The term ‘metabolism’ is used to describe all the different chemical reactions that occur within your body in order to sustain and maintain your life.
They can conveniently be divided into two sections.
● Catabolism – This describes the process by which molecules are broken down to obtain energy.
● Anabolism – This describes the process by which compounds are synthesized in order to feed and build cells.
In slightly more technical terms you can break the function of your metabolism into three different groups:
The Resting Metabolic Rate, or ‘RMR’ – Looks at your body in a resting and awake state, and the amount of energy that is needed to fuel all bodily functions in this state.
The Thermic Effect of Activity, or ‘TEA’ – Refers to the rate at which you burn through calories when exercising or being active throughout your day.
The Thermic Effect of Feeding, or ‘TEF’ – Is used to determine the number of calories required during the eating and digesting of food.
So, as you may have gleaned from this, one of the leading roles your metabolism plays in your body, is the digestion and conversion of foods into energy. Which is why your metabolism is such an important consideration when we talk fitness and health! You may often hear people expressing a desire to ‘speed up’ their metabolic rate (or total energy expenditure), in order to help them achieve their fitness goals. The reason for this is two-fold.
Firstly the rate at which your metabolism functions directly affects the rate at which you burn through calories when resting or participating in everyday activities. So the faster your metabolism, the more calories you will be burning, simply through standing up and walking to your refrigerator!
Secondly the faster your metabolic rate, the more energized you feel at any given time throughout your day. This means you will have more fuel powering you through your workouts so you can push that little bit harder for that little bit longer!
People with slower metabolisms tend to have less energy and put weight on easier than people with faster metabolisms. Unfortunately, the reality is that having a slow metabolism may be something your parents have passed down to you. Don’t let that put you off though, there are numerous healthy and effective ways in which you can amp up your metabolic rate.
Here are 5 Tips for boosting your metabolism naturally:
Get Your Heart Pumping First Thing – A fantastic way to kick start your metabolism from the moment you wake up, is by jump starting your heart and lungs into action first thing. Even just a quick 10 minute HIIT sesh, or simple cardio workout, will be enough to stimulate your metabolism into action. Exercising first thing also works to wake up your digestion system so that it ready to start working on your breakfast. If you are starting off with a simple workout, of less than 30 minutes, then drinking a glass of water beforehand should be enough to get you through, so you can enjoy a nutritious breakfast when you are done.
Drink Water – Get yourself into a habit of drinking a glass of water first thing each morning. Not only will this help combat potential dehydration, and help wake you up, it will also flush through your digestive system stimulating your metabolism into action.
Don’t Skip Breakfast! – Breakfast is the time in which you ‘break the fast’ of the evening before. It really is an important meal, because it provides the energy foundations from which you will set about tackling the rest of your day. If you skip your breakfast, you are much more likely to fade on an energetic level, as well as potentially make poorer food choices as your day progresses. In relation to your metabolism, breakfast is essential in starting off the digestive processes, which in turn is an essential element to firing up your metabolism. So don’t skip your breakfast and make sure you opt for healthy, protein-rich foods that are low GI, to maximize on your energy potential.
Move it – High-intensity cardio is the most effective way of raising your resting metabolic rate. The fitter you are, the faster your metabolism. So incorporate some cardio into your workout routine as often as possible, to help stimulate your metabolism and increase its overall efficiency.
Build It, To Boost It – The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolic rate will be. Every single muscle contraction in your body, no matter how basic, requires energy. This means that simply by sitting upright or scratching your nose, you are burning through calories. When you are using a muscle (your biceps for example), all the muscle fibers contract to create the movement. Each and every muscle fiber involved in the movement requires energy. The more muscle fibers you have, the more energy you will expend! So by building up your body’s lean muscle mass, you are helping to improve the function of your metabolism.
Regulate Your Sleep – Making sure you get enough sleep each night, without overdoing it, will go a long way in ensuring your metabolism is functioning at its optimal level. As a general rule adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Any more than this and you will likely find that you feel lethargic during the day, which is often a sign that your metabolism may be getting a bit sluggish.
Natural Thermogenics – Thermogenics work to increase your basal metabolic rate, which not only provides you with energy, it also increases your fat burning efficiency. Though thermogenics are a large part of pre-workout supplements, there are many more natural alternatives. Green tea is an excellent example as it is naturally rich in caffeine as well as being rich in antioxidants! As Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf discuss in this interview, your diet plays a leading role in your metabolic rate. Avoid eating highly processed foods, trans fats and simple carbs that will have a negative impact on your metabolism, and instead, opt to eat fresh food that will help stimulate it. Some foods are believed to have more thermogenic properties than others.
Examples of metabolic boosting foods include:
● Lean Beef
So don’t let an inherited slow metabolism get you down, there are plenty of small lifestyle changes you can implement to help boost your metabolism so that you can burn fat efficiently and gain the most energy from what you eat!
The Integral Role Of Sleep On Muscle Development
You might not necessarily think of sleep as being an integral part of achieving your fitness goals, asides perhaps, from making sure you had the energy required to push yourself during your workouts! However, getting enough shut-eye each evening is an integral part of creating and maintaining a strong, defined and capable body.
In fact, it doesn’t matter what your fitness goals are, sleep is going to play an important role in just how successful you are in achieving the results you are after.
Firstly, let’s have a look at some of the key benefits sleep provides us with and just how these tie into fitness:
- Mental Alertness – Ever tried sitting a test, playing a game of chess, or accomplishing an obstacle course after little to no sleep? It is extremely challenging trying to clear the fog of exhaustion so that we can focus, no matter what the task is. Sleep allows you to recharge and reboot your brain so that you feel fresh and ready for the next day.
- Tissue Repair – During sleep your body works to replace ageing or dead cells within your body. They say that every 7 years all the cells in your body have been replaced, well, that’s all happening in your sleep!
- Synthesise Hormones – When you are sleeping your body increases its secretion of some hormones, such as Human Growth Hormone (HGH), prolactin and luteinizing hormone, whilst simultaneously inhibiting the secretion of other hormones, such as Cortisol and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
- Build Muscle – Because of the increased level of HGH during sleep (Men release between 60-70% of their daily HGH during sleep!), it stands to reason that this is the time in which muscles are being built.
There are numerous other integral ways in which sleep supports the functioning of our body, as Chris Kresser talks about in this article. However, today I want to focus specifically on the role sleep plays in the production of HGH and how this impacts your ability to develop and maintain lean muscle mass.
So, what exactly is HGH and how does it work, you ask?
HGH, also known as ‘somatotropin’, is an amino acid that is produced in the brain by your pituitary gland. As you develop from an infant into an adult, HGH plays an important role in the development of your skeletal system. Because of this, your HGH levels are high when you are a child and peak during adolescence, which is why you get those ‘growth spurts’. As we age our levels of HGH naturally start to decrease and have dropped by around 20% by the age of 60.
HGH is responsible for cell growth and regeneration, which is why it is so important when it comes to the repair and growth of muscle fibres. Without HGH in your body, the growth of your muscles would be impossible!
When the hormone is secreted into your bloodstream, it only remains active for a few minutes. However, this is all the time that is needed for your liver to kick in and convert the somatotropin into growth factors, such as Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), which contains a host of anabolic properties.
So, the bottom line is this: Without HGH in your body, the repair and growth of lean muscle mass would be impossible.
The large majority of your daily HGH (up to 70%) is released whilst you are sleeping. Which means that it stands to reason that getting enough shut-eye on a regular basis is an even more important consideration for people who are training regularly, or who work in a physically demanding job.
The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per day. If you miss out on sleep as a one off, your body will compensate and cope, however, having insufficient sleep on a regular basis is going to seriously impact on your body’s ability to recover after a tough training session. What would normally take 24-48 hours for your DOMs (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) to subside, could take twice as long, if not more!
There is good news though. If you find that you cannot fit all the hours of sleep you require into one sitting (or lying!), then you can make up for this by taking a 45 – 90-minute nap during the day. This is because the majority of the HGH is released during the first hour or so of sleep, so by napping during the day, you are encouraging another burst of HGH for your liver to convert into IGF-1, so that your body can get to rebuilding and repairing any muscle fibers you may have damaged during your training.
How is that for a good excuse to enjoy an afternoon siesta?
So what I am getting at here is this: If you have any kind of fitness related goal, e.g. shedding pounds, building muscle, gaining strength, endurance and definition, then you are going to need to reflect on your sleeping patterns and make sure you are getting the hours your body needs to get you where you want to be.
Unfortunately though, when it comes to getting enough sleep, not everyone finds it easy.
There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration such as health, family (e.g. newborns and young children), shift work and stress, as well as numerous other factors that can affect a person’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.
If you are one of those people that often find they struggle nodding off when they need to, then here are some tips to help you get the most of your down time:
- Avoid Electronics – Bright lights, including the ‘blue light’ emitted from your computer, iPad and smartphone, all work to suppress the secretion of melatonin in your body. Melatonin is another hormone produced in your pineal gland, that is responsible for your sleep and awake cycle. The secretion of it helps your body unwind and prepare for sleep. So dim your household lights and avoid staring at a screen for at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. This will help your body go through the natural motions of preparing to shut down for the day.
- Avoid Stimulants – Naturally, caffeine found in some soft drinks, tea and coffee are going to stimulate you and make it more difficult to shut down. So if you know you struggle to get to sleep in the evenings, then avoid any stimulants for at least a few hours before bedtime. Alcohol is also a stimulant and can disrupt your ability to drift off and sleep through until morning.
- Create A Routine – Even if you are not the kind of person who enjoys routine, your body will respond well to it. So if you know you struggle sleeping in the evenings, set your alarm for the same time each morning and give yourself a set bedtime that you aim for each evening. It can take a few days or even a week or so for your body to adjust, but having a routine will help your body start to naturally unwind and prepare for sleep as that time approaches each day.
- Take Time To Relax – If you know you struggle drifting off in the evening, then make some time before you actually go to bed to do something relaxing. Try practicing a relaxation meditation, enjoy a hot bath or even switch massages with a partner or friend. Anything that helps you let go of the hustle and bustle of your day so that your mind and body can unwind and relax, ready for a good night’s sleep!
Homo sapiens have evolved over millions of years to bring us to where we are today, upright, fairly intelligent and increasingly aware of our bodies and how to best look after them.
As with all organisms, our evolution is written into our genome. A genome being the complete set of genetic instructions of any organism, in our case homo sapiens, that shows the evolutionary path that has lead us to where we are now. The way our genome looks today has been shaped by the many genetic changes our ancestors have been faced with. Not all of our ancestors lived in the same climate or faced the same environmental challenges or advantages as each other. Some survived barren landscapes and scorching heat, others icy tundras and sub-zero temperatures, whilst others evolved living within lush, tropical climates.
Because of this, it stands to reason that we are not all genetically equal when it comes to evolution, and more specifically how we have adapted in relation to our diet. Evidence does suggest however that when it comes to the modern diet, we as a species have strayed away from what our bodies can handle, faster than our bodies have been able to adapt.
As Robb Wolf says; “ Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.” For this reason, resorting back to a more simplified diet, that avoids processed foods, as well as excess carbohydrates, and instead, focuses on foods that have been available to us over the span of our evolution, is in our health’s best interest.
This is where the benefits of the paleo diet comes into play.
The paleo diet is based on genetics and takes into consideration that human beings are genetically wired to environmental factors that are quite different from that of today. Evolution is a slow process and the human race has seen such rapid advancements in technology over the past few hundred years, that we have not been able to genetically adapt to the changes these advancements have made to our ‘modern diet’.
Yet, as I mentioned briefly before, there is another consideration to be taken into account when determining what works best for you personally, and not just for humans as a species. Your genetic background. Studies indicate that people from different historical backgrounds may be more or less suited to specific nutrients, depending on their genetic make-up.
For the sake of this blog, I would like to focus on carbohydrates, and more specifically on starch and lactose, and how genetics play a leading role in your ability to digest them.
Lactose and the LTC gene
Lactose, a disaccharide sugar compound found in milk, requires the enzyme ‘lactase’ in order to be digested by the human body. When we are young, the lactase enzyme is more prevalent in our body, so that we are able to digest our mother’s milk, yet as we grow into adulthood, our levels of this lactase enzyme drop significantly. In fact, many people lose the ability to produce lactase altogether. The production of lactase is controlled by the LCT gene and for many people their LCT gene shuts down as they enter adulthood, causing them to become lactose sensitive or intolerant. This is the divide between lactose tolerant and lactose intolerant people.
As stated in a study by Deng Y, Misselwitz B, Dai N, and Fox M in 2015, ‘Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management’, “The percentage of the population that has a decrease in lactase as they age is less that 10% in Northern Europe and as high as 95% in parts of Asia and Africa”
So what this means for American’s is that if your family are American dating back many generations, then chances are you may have a dairy intolerance.
Carbohydrates and the AMY2 gene
The AMY2 gene is an interesting gene because it plays an important role in the digestion of starches. Studies suggest that obesity may be genetically linked to people’s ability to digest carbohydrates. How well you digest carbohydrates is directly linked to the number of AMY2 genes you carry. Though the range can fall between 2 and 15, most people carry between 4 and 8. How many AMY2 genes you carry depends on your ancestors and from what part of the globe they originated. Those from drier climates have better adapted to eating foods higher in starches, whilst those from lush and dense climates are more likely less tolerant, as their ancestor’s diet contained less starch.
Because of this, your genetics plays a role not only on your tolerance towards carbohydrates, but also on your ability to metabolize it correctly and avoid putting on excess weight.
Even though evidence suggests that our evolution did not cease to progress since the Paleolithic era, it does indicate that the majority of us are not fortunate enough to have all the genetic adaptations that make us able to effectively digests lactose or starches. As Kriss Cresser says in one of his articles in the Daily Beast, “Two-thirds of the population still cannot digest lactose as adults, and nearly one in 10 people are intolerant to gluten.”
For this reason, and the numerous other health benefits that can be gained from it regarding health and maintaining a healthy weight, the Paleo diet really is the diet that our DNA dictates!
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 TBSP cooking fat of choice
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 lb 80-85 % lean ground beef
- ½ cup diced tomatoes (from a can, no salt added)
- ½ tsp fine grain sea salt
- ½ – 1 tsp chipotle chili pepper (I used ¾ tsp)
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Optional toppings – Paleo & Whole30 compliant ranch dressing plus thinly sliced scallions
- First, bake your sweet potatoes* – preheat your oven to 400 degrees and wrap each potato in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until completely soft in the center. The size/shape of your potato will affect the baking time!
- While you bake (or reheat) your sweet potatoes, make the chili. Heat a med/large skillet (I used this cast iron one) over medium heat. Add your cooking fat, then diced onions and stir to coat. Once softened, add the ground beef, breaking up lumps to evenly brown.
- Add the salt and spices and stir, cooking the beef until browned – about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 more minutes, lowering the heat to avoid burning.
- Cut open your sweet potatoes, stuff, top with ranch dressing and scallions if desired, and enjoy!
To learn more about this savory paleo dinner idea, check out our friends over at PaleoRunningMama!
15 Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet According to Science
What is the paleo diet?
Widely recognized as one of the healthiest ways to eat, the Paleolithic (or paleo) diet focuses on nourishing the body with only unprocessed, unrefined foods – eating as nature intended.
Extensive research in the fields of biochemistry, ophthalmology, dermatology, biology, and a number of other disciplines has shown significant indications that many modern health problems and degenerative diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, infertility, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, and even allergies can be partially rooted in our contemporary diets. Eating foods high in sugars and trans fats causes a wealth of proven health concerns, and is thought to cause many more – studies continue to determine all the negative impacts refined foods have on our bodies.
However, we can fight some of these health concerns by making changes to the way we eat, avoiding the foods that do us more harm than good and fueling our bodies with whole, nutrient-dense foods. The lifestyle framework provided by the paleo diet offers a unique approach that takes genetics into account, ensuring you can stay strong, lean, and energized.
Where did this diet come from?
The idea behind this diet is simple. While the human body has evolved over millions of years, our bodies are adapted to the basic diet of humans from the Paleolithic era – before the advent of more modern agricultural technologies. Back then, we didn’t eat any dairy or grains. Milking animals wasn’t even considered, and milling grains would have required technology that just didn’t exist during the hunter-gatherer era.
Although we have now been eating dairy products, refined grains, and other kinds of processed foods since the agricultural revolution of the 18th and 19thcenturies, our bodies haven’t yet caught up with these new kinds of foods. This is proven by the increasing rates of health issues that can be attributed to our modern diets.
A return to the eating habits of our ancestors allows our bodies to function the way they were meant to – giving us the power to tap into our unique genetic potential and live healthier lives. Focusing on easily accessible and unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts makes up the basis of the paleo diet – inspired by our cave-dwelling great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.
What can I eat?
– Lean proteins
Protein is important for the development of strong muscles and healthy bones, and provides significant support to the body’s immune system. Eating protein can also enhance your feelings of satisfaction and fullness, helping you avoid unhealthy snacking between meals. The paleo diet encourages plenty of lean protein from sources like beef, bison, chicken, duck, fish, turkey, and even eggs. However, keep in mind that as grains are not a permitted part of the paleo diet, it’s best to find sources of protein that are primarily grass-fed.
– Fruits and vegetables
Rich in healthy antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and valuable phytonutrients, fruits and vegetables make up the majority of the paleo diet. High concentrations of these important nutrients have proven to lower an individual’s risk of developing a number of health issues, including degenerative diseases and neurological failure. The key to a healthy paleo diet is to keep your produce to primarily vegetables, with one or two servings of fruit each day.
– Healthy fats
According to scientific research, a diet that contains rich amounts of monounsaturated and omega-3 fats can contribute to a reduced likelihood of concerns ranging from obesity to cancer. Fats are important fuel for both your body and brain, and for people who eat a paleo diet, healthy fats provide the body with its main source of energy. Good sources for these healthy fats include coconut oil, olive oil, butter and ghee, avocados and avocado oil, and animal fats.
What should I avoid?
As a general rule, a Paleolithic diet will exclude any consumption of processed and refined foods. If you have to look at a list of ingredients to see if a food is allowed on the paleo diet, chances are it’s not – especially if that ingredient list is full of hard-to-pronounce names of various chemicals. You’ll need to stay away from:
– Dairy products
– Fruit juices (processed, with added sweeteners)
– Soft drinks and energy drinks
– Grains and legumes
– Processed meats
– Unnaturally salted foods
Cutting out grains and legumes is one of the more difficult aspects of adopting the paleo diet, but this step is important as according to this diet, they are considered to be “unnatural” foods. This means no beans, cereals, corn, pasta, peanut butter, tofu, or crackers. Grains are comprised of carbohydrates, which are turned into glucose by our bodies – and any glucose that isn’t used for energy gets stored as fat.
To fully experience the benefits of paleo eating, it’s important to stick to these rules and only eat the natural, unprocessed foods that were available to our ancestors. Some people will slowly add in certain things (like the odd beer) after a period of adjustment – and if your body can handle these occasional toxins without inhibiting the benefits of the diet, you’re welcome to incorporate them into your diet plan. However, it’s recommended to reintroduce foods slowly and one at a time, to allow you to understand how each specific food impacts your overall health and well-being. Then, you can make a decision about whether or not to continue consuming this unapproved food.
What are the health benefits of a paleo diet?
Eating a Paleolithic diet is a challenging adjustment for most people to make, but it’s easy to see why so many health-conscious individuals have made the switch when you understand how this kind of food can impact your body in a multitude of ways. When you think about it, it’s obvious how eating the foods of our ancestors can improve your health – today, the average human is overweight, unhappy, stressed-out, and struggling with various ailments. But the average homo-sapien, in Paleolithic times, was muscular, athletic, versatile, and agile.
As such, people who follow a Paleolithic diet have reported improvements to their overall health and wellness through a variety of important benefits.
One: The paleo diet improves lipid profiles.
A lipid profile is used to evaluate cholesterol and triglycerides, which can help give medical professionals an idea of an individual’s possible risk factor for certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease and forms of pancreatitis. Studies have revealed that individuals who eat a Paleolithic-type of diet, without restricting calories, showed significant improvements to the lipid profile associated with insulin sensitivity.
A short-term “intervention” of this type of eating was enough to improve these profiles in otherwise healthy test subjects, even without weight loss. In many of the participants, research also showed a 72 per cent reduction in the levels of a blood clotting agent which is thought to lead to heart attacks and strokes. According to experts, the effect of a Paleo diet on an individual’s cholesterol profile is similar to six months of a traditional pharmaceutical treatment.
Two: The paleo diet promotes brain health.
Eating a Paleolithic diet helps reduce inflammation in the body – which also means reduced inflammation in the brain. Moving away from a traditional Western diet, full of seed oils, sugars, and empty calories can provide important protection for your brain, helping fight diseases like Alzheimer’s and other debilitating neurological disorders. The foods that make up a basic Paleolithic diet enhance neuronal signaling, keeping your brain functioning efficiently and effectively. With all their vitamins and minerals, vegetables in particular can provide your brain with tools to prevent neurological breakdown.
Neurological disease has been associated with diabetes, as rates of both conditions seem to be increasing among populations around the world. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, higher average blood sugar can lead to a higher risk of dementia – potentially attributable to the damaging amounts of free radicals our diets leave in our bodies.
Three: The paleo diet helps build muscle.
Thanks to the healthy, efficient way your body functions when fueled with Paleolithic-type foods, it’s far easier to spend energy doing important things like building muscle and burning fat. When it isn’t forced to waste time struggling with bad foods and an overload of toxins, your body will really benefit from every last workout and meal.
While the paleo diet does promote weight loss, the proteins and fats consumed when eating this kind of diet are ideal to help your body rebuild damaged tissue and strengthen muscles. This actually helps with the weight loss – we all know muscle revs your metabolism and helps burn fat. Paleolithic eating also gives your body more of the nutrients it needs to work properly, so any of the conditions and issues that might be contributing to a lack of ability to gain weight or build muscle can potentially be resolved with a cleaner, healthier diet.
Four: The paleo diet keeps your gut healthy.
Your gut is where most of the exchanges between your body and the outside world take place – your body processes nutrients from whatever you consume, and filters out the waste. Obviously, this is the area where most pathogens and toxins come into the body, and the gut is where most diseases actually begin. The bacteria in your gut make up about 70 per cent of your immune system, so having a healthy gut is hugely important to your overall health.
The strict requirements of a Paleolithic diet are great for anyone who suffers from ailments related to gut bacteria, and the elimination of dairy, nuts and seeds, and sugar can make a huge difference for people with autoimmune disorders. Conditions associated with gut problems include gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease. People diagnosed with schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorders could also benefit from building healthier gut bacteria.
Five: The paleo diet increases your intake of vitamins and minerals.
Since the main food group involved with a Paleolithic diet is vegetables, it’s no wonder that eating this way can increase the amount of vitamins and minerals you put into your body. Consuming more of these important nutrients can make a big impact on your overall wellness, and has tons of benefits – physically, mentally, and even aesthetically. You’ll notice clearer skin, healthier hair and nails, and a brighter outlook on life. You’ll have stronger, healthier bones, and you’ll be able to correct nutrient deficiencies you maybe didn’t even know you had.
However, you do need to keep track of what you’re eating to make sure you are getting enough of all of these important nutrients. When you’re following a strict diet, knowing what you’re putting in your body is very important, so make sure you’ve got a solid understanding of what you need to eat and where you’re getting it from.
Six: The paleo diet limits your fructose consumption.
Sugar can cause a multitude of problems in your body, but can be confusing since you do consume fructose from many natural and healthy sources. Fructose must be processed by the liver, which can easily get overwhelmed by too much sugar and ends up transforming it to fat – sending it into our fat cells for storage. This can cause damage, lead to an insulin resistance or fatty liver disease, and be just as bad for your liver as alcohol.
Following a Paleolithic diet, though, cuts out most of those other sources of fructose, ensuring that the limited sugars in your body are natural and easier for your body to process. About half of the sugar you get from fruit is actually glucose, which your body uses for energy, and you’d have to eat more than 100 grams of sugar from fruits each day to start seeing issues with your body.
Seven: The paleo diet promotes healthy digestion.
Conditions that cause digestive issues, including lupus, interstitial cystitis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease, can be incredibly debilitating for sufferers. Eating a Paleolithic diet, though, has shown to help treat and even cure a number of these issues – since they are primarily “new” conditions for human beings. Returning to the eating habits of our ancestors can encourage the body to fight off some of these more recently developed digestive problems.
The most easily digested foods include meats, fats, and cooked vegetables, which make up the primary food groups of the paleo diet. If you struggle with digestive issues, it’s even more important that when you decide to make the switch to Paleolithic eating, you don’t slip up and let in the occasional “treat.” One small intrusion could send you right back to the beginning, facing similar digestive issues that you thought you had eliminated.
Eight: The paleo diet reduces allergy symptoms.
Seasonal allergy sufferers are familiar with the runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, irritated throat, and rashes that can pop up when your immune system starts overreacting to environmental stressors. A switch to a Paleolithic diet can help keep these symptoms from becoming a nuisance, and can even help prevent them altogether.
This style of eating promotes a healthy intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows has been correlated with fewer incidences of the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. In a study that examined the effect of fish oil on asthma sufferers, results indicated a connection between the supplement and respiratory health – which indicates that an increase of omega-3s could be beneficial for allergy sufferers, as well. The diet is also rich in other foods and nutrients that have shown to help with allergy symptoms, including fruits and vegetables and vitamin E.
Nine: The paleo diet reduces inflammation.
This might be one of the biggest benefits of following a Paleolithic diet. Chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of many serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease, but also contributes to more minor conditions like acne. Even the brain can be activated during the body’s inflammatory response, which can cause issues with how your brain communicates with other important functions and systems.
The best way to avoid inflammation is through diet – and specifically, a paleo diet, as many other elimination diets aren’t enough to completely remove the immune triggers that lead to this inflammatory response. Avoiding gluten and focusing on nutrient-dense foods that are high in protein and antioxidants gives your body the tools it needs to prevent inflammatory reactions, making you feel better and reducing your chances of developing some significant health problems down the road.
Ten: The paleo diet promotes healthy weight loss.
According to some research, the obesity epidemic currently facing society can be explained by our bodies’ struggle to adapt to our changing food environment. We’re built for food scarcity, with fat storage that helps us stock up when food is available and live on reserves during times when it’s not. However, we’re dealing with an overabundance of easy-to-find processed foods that contain very little nutritional value. All these empty calories mean that we’re constantly gaining weight – even though we’re technically malnourished.
The Paleolithic diet can help by changing the food environment to fit the way our bodies have evolved. It still requires work – after all, to successfully lose weight, you still need to burn more calories than you consume – but this type of food can help by making you feel fuller and providing you with the nutrients you need to keep your energy up as you work on making healthy choices.
Eleven: The paleo diet boosts energy levels.
Elimination diets can cause low energy and leave you feeling drained and exhausted – but fueling your body with the nutrient-rich foods included in the Paleolithic diet can fight off hunger pangs and keep you feeling energetic and upbeat. Major triggers of mid-morning tiredness or afternoon slumps are refined, processed foods that most of us end up eating as snacks to try and get through the day, but these actually wind up causing more issues than they fix.
Instead, reach for some paleo-friendly carbohydrates to give you a bit of a boost and keep your energy up. If you still find yourself struggling with sluggishness, keep track of the foods you’re eating and ensure you’re getting enough nutrients. Adjusting to a paleo diet can cause a dip in energy levels, but this diet will ultimately help you avoid fatigue on a long-term basis.
Twelve: The paleo diet strengthens the immune system.
A diet heavy in processed foods can lead to the buildup of toxins within the body, and the high-sugar modern diet can cause damage to the intestinal lining. These concerns can contribute to a weakened immune system, forcing the body to deal with an unnecessary strain and creating a dysfunction that can be difficult to correct. By cutting out these harmful contaminants, you’re allowing your body’s immune system to return to the job it does best – protecting you from invading bacteria and viruses that could lead to more serious conditions.
Not only does a Paleolithic diet eliminate many foods that irritate the gut and the immune system, it increases your consumption of gut-healing foods that help build your healthy intestinal bacteria – as discussed earlier. By creating a healthy balance and allowing your body to respond effectively and efficiently to any foreign invaders, a paleo diet plays an important role in keeping your immune system strong.
Thirteen: The paleo diet shrinks fat cells.
We discussed earlier how eating a Paleolithic diet can help individuals achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss goals, but it can also provide your body with the tools to address your “stubborn fat” – deposits of fat cells that are difficult to get rid of through regular diet and exercise regimens. These cells can form a number of different ways: hormonal changes, sedentary lifestyle, insulin resistance, yo-yo dieting, age, and gender.
Eating a paleo diet can help your body start shrinking these fat cells and reduce this “stubborn fat.” This fat is broken down at a much slower rate than normal fat cells, and require a healthy enzymatic balance to stimulate this metabolizing. Eating anti-estrogenic foods, as included in the Paleolithic diet, is a huge part of encouraging this process – things like cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels spouts, and broccoli.
Fourteen: The paleo diet reduces gas and bloat.
Your body’s negative reactions to processed foods, including dairy, grains, sugars ,and salt, leads to retention of both water and stool – fermenting in your gut and causing both bloating and excess gas. When you’re first making a switch to a Paleolithic diet, you may notice an increase in gas, generally attributed to the dramatic increase in your vegetable consumption. However, once your body adapts to the diet, you’ll notice significantly less bloating and gas.
If you still struggle with this, you may have an intolerance to certain types of carbohydrates that are notoriously difficult for certain people to digest. FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, are found in many paleo foods – including fruits, vegetables, and certain dairy products. Try eliminating these foods from your diet one at a time to determine which ones are causing you grief, and start enjoying the reduced gas and bloat from your Paleolithic diet.
Fifteen: The paleo diet controls hunger.
Learning what real hunger feels like, and how to deal with emotional and psychological “hunger” pangs, is one of the greatest benefits of embarking on a Paleolithic diet. Understanding the real feeling of hunger can help promote a calmer, healthier relationship with food. Small amounts of discomfort in between meals can help your rewire your brain to appropriately determine what real hunger feels like, and can actually make your food taste better.
Real, physical hunger is driven by your body’s physiological need for additional calories, unlike what most people describe as “hunger,” which is primarily just cravings that are coming from your brain, not your body. Regardless of whether or not your body actually needs that energy, your brain is telling you that you want to eat something specific – generally because you’re stressed, bored, sad, or lonely. When you’re truly hungry, you’ll be happy to eat almost anything.
What else does the paleo lifestyle involve?
For many people, paleo is more than just a diet. In addition to encouraging healthy eating habits, this lifestyle addresses some of the ailments brought on by our contemporary lives by initiating healthy change in other ways – reducing stress, promoting community engagement, playing and exercising more, and becoming more in tune with nature.
Exercise is an important part of the paleo lifestyle. Our ancestors didn’t spend all day sitting at a desk and then come home to veg on the couch all night – our bodies are made to move around! Paleo-style workouts emphasize traditional fitness patterns by focusing on mobility, weight-bearing, and easy, sustained movements. Paleo fitness also encourages practitioners to get out of the gym and enjoy exercising outdoors whenever you can – incorporating fun activities like playing with your kids, hiking in the woods, or kayaking in a lake.
Recovery is a huge part of improving your overall health, and the paleo lifestyle promotes restful sleep. Not only does the paleo diet contribute to healthy sleep patterns, but followers are encouraged to honor the body’s circadian rhythm, aligning their own sleep cycles with the daily cycles of the sun.
Our modern lifestyles keep us indoors most of the time, but the sun is vital to help our bodies produce vitamin D – which plays a key role in many of the body’s chemical pathways. Getting outside every day can help improve your mood, regulate hormone outputs, and provide a positive impact on your overall health.
Another aspect of this reconnection with nature involves taking breaks from technology. While there are certainly benefits that come with our modern gadgets, the paleo lifestyle promotes a healthy balance by encouraging followers to put boundaries in place and make it a point to “unplug” as often as possible.
Relationships are a valuable part of life, providing intimacy and closeness through physical touch, emotional exchanges, and thoughtful conversations. Practitioners of the paleo lifestyle know that with the support of the community comes an improved quality of life, and endeavor to develop close bonds with their loved ones – sharing meals, activities, and important moments.
– Stress management
Learning healthy ways to deal with life’s stresses is an important part of preventing the onset of a variety of diseases and disorders, and is another valuable part of paleo living. Stress management is a very personal thing, so practitioners are encouraged to seek out a strategy that works for them – yoga, meditation, physical touch, or even attending a church service. No matter what technique you pursue, the result is decreased levels of cortisol and a much improved mood.
What should I keep in mind?
Since paleo living incorporates so many different things, it can seem like a lot of information to process all at once. If you’re thinking about embarking on a paleo lifestyle, there are a couple of things you should consider before you get started.
– Paleo is difficult.
Theodore Roosevelt said that “nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.” While the transition to a paleo lifestyle certainly won’t be painful, it will require a certain degree of effort.
As your body begins to purge the toxins that have accumulated from eating processed foods and you start to adjust to your new eating habits, you will definitely face cravings, moodiness, and sluggishness. However, knowing what to expect can help you take on the challenge, and once you see the results of your new lifestyle, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get started.
Things that you used to do without thinking, like eating out at restaurants and even just buying groceries, will require a bit more care and preparation. Keep in mind that these things will get easier with time, and this new lifestyle will eventually feel completely natural. If you’re struggling to adjust, there are apps available that can help make the transition smoother.
– Paleo is expensive.
Processed foods are cheap to produce and cost next-to-nothing at the grocery store – but they’re completely devoid of nutritional value. Any healthy eating program is going to require a bit of a financial investment, because real foods cost real money. If you have the space and the time, you might consider starting a garden and growing some of your own fresh fruits and vegetables to save a bit of money, or buy them in bulk when you find them on sale and freeze pre-portioned containers to eat later. There are always reasons to avoid making a change, so don’t let the extra expense discourage you from adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Now that you know paleo is the right diet and lifestyle choice for you, it’s time to clean those processed foods out of your cupboards and hit the grocery store to stock up on all you need to create a healthier you!
How can I get started?
Coming up with healthy, nutritious meals that fit the strict guidelines of the paleo diet can be a bit overwhelming at first. Use these recipes to help inspire dishes of your own, and start discovering new flavours as your tastes adapt to the foods of your ancestors. You might find some of your favorite new foods as you experiment with paleo eating!
Morning Frittata (adapted from this recipe)
3 tbsp of butter (not margarine)
¼ cup of coconut milk
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
2 cups of chopped spinach
2 cups of chopped kale
3 cloves of minced garlic
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and begin beating the eggs with the coconut milk.
2. Melt the butter in a large oven-proof skillet, using medium heat. Sauté the vegetables for about two minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for another minute, and then season them with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the eggs into the skillet, over the veggies, and cook it all together for approximately five minutes before transferring the pan to the preheated oven.
4. Bake 10-15 minutes, ensuring the eggs are set. Serve warm.
Muffins with egg whites and vegetables (adapted from this recipe)
24 egg whites
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 cups fresh spinach
3 chopped scallions
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or butter.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt and pepper, before stirring in the vegetables.
3. Pour the mixture evenly into the 12 muffin cups.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes, ensuring the eggs are set. Serve warm, topped with scallions.
Chili (adapted from this recipe)
1 lb of ground meat (beef, turkey, or chicken)
1 diced bell pepper
1 diced red onion
3 stalks of diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of tomato sauce
2 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of chili powder
½ tsp of cayenne pepper
½ tsp of red pepper flakes
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. Sauté onion, pepper, celery in a large skillet over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Add ground meat, cooking thoroughly until browned.
3. Add tomato sauce and spices, stirring well.
4. Simmer on medium heat until sauce thickens.
5. Serve warm, and refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.
Honey-almond coleslaw (adapted from this recipe)
8 cups of shredded cabbage (green and purple)
1 cup of sliced carrots
½ cup of sliced almonds
4 tbsp of almond butter
4 tbsp of sesame oil
1 tbsp of raw honey
1 tsp of grated fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine carrots, almonds, and cabbage in a large bowl.
2. Whisk together the remaining ingredients until they are combined into a smooth sauce. Use a blender if you want to achieve a creamier dressing.
3. Add dressing to the bowl and toss to ensure all vegetables are well coated. Serve immediately.
Steak stir-fry (adapted from this recipe)
2 tbsp of sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of grated fresh ginger
1 lb of sliced steak
2 cups of shredded cabbage
½ cup of sliced carrot
2 cups of chopped broccoli
2 chopped scallions
1 lime, juiced
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large skillet or a wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, and cook for about a minute before adding the steak. Cook until the steak is browned and remove it from the pan.
3. Add the remaining vegetables and cook until they are tender.
4. Combine steak with cooked vegetables and add lime juice. Toss well and serve warm.
Braised greens with Italian meatballs (adapted from this recipe)
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup of almond flour
1 tsp of smoked paprika
½ tsp of sea salt
1 ½ lbs of ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken)
1 chopped red onion
4 slices of diced bacon
1 bunch chopped collard greens
1 bunch chopped swiss chard
1 cup of water or broth
2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
+ salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, mix ground meat, onion, garlic, almond flour, paprika, and salt together.
3. Use the mix to create 2-inch meatballs and place them on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and coat with Italian seasoning.
4. Bake 20-30 minutes, until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
5. In a large skillet, brown the bacon over medium-high heat before adding greens. Stir well, coating the greens in bacon fat.
6. Add broth or water and turn heat to low. Simmer greens for about 10 minutes, until they are tender.
7. Serve warm, with the meatballs over the greens.
Thank you to Jenn at Jenn Reviews for this great article!
Check her out here:
Jenn Reviews https://www.jenreviews.com/paleo-diet/
Spicy Peanut Sauce
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you are sensitive to spice try 1/8 teaspoon first)
- 2-3 Tablespoons of water
Sugar Snap Peas
- 1 pound sugar snap peas
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the peanut sauce until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust seasonings as needed. If the sauce is too thick add a touch more water to thin.
- Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Toss the peas with the olive oil and salt. Set a wire rack or grill basket on the grill grate and grill peas, turning occasionally, until lightly charred. About 4 minutes.
- Serve peas with the dipping sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.
To learn more about this great paleo happy-hour snack, check out our friends over at Dishing Up The Dirt!
How Ugly Produce Can Change Your Life For The Better
Perfect symmetry, flawless colouring, blemish free fruit and vegetables, that come in their ‘natural’ shape and size. These are what we have been lead to believe are the perfect choices when selecting our produce. Because of this 1 in 5 pieces of fruit in America get rejected because they do not fit the ‘standard’. When they are rejected they are thrown away, useless because they provide no profit. Yet the world is now opening up to the possibility that perfection, is in fact, not perfect at all. Especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. It’s not perfect for your health, OR for the environment!
The ‘Ugly’ Truth
When you hear the term ‘ugly produce’, you are probably expecting bruised, or horrible produce, that has no place in a healthy and nutritious diet. However, the term ‘ugly produce’ is actually used to describe fruit and vegetables that are grown with no greater crime than looking a little different. Sure they may be an odd size or shape, or maybe the coloring is a little off, however, don’t be too quick to dismiss the odd ones out. You might be surprised to learn is that not only are these individual looking fruits and vegetables as packed full of taste and nutrients as any other, opting to purchase them (over those that have conformed to society’s ‘norms’) has numerous other benefits asides from looking ‘unique’.
From a health perspective, let us consider organic produce. When fruits and vegetables are not sprayed in chemicals, such as fungicide, insecticide or pesticides, they grow naturally. ‘Naturally’ doesn’t mean they always end up resembling an oil painting, it means they grow as nature intended. So some odd shapes or slight discolourations are all part of the natural beauty of fruit and vegetables. It is only over centuries of spraying and genetically engineering that more consistent ‘perfect’ specimens have been created.
For this reason, opting for a more natural product can be an indication of a more natural growing process.
How Ugly Can Help The Environment
Did you know that almost a third of all the worlds produce never gets eaten? That is nearly 3 trillion pounds of food per year, wasted! Every pound of produce that is grown takes up considerable amounts of energy, water and other resources, including people’s time and effort.
This discarded food ends up rotting away in landfills and it may surprise you to learn that food waste makes up the single largest component of municipal waste in America. Here it contributes to a large percentage of our country’s methane emission. Though the idea of rotting vegetation seems harmless enough, methane, compared to carbon dioxide, has 21 times greater global warming potential, meaning that all this extra food wastage is contributing to warming or our planet and the melting of the polar ice caps.
Not all food wastage occurs due to the discarding of ‘ugly produce’, but a large portion of it does. Working on switching our mentality in regards to how fresh produce should look, will help dramatically decrease this percentage and improve the conservation of water, energy and resources wasted each year.
Waste Not Want Not
According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, around 1 in 9 people are suffering chronic undernourishment. That is nearly 11% of our world’s population that not only don’t have much to eat, many of them have so little they die from malnutrition. You might think this is all happening in developing countries, but you would be wrong, there are estimated 11 million people in developed countries that are going hungry.
The 2.9 trillion pounds of produce that get wasted each year could feed the people that go hungry, twice over! That is nearly 800 million people, twice over! It just doesn’t seem right, does it?
Fortunately our communities are starting to catch on to the importance of cutting down food wastage, and also just how brilliant ‘ugly’ produce is. You can now order boxes of ugly produce to be delivered to your door, or purchase products made from ugly produce. Companies like Project Juice are doing their part to end this food wastage and educate everyone on the importance of fresh, organic and delicious produce (no matter what it’s physical appearance may be!).
So how can you help balance this scale a little? Support your local ugly produce stores, ugly produce companies and farmers markets, by opting to purchase some of their slightly more unique looking produce!. In doing so you will:
- Help support local farmers
- Cut down on food wastage
- Potentially be eating more natural and nutritious produce
- Save money (These neglected produce often come at a discounted price!)
Embrace the beautiful ‘unique’ qualities of ugly fruit and veg, and incorporate them as part of your nutritious diet!
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup cashew nuts
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- desiccated coconut (optional)
1. Soak the dates in water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and add to a food processor.
2. Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, + salt and process until smooth.
3. Add cashew nuts and chia seeds and pulse a few times. The nuts should be coarsely chopped.
4. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes before forming into 16 bites. Optionally, roll each energy bite in desiccated coconut.
5. Store in the fridge or freezer.
To learn more about this time-saving pre-workout paleo snack, visit our friends over at ebay!
- 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons real salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon parsley
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bit size pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, diced
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- In a small bowl, combine the oregano, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, and parsley. Mix well.
- Place 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a fry pan and add the chicken and half of the seasoning mix. Cook until chicken is done, stirring often- about 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl or plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning mix on them and cook until tender- about 8-10 minutes.
- Serve chicken, peppers, and onions over Romaine lettuce or cauliflower rice, top with avocado if desired.
For more about this Paleo-licious recipe, click on over to our friends at Jays Baking Me Crazy!
So who’s keeping you accountable?
So many times I hear that what people are really missing is the accountability piece. But what I sometimes also hear in their voice is a sense of defeat that they need that.
WTH?!! Are supposed to be made of steal and completely self sufficient?
NO!! As I say, it takes a village!
I’ve been in fitness and wellness for a long time and even I need coaches….lot’s of them. For my own fitness goals, my spiritual practices, areas of interest, etc. It keeps me fresh, learning and growing…..and that is what feels great. Someone to hold my feet to the fire in the areas that i want to grow and flourish.
Who is supporting you? We’d be honored to do so.
Check our 21 Day Challenge and get YOUR accountability and fitness and nutrition success map now!
It’s only $99 Through Monday at midnight!
Successfully achieving any goal often results in that rewarding feeling of accomplishment, yet it feels even more satisfying when our goals lie in the area of self-improvement!
Being able to look in the mirror and seeing a healthier, happier version of ourselves looking back?… Well, it just makes all that time and focused effort worthwhile!
When we are able to implement positive change in our health, we not only look and feel better for it, there is also a rippling effect that spreads out into the many other areas of our life.
Our social lives, family lives, work lives and even the way we enjoy our own free time is enhanced by the improvement in our physical health and our mental wellbeing.
The reason I mention our mental wellbeing here is because there is a symbiotic relationship between our physical body, and our emotional mind.
Have you ever noticed how when you are feeling sick and run down, you might start to feel a little low or even negative? Or in reverse, you might be really excited and happy about something and even though you are exhausted or a little unwell, you seem to muster up a burst of energy?
This is actually explained well through the Ayurvedic principles of the ‘koshas’, or layers of self. This principle views each of us as being comprised of 5 layers. There is the ‘annamaya kosha’, or physical layer, the ‘pranamaya kosha’, or energetic layer, the ‘manomaya kosha’, or conscious mind, the ‘vijnanamaya kosha’, or higher/intuitive mind and the ‘anandamaya kosha’ which is our connected/spiritual layer.
Basically these principles of the koshas shows how in order to work at our optimal level, we need to focus from the bottom up, because each layer impacts on the next. So in order to support ourselves in achieving our fullest potential, we need to firstly work on ensuring our bodies are healthy and running smoothly.
So how do we achieve this? Well firstly you need the intention, or the desire for change. Then, and perhaps most importantly, you need goals. (This is where you are at now!)
“Goal setting is one of the most important skills taught to athletes in order to help them achieve optimal performance.” – According to Alan S. Kornspan, in ‘Fundamentals of Sports and Exercise Psychology’.
Having goals to work towards, enables you to focus on the steps that need to be done in order to achieve the results you’re after. The meta-analytic procedures described by Hedges and Olkin (1985), indicates that not only will goal setting improve your results, having a combination of both short and long term goals has been shown to have the greatest effect.
A long term goal will usually require time, planning and effort. It should be an achievable goal, yet one that will require focus and determination.
A short term goal (or goals) are similar in principle yet are more achievable in the shorter term. These are really important to have as they help you recognise the progression you are making, as well as give you that feeling of achievement which will help motivate you on.
So now you have the goal setting down. You know what you are working towards.
But what else can help you get there? The answer: accountability.
Accountability is also a leading factor in the potential success of you achieving your fitness goals.
Researchers from Stanford University conducted a study in 2007, between two groups of people who were all given the same exercise program. One group were given weekly calls to ‘check’ on their progress to help make them accountable, whereas the other group was not. The results indicated that there was a 59% increase in exercise participation in the group receiving the calls.
Another similar study conducted at the Virginia Polytechnic University, showed that after 24 weeks, the group who received the calls still had 63% continuing to exercise, compared to only 4% from the group who didn’t receive the calls.
Of course receiving phone calls is not the only way to keep accountable for your progression. A workout buddy (or buddies) is an excellent way to help motivate you and keep yourself on track. In fact as Mark Sisson says in his blog ‘How To Use The Buddy Effect To Achieve Your Health Goals’, people are not only much more likely to achieve their goals with a fitness buddy, it also adds a little fun competition that keeps your exercise time interesting and enjoyable.
Then there is also ‘self-accountability’, or answering to yourself.
This is finding ways in which you can help keep yourself on track and accountable for all the decisions you make along the way. Do you skip your workout sometimes? Do you go for a second helping of dinner? Or do you get up and at it?
Here are some great ways of keeping yourself accountable:
Progression Diary – Perhaps up until now a diary hasn’t been your thing? Or perhaps it has… Either way, being able to keep track of what you have done and how you feel about it is a great way to not only stay accountable, but it also enables you to reflect back on what obstacles (emotional or physical) may be hindering your progress.
Motivational Notes – Placing motivational notes around your home, to help encourage and support yourself can be a really inspiring way of staying focused on your goals. A great suggestion is placing positive affirmation next to your bed so it is one of the first things you see each morning. This will help you start your day off on the right foot!
Get Rid Of Temptation – When it comes to food and drink, if you can see it you will want it. So if it is not in your plan, try and get it out of your home. Fill your cupboards with healthy, wholesome food and drink that will support you on your new path towards a healthier and happier version of you.
Prepare Your Environment – Having an environment conducive to exercise will help motivate you to be active. You can put your exercise mat in plain sight (near the T.V!?), and place motivational photos of yourself, or others that inspire you, around your home.
So, if you are serious about implementing positive change and working towards a healthier, fitter and more capable version of yourself, then you need to be serious about setting specific goals and keeping yourself accountable along the way.
At the end of the day, it is you who is responsible for yourself. You have to make the ‘good’ choices. No one else can make it happen for you!
As they saying goes ‘You won’t necessarily get what you wish for, but you will get what you work for!’