices, coffee drinks, sodas, and many more–many people just don’t make room for their daily allotment of water, because they’ve already drank their fill of other things.
And some people (like me) just flat-out don’t like the taste of it. But getting your daily ration of water is very important to overall health and well-being. Not drinking enough water can put your health at risk!
WATER SERVES A NUMBER OF PURPOSES IN YOUR BODY:
- it helps keep your appetite in check
- keeps your metabolism and circulation active
- keeps energy levels up
- helps flush toxins out of your system
- keeps muscles supple and mucous membranes moist
- helps prevent feelings of weakness/soreness, or headaches
Drinking your daily quota–and staying healthy in the process–is easier than you may think!
HOW MUCH SHOULD I BE DRINKING?
A popular rule of thumb is to drink an 8-ounce glass of water 8 times a day–adding up to about 2 liters. And, this is pretty close to what the average adult needs. But, studies indicate the actual number is somewhat higher–about 10 glasses of water a day for a woman (around 2.2 liters or so), and 12 or more for a man (approximately 3 liters!).
Try to drink no less than 8 glasses of water a day, but aim higher if you can.
Of course, if you’re physically active, you’ll need to drink more than this in order to make up for the fluids you’ll lose from sweat and activity, as well as to help circulate your recovery nutrition to your spent muscles and tissue.
Depending on your level of physical activity, you’ll want to increase your fluid intake by at least 50% to 75%–possibly more.
Also, don’t be afraid to adjust your fluid intake based off other lifestyle and environmental factors, too! If you live in a hot environment, then you’ll need more fluids, even if you don’t exercise much.
WHAT SHOULD I DRINK?
Of course, the best way to get your water is by drinking actual water, as opposed to other types of beverages.
Most beverages are composed primarily of water, but also tend to have a lot of extra ingredients–and calories–that may not be beneficial to your long-term health. (In fact, many people get as much as 400-500 calories each day just from drinks from the artificial sweeteners.)
So really, drinking actual water is the best way to go. Of course, that can be boring or unpleasant for some people. Luckily, there’s a lot of options to help you reach your quota:
- If you don’t like the taste of tap, but like the taste of bottled/spring water, try buying a water filter device (like a Brita). You’ll save a lot of money versus buying bottled water!
- Add a twist of lemon or some other citrus to make your water more palatable.
- You can also use artificially sweetened packets to flavor your water. The jury’s still out on the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on the human body, but most research indicates it’s safe to use in moderation. A single packet can flavor up to 20 ounces or more of water, so you don’t need to use too much.
- Fruit juices have lots of water as well as other nutrients, but also tend to have lots of calories and sugar.
- Milk also has a large amount of water, but tends to have a fair amount of calories and fat as well. Plus, some people don’t digest it very well.
- Soda has water too, but very little nutritional value, and lots of calories and sugar. Don’t be afraid of a little soda here and there, but I would recommend NOT counting soda towards your daily fluids, just because you probably ought to drink a little extra water to help flush the processed ingredients out of your system more efficiently.
- Sports drinks contain lots of water, as well as calories, sodium, and sugar–nutrients that are useful for people who are physically active, but can also contribute to weight gain if you’re not careful.
- Most food contains at least a little bit of water–fruits and vegetables contain a lot. You can’t get your daily fill of water from food alone, but it can help contribute.
CAN IT HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT?
Sort of. Water, by itself, doesn’t magically burn weight.
However, it also has no calories; if you replace beverages such as soda, coffee, or even fruit juice with water, then you’ll reduce your caloric intake by a couple hundred calories a day–remember that 3,500 calories equals 1 pound. You can lose a couple pounds a month just by drinking water more often and cutting back on other types of drinks!
Also, water helps keep your appetite in check, which can prevent you from eating more than you need. Sometimes, feelings of hunger can feel similar to feelings of thirst or dehydration; if you think you need a snack, try chugging some water instead. It’s possible that you’re just thirsty. And, even if you’re not, water can help keep you feeling full until it’s time for a proper meal.
The F.I.T.T. Principle is a concept used by our personal trainers at NLF as a means to keep workouts unique and varied. This concept, and the variations it provides, has several purposes:
- Helps to lower the risk of injury
- Lowers the likelihood of hitting plateaus (where further development becomes difficult)
- Helps keep workouts fresh and interesting
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
F.I.T.T. stands for: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.
- Frequency – How often you should perform a particular exercise (e.g. how many days a week)
- Intensity – How hard you should lift or perform a particular exercise (e.g. resistance/weight, speed, tempo, etc.)
- Time – How much time you should spend on a particular exercise in any given session (e.g. 30 – 45 minutes on cardio, 1 hour on a muscle group, etc.)
- Type – What kind of exercise you should perform for a particular muscle group or movement
For those who are looking to lose weight or get in better shape overall, follow these guidelines to increase the productivity of your workouts!
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Cardio – At least 3 sessions a week is suggested; 5 to 7 sessions a week is even better. The more often you can push yourself, the faster your cardiovascular abilities will improve. However, it’s not recommended to perform much more often than this, as you risk wearing yourself out.
Strength/Resistance – 3 to 5 sessions of full-body exercise a week is suggested. If your sessions are targeting a specific muscle group only, you can perhaps perform twice this many. In any event, you want to make sure you give each muscle group a day to rest between sessions, so as not to increase the risk of injury.
Cardio – Low to moderate intensity is advised for most individuals starting out. Keep to a lower heart rate zone. The harder you push yourself, the less time you’ll be able to spend exercising.
Keep to a reasonable tempo to increase the amount of time you can spend. More experienced individuals should try to maintain a higher heart rate zone in order to see benefits.
You’ll need to know what your maximum heart rate is in order to determine an appropriate amount of intensity.
- To find your maximum heart rate, use the following formula:
- 220 – your age = maximum heart rate
- If you are less experienced with cardio, you should aim for 55 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.
- If you are more advanced, aim for 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heat rate.
- Don’t try to go above 80 percent of your maximum heart rate unless you are very advanced!
Strength – Don’t kill yourself! Injuring yourself is all too easy if you ignore the signs your body sends you. Don’t lift more weight than you can handle just because it seems like the most obvious way to push yourself.
If you find yourself struggling, there’s a number of ways you can switch up your workout to try to compensate. Many of the alternate methods work well with lighter weights, too.
- Increase workload by increasing the amount of weight you lift, forcing your muscles to work harder. Be careful not to overdo it, though.
- Increase workload by increasing the number of sets and/or reps you perform, forcing your muscles to work longer. Don’t be afraid to use lighter weights when doing this.
- Increase workload by decreasing rest times between sets, limiting the amount of time your muscles have to recover.
- Increase workload by slowing down the motions of each exercise, forcing each muscle to work longer, and distributing the work more evenly amongst a muscle group.
Cardio – The amount of time to perform depends somewhat on your conditioning level. If you are new to cardio training, start with 20 – 30 minutes or so, and work up.
Individuals with better cardio conditioning should aim for 45 minutes to an hour. Remember, the 30 – 45 minutes need to be performed consecutively—any less than this shouldn’t be considered a “full session”!
If you can’t last for a full 30 minutes, consider doing a less demanding activity, or lowering your pacing so you can go longer. Also, any sessions over an hour are probably not going to provide much extra benefit to most people.
Strength – At least 30 – 45 minutes in the weight room is recommended. This should give you ample time to perform multiple sets of exercises on each muscle group you are targeting.
If you are spending less time than this, then it’s possible that you are perhaps not working hard enough to get any significant benefit. Of course, if you are only targeting one specific muscle group for your workout session, you may not need the full 45 minutes.
Cardio – You want to perform exercises which have large motions and use large muscle groups, or multiple muscle groups at once. This includes activities like running, stair-climbing, bicycling, elliptical, or swimming.
When starting off, you should try to stick with exercises that are low-impact, like the elliptical or bicycle, as high-impact exercises are more likely to cause injury if you’re untrained—especially for the long periods of time you’ll need to see maximum benefit.
Strength – You should start with basic exercises that challenge your balance. By improving your balance, you’ll improve your entire foundation, which will in turn make more advanced (and strenuous) exercises easier to perform, and lower your risk of injury from bad form.
Do you ever get nauseous during a workout? Do you ever get light-headed in the middle of performing an exercise? Ever feel the need to take a heavy-duty nap right after you workout?
The problem might be simple—you aren’t giving your body enough fuel to last the duration of your workout session.
Luckily, the solution is simple—eat something! Eat something before you work out, and eat something afterwards. Get your body properly fueled up prior to exercise, and refuel it again after! It’s simpler than you may think, and almost always beneficial.
There are many different solutions to cater to people of differing appetites, constitutions, and time constraints.
Kevin always tells his rookies to eat something before they come in and work out.
They usually ask, “What should I eat, and how long before my workout should I eat something?” Kevin generally replies; “Eat a sandwich as you’re walking through the gym door! I don’t really care what you eat, just be eating as you come in.”
For me, on the other hand, eating immediately prior to a workout tends to make me feel sluggish and heavy. This affects a lot of people, actually; eating too much food prior to a workout can induce feelings of fatigue or even nausea.
What’s the solution? Oftentimes, you just need to eat something lighter. You don’t need to eat a full meal immediately before you work out. You just need enough sustenance to last through the hour or two you are going to be exercising.
Some suggestions which fit the bill for a pre-workout snack include:
- A meal replacement shake (like Muscle Milk), or a protein shake – You get a moderate amount of energy-providing calories from a shake like this, and it digests quickly, allowing your body to use the energy almost immediately. Many meal-replacement shakes are fortified with additional vitamins and nutrients.
- A meal replacement bar or protein bar – Similar to the shakes above, but usually with even more nutrient supplementation. I find that a bar is often better at satisfying hunger than a liquid, and tends to settle easier during a workout.
- Kevin’s favorite: the peanut-butter and jelly sandwich – You get protein, carbs, and some sugar—all good stuff to put into your system prior to a workout. It’s also easy to make with inexpensive ingredients, and can be prepared ahead of time and taken with you.
If you want to know what we recommend, check out our article comparing protein bars VS protein shakes.
On the other hand, here are some things to typically avoid:
- Fruit – You’re not getting enough energy out of fruit to make it a good choice for workout fuel. You’ll burn through it in the first few minutes (and, if you’re like me, run the risk of your body trying to pass it out of your digestive system at an inconvenient time).
- Yogurt – Like fruit, you don’t get many calories out of yogurt—making it effective as a snack to ward off appetite, but it won’t last you long as exercise fuel. The simple sugars also don’t provide too much energy.
- Fast Food – Unsurprisingly, fast food is not a good option for a pre-workout meal. The high-calorie count and large amounts of carbs and protein might seem like a viable energy source, but the high fat content makes this food very heavy; it can take a while to digest, and cause some amount of gastrointestinal discomfort in the process.
How soon you should eat before a workout depends somewhat on what you are eating. If you have eaten a full meal, the general consensus is that you should probably wait at least an hour or two before you work out, so that your meal has had some time to digest—that way, your body will have access to the energy it’s provided, and you won’t have too much in your stomach weighing you down.
On the other hand, if you’re specifically having a pre-workout snack, eat it as soon as possible before you workout—a snack won’t take as long to digest as a full meal, and you’ll have access to the energy it provides sooner.
Hopefully, the reasoning behind a post-workout meal is obvious. You’ve just exerted a lot of energy—possibly more energy than your pre-workout meals provided—and your muscles are depleted.
You need to refuel and help speed up the repairing of your muscles.
The options on what to eat at this point are somewhat broader than the suggestions for a pre-workout meal—you can eat something heavy if you like, since you don’t have to worry about it weighing you down.
But, whatever you pick, try to find a good balance between protein and carbs to provide an optimal recovery.
Protein, as many people know, is a fundamental building block for muscle tissue; it’s very common in nutritional supplements for that reason. The more aggressively you are doing resistance/strength training, the more protein you will need. Read our guide to know how much protein is right for you.
Carbs are useful because they quickly metabolize into glucose (basically, sugar); glucose is used by your body as a general-purpose energy source, but can also be used to accelerate the absorption rate of protein.
As sugar enters your bloodstream, insulin is produced to move the sugar to your tissues for storage; the insulin will also pick up the protein as well, shuffling it off for usage more quickly than it would be used otherwise.
As such, you want to try to mix your carbs with protein in order to boost the speed of protein absorption. You don’t want to go overboard on carbs, of course, since excess carbs will basically just become sugar that your body will have to deal with.
But finding a good balance of carbs and protein will speed up your recovery and help you be ready for your next workout.
Some suggestions for post-workout meals include:
- A whey protein shake (whey protein isolate) with Splenda: Splenda will help trigger an insulin response that will increase the absorption rate of protein, without the need for additional “real” sugar. This will get protein to your muscles very quickly!
- Frozen Yogurt: The simple sugars aren’t effective at providing workout fuel, but do provide a good mechanism for helping speed the absorption rate of protein. Pair this with another high-protein snack for good results!