We all want to be our best, healthiest selves. Still, with so much advice floating around out there, it can be hard to choose which healthy lifestyle tips are actually worth trying.
To make your life a bit easier, we’ve rounded up a number of our go-to diet and fitness strategies to help you achieve your goals.
Whether you’re heading off to spin class, boot camp, or any other exercise class, it’s always important to hydrate so you can stay energized and have your best workout. But you don’t want to grab just anything for hydration purposes.
Electrolyte-loaded athletic drinks, for example, can be a source of unnecessary calories, so “drinking water is usually fine until you’re exercising for more than one hour,” Jackie Newgent, RD, author of “The Big Green Cookbook,” told Health.
But if you are doing high intensity exercise for a long period of time, feel free to go for regular sports drinks, which can give you a beneficial replenishment boost.
If you don’t want the calories but do want some flavor, there are lower-calorie sports drinks available, added Newgent, that you can find in the grocery store.
A friend you can work out with is very helpful for staying motivated, but it’s important to find someone who will inspire—not discourage. So make a list of all your exercise-loving friends, then see who fits this criteria, Andrew Kastor, an ASICS running coach, told Health:
- Can your pal meet to exercise on a regular basis?
- Are they supportive (not disparaging) of your goals?
- Will your bud be able to keep up with you or even push your limits in key workouts?
If you’ve got someone that fits all three, make the phone call to start getting fitness plans together. But if you don’t have someone close to you who could be your workout buddy, you may be able to find other ways to exercise with others.
You could check out a local gym or recreation center for more information about group workout classes, personal training sessions, or exercise-focused groups. You could also even ask your family members or friends if they know individuals who are also looking for a workout buddy.
Having foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can really go a long way for your fitness journey.
There are even some delicious, healthy snack options to take advantage of as well, like hummus, grapes and walnuts, and apple slices with cheese.
Additionally, some key ingredients make it a lot easier to meet your weight-loss goals. During your next grocery store run, you could also consider placing Newgent’s top three diet-friendly items in your cart:
- Balsamic vinegar (it adds a pop of low-cal flavor to veggies and salads)
- In-shell nuts (their protein and fiber keep you satiated)
- Fat-free plain yogurt (a creamy, comforting source of protein)
“Plus, Greek yogurt also works wonders as a natural low-calorie base for dressings and dips—or as a tangier alternative to sour cream,” said Newgent.
After a grueling workout, there’s a good chance you’re going to be feeling sore thighs and tight calves.
Fortunately, you can relieve post-fitness aches by submerging your lower body in a cold bath (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit; you may have to throw some ice cubes in to get it cold enough) for 10 to 15 minutes.
“Many top athletes use this trick to help reduce soreness after training sessions,” said Kastor. “An athlete training for an important race should consider getting one to two massages per month to help aid in training recovery.”
Cutting down on sugar can assist you with weight loss—individuals who consume less sugar end up with lower weights.
“To satisfy your sweet tooth without pushing yourself over the calorie edge, even in the late night hours, think ‘fruit first,'” said Newgent.
You can enjoy a sliced apple with a tablespoon of nut butter (like peanut or almond) or fresh fig halves spread with ricotta.
You shouldn’t buy shoes that hurt: “Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first step,” said Kastor.
Your feet swell during the day and stop in the late afternoon, so if you’re in need of sneakers, you’ll want to shop when your feet are biggest. Also make sure the shoes are a little roomy—enough so that you can wiggle your toes, but no more than that.
They should be comfy from the get-go, but they’ll be even more so once you’ve walked or ran 20 to 40 miles in them, said Kastor.
Running with music is a great way to get in a good workout groove. To pick the ultimate playlist, think about what gets you going and that you find uplifting.
“I know several elite athletes that listen to what we’d consider ‘relaxing’ music, such as symphony music, while they do a hard workout,” said Kastor.
The best part about music during a workout is that the right music can make you feel better emotionally, help you perform better, and improve how much oxygen you take in.
It’s normal to want to weigh yourself soon after starting a new diet or fitness routine. “It’s best to step on the scale in the morning before eating or drinking—and prior to plunging into your daily activities,” said Newgent.
If you’re wondering how often to weigh yourself, be sure to check your weight at a consistent time—possibly every week—for the most reliable number and don’t let yourself get too discouraged by different results since weight fluctuations are normal.
When you make changes to your diet, portion control can help with weight management.
Portion control requires special attention to your current eating habits. For example, if your steak takes up more than half of your plate, you may want to consider cutting your serving of beef in half.
That’s because it’s best to try and fill half your plate with veggies or a mixture of veggies and fresh fruit, said Newgent, so you can get a healthy mix of proteins, fats, and carbs.
If you know you’ll be partaking in more than one drink, try to order a glass of water between cocktails, said Newgent. Drinking water can help you stay hydrated and feel less thirsty.
But your H20 doesn’t have to be ho-hum. “Make it festive by ordering the sparkling variety with plenty of fruit, like a lime, lemon, and orange wedge in a martini or highball glass,” added Newgent.
When you have a 5K or 10K (or just a regular run) on your calendar, it’s important to plan out what you’re going to eat the morning of—something that will keep you fueled and also go down easy.
While everyone is different, “we [tend to] have good luck with a high-carbohydrate breakfast such as a small bowl of oatmeal with fruit or a couple of pieces of toast with peanut butter or cream cheese,” said Kastor.
Also, eat around 200 to 250 (primarily carb) calories about 90 minutes before you warm up for your run, advised Kastor.
And don’t worry about nixing your caffeine fix on race day. “Coffee is great for athletic performances,” added Kastor, as it makes you sharper and may even give you extended energy.
Whenever you go for a run—on a track or trail or during a race—make sure you’ve packed these key staples:
- A watch or GPS tracker to log your total time
- A music player
- A cell phone, if you don’t mind holding onto it
- A RoadID (a bracelet that includes all your vital info)
If it’s a sunny day, wear sunglasses. “They reduce glare, which can decrease squinting, ultimately releasing the tension in your shoulders,” said Kastor. And that’s a performance bonus, because relaxing them helps conserve energy on your runs.
A healthy eating plan has a few characteristics. One of those characteristics is staying within your daily calorie needs when it comes to what you eat and drink. (Of note, everyone’s daily caloric needs will be different.)
If you have a day when you consume more calories than your body needs to function, try not to stress about it. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of calories to gain a pound of body fat. “So really, that one off day doesn’t usually result in any significant weight gain,” said Newgent.
What you do the next day and the day after that is what’s really important. Also, remember that starvation and excessive exercise are not healthy answers for an off day.
If you get off track, you can set up a personal reminder (e.g., on a sticky note or mobile device) to ensure you eat more mindfully on future days. You can also consider doing some meal planning for home or when you’re on the go, and aim to maintain a healthy exercise schedule.
It’s easy to get in a diet rut, even if you’re loading up on flavorful fruits and veggies. Fortunately, having plenty of spices, fresh herbs, and citrus at your cooking beck and call can help.
“It’s amazing what a little dash of spice, sprinkle of herbs, pinch of lemon zest, or squirt of lime juice can do to liven up a dish—and your diet,” said Newgent.
Some spices you could consider using include:
If your weight on the scale plateaus or your muscles don’t feel as fatigued, it might be time to increase the intensity of your exercise.
Take, for instance, if you decide to change up your running routine: “The general rule of thumb is to up the amount of miles run, for races half-marathon length and longer, by 5 to 10% each week,” said Kastor.
You might also want to switch up your routine if you’ve been doing the same thing repeatedly, such using the elliptical, going cycling, or exercising with a workout DVD. While these are all great ways to workout, it’s best to add some variety.
You could also decide to do a different type of exercise (e.g., HIIT, cardio, Pilates) every time you work out or dedicate specific days or times for different exercises. That way, you can have more variety throughout your week.
While we’ve all heard that running shoes break down after logging lots of miles (about 300 to 350), you may still be holding on to your favorite pair. But that’s not a good idea.
“Glue has a tendency to break down under ultraviolet light, as do the other materials that make up the shoe,” said Kastor. So even if your sneakers have only 150 miles on them but are more than two years old, recycle them because chances are they’ve already started deteriorating.
It’s good to know what to look for in a sports bra. You’ll want to choose the right type of sports bra based on the exercise you’ll be doing.
“The best sports bras are loose around the chest so you can expand your ribs and diaphragm more effectively. But they should also be form-fitting,” Deena Kastor, an American marathon record holder and 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, told Health.
Just make sure the cup is made of comfy material, like a soft compression fabric—look for descriptions that include the terms “breathability” and “compression.”
You know the feeling: a sharp pain just below the rib cage that always seems to pop up when you’re working out your hardest. It’s called the side stitch, and it can be a major nuisance—especially when it keeps you from completing a workout.
To ease the ache, take your fist and press it beneath your rib cage while taking deep breaths from your belly for about 10 steps. In about 30 seconds, the pain should subside, so you can get back to your workout.
If you plan on picking up the pace during your next workout, you’ll want to eat food that will help keep you going strong.
For breakfast, opt for a high-carbohydrate meal—one similar to what you’ll be eating on race day, so you can find out what foods digest best for yourself.
Try a whole-grain English muffin or a bagel with peanut butter or a low-fat cream cheese. Then, have a well-rounded meal post-workout to help with recovery.
Kastor said that his favorite meal consisted of one to two slices French toast with a side of fruit: “The protein-to-carbohydrate ratio is perfect for enhancing my recovery.”
Even if you’ve been eating healthy and exercising, it may be tough to stay on track if your partner, coworkers, or friends don’t share your healthy eating habits.
If your partner loves pizza, try ordering a pie that’s heavy on the veggies and light on the cheese—then supplement it with a side salad.
Also, instead of bringing a super sweet dessert on baked-goods day at work, you could take baked pears with cinnamon or mini fruit-and-nut muffins to substitute for brownies and blondies.
At times, you may consider cutting out your carbs in order to lose weight. But before you go and add dinner rolls and chips to your “no” list, remember that yummy foods like brown rice, pumpernickel bread, and even potato chips contain resistant starch.
This type of starch has been said to help with weight management by keeping a person feeling fuller for longer. This means you won’t have to eat as much to feel satiated.
Getting the fresh air from exercising outdoors is great, but along with it, you also get the harmful UV rays.
To keep yourself shielded while still having fun in the sun, opt for:
- A sweat-proof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
- A lip balm with SPF 15 or higher
- A broad-brimmed hat
- Sports shades
You’ll want to be aware of sunscreens that are labeled “water resistant,” as they are required to be tested. Additionally, the FDA stated that “waterproof” sunscreens are not available.
Also, consider trading in your white tee and instead going for a shirt with built-in UV protection. A rating of 30 ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) is necessary to be awarded the Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Seal of Recommendation.” A white T-shirt has a rating of 10.
Furthermore, the sun’s rays are at their brightest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so try to plan a before-or post-work sweat-session.
It’s hard to avoid that 3 p.m. stomach rumble. While it’s fine to eat something to hold you over until dinner, some choices may be better than others. Instead of running to the vending machine or heading to the closest drive thru, have some fruit, veggies, or snacks with a lot of protein handy.
However, if you find fast food is your only option, pull up the restaurant’s nutrition facts online before you go. You can make an informed decision ahead of time about what to order. “Nearly every quick-service restaurant has a relatively healthful option or two,” said Newgent. Salads, chili, or grilled chicken are all good options.
You can get a chafing rash (caused by moisture and constant friction) on your thighs, around your sports bra, and even under your arms. To prevent the next occurrence, there are a few anti-chafing products you can try.
For example, you can rub an anti-chafe stick on any spots that have the potential to chafe. Moisture-wicking fabrics help, too. So, if you have a few quick-dry shirts (Nike, Asics, and Under Armour all make them), save those for your long runs or tough workouts when chafing is most likely to occur.
Along with protein and healthy fats, fiber is one of those nutrition elements that keeps you full and fueled all day long. If you’re trying to lose weight, fiber is your best friend.
Of note, for most adults, the daily recommended amount of fiber you should consume per day is between 21 grams to 30 grams.
Working out at the same time during the week or on the same days can have its benefits.
Researchers of a 2020 review found that for individuals who are overweight or obese, having consistent exercise times (particularly in the morning) was associated with the experience of weight loss and the creation of exercise habits.
Although it may take a lot to get into the habit of exercise, planning to workout at a set time or place can be advantageous for your health.
Whether you’re just starting or trying to maintain your progress with nutrition and fitness, you have a lot of options to help you meet your goals. From changing the way you eat to finding the right fitness wear for your exercise routine, you can personalize your journey to a healthier lifestyle using Health‘s tips and strategies.