We all want to be our fittest selves, but with so much advice floating around out there, it can be hard to hone in on what healthcare tips actually work. To make your life a bit easier, we’ve rounded up a number of our go-to healthy strategies, to help you reach your most ambitious fitness goals even quicker.
Say hello to H20
Whether you’re heading off to spin class, boot camp, or any other exercise, it’s always important to hydrate so you can stay energized and have your best workout. Electrolyte-loaded athletic drinks, though, can be a source of unnecessary calories, so “drinking water is usually fine until you’re exercising for more than one hour,” says Newgent. At that point, feel free to go for regular Gatorade-type drinks (and their calories), which can give you a beneficial replenishment boost. But worry not if you like a little flavor during your fitness: There are now lower- cal sports drinks available, adds Newgent, so look out for ’em in your grocery aisles.
Find the best fitness friend
A workout buddy is hugely helpful for keeping 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, says Andrew Kastor, an ASICS running coach: Can your pal meet to exercise on a regular basis? Is she supportive (not disparaging) of your goals? And last, 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 that phone call.
Stock up on these
While there are heaps of good-for-you foods out there, some key ingredients make it a lot easier to meet your weight-loss goals. Next grocery store run, be sure to place 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), and 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,” says Newgent. Talk about a multitasker!
Relieve those achy muscles
After a grueling workout, there’s a good chance you’re going to be feeling it (we’re talking sore thighs, tight calves). 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,” says Andrew Kastor. And advice we love: “An athlete training for an important race should consider getting one to two massages per month to help aid in training recovery,” adds Kastor. Now that’s speaking our language!
Curb your sweet tooth
Got a late-night sugar craving that just won’t quit? “To satisfy your sweet tooth without pushing yourself over the calorie edge, even in the late night hours, think ‘fruit first,'” says Jackie Newgent, RD, author of The Big Green Cookbook. So resist that chocolate cake siren, and instead enjoy a sliced apple with a tablespoon of nut butter (like peanut or almond) or fresh fig halves spread with ricotta. Then sleep sweet, knowing you’re still on the right, healthy track.
Buy comfy sneaks
You shouldn’t buy kicks that hurt, bottom line! “Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first step,” says Andrew Kastor. So shop in the evening—your feet swell during the day and stop in the late afternoon, so you want to shop when they’re at their biggest. Also make sure the sneaks 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 Kastor says they’ll be even more so once you have a good 20 to 40 miles on ’em.
Pick your perfect tunes
Running with music is a great way to get in a groove (just make sure it’s not blasting too loudly, or you won’t hear those cars!). To pick the ultimate iPod playlist, think about what gets you going. “I know several elite athletes that listen to what we’d consider ‘relaxing’ music, such as symphony music, while they do a hard workout,” says Andrew Kastor. So don’t feel like you have to download Lady Gaga because her tunes are supposed to pump you up—go with any music that you find uplifting.
Find healthy fast food
Have to work late tonight and need dinner—in a hurry? Not to worry. 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,” says Newgent. We’re thinking salads, chili, or grilled chicken. Some low-cal, healthy, on-the-run dishes: the vegetarian burrito bowl at Chipotle, the Bangkok curry at Noodles and Company, and the tomato basil bisque at Au Bon Pain.
Be a mighty maintainer
The end is here! Three cheers for all your hard work. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to put on the brakes. To maintain your weight, you still have to make those smart choices at restaurants, work, and home. Look into getting a diet confidante, who you can chat with once a week about your eating highs and oh-no’s. And stick to using that scale so you can be proactive if a few extra pounds creep back on. Don’t let your exercise routine change, either, because even if you don’t have any more pounds to lose, you’ll still be working out your ticker. And we heart that!
Up your fiber intake
Along with protein and good-for-you fat, fiber is one of those nutrition elements that keeps you full and fueled all day long. And if you’re trying to get fit and shed pounds, fiber is your best friend. In fact, in one an American Heart Association study, participants who consuming 30 grams of fiber a day ended up losing weight and improving their heart health. So when it comes to staying healthy and slim, aim for that 30 gram fiber goal!
Work out in the morning
Sure, it can be a pain to drag yourself out of bed for a morning workout. But according to a study from Appalachian State University, opting for a 45-minute a.m. sweat sesh could cause a metabolic spike, helping your body continue to burn an additional 190 calories throughout the day.
Have a hearty breakfast
By now you’re probably tired of hearing how breakfast is the most important meal of the day—but this tired piece of advice couldn’t be more true! In one study completed at the Imperial College of London, participants who skipped breakfast were more tempted to reach for unhealthy, high-calorie foods later in the day. And in case you need more evidence to eat that a.m. meal, further research found that women had a larger drop in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) when they ate a hearty breakfast versus a small one.