Tasks get sidelined, things pop up, your day sometimes just doesn’t go how you thought it would.
That’s okay. If you learn nothing else from this, please know that it is okay to not do every single day absolutely perfectly. That being said, it’s also okay to nail your goals, and some of the these tips may help you to do just that.
I have two primary physical goals at this moment in time. One is to build muscle and the other is to maintain energy. I put effort into both acts in a super committed way, and although building muscle is relatively draining, I have safety habits distributed throughout the day that are expressly put in place to protect myself from exhaustion and overwork. I plan my food, I plan my schedule, and I plan my time not because I have so much extra space in my day that I need to work to fill it, but because on a daily basis I do a lot and a plan keeps the good stuff flowing. Naturally, that’s my first tip.
Make a plan.
It could be the plan in this article to start, but probably even better would be a plan you tweaked to fit your life. Set alarms or make a sticker chart to help yourself stick to your plan.
What to do in the morning:
Wake the fuck up
I know plenty of folks who have trouble getting out of bed, but the first way to get shit done is to get up to allow yourself enough time to do the things that you want to do. I wake up at 6:30 most days, which is before the sun rises and thus, is not exactly my favorite. But! I usually get up to work out first thing. I know that lifting right away jumpstarts my metabolism. I know I feel like a fucking champion when it’s 9:00AM and I have already worked out, showered, and gotten dressed for my real day, and I know that feeling accomplished first thing is helpful for fitting it all in. You can wake up to work, or meditate, or exercise or whatever, but just wake up. Carpe that diem.
Drink a huge cup of water
Upon waking, you are dehydrated. If you reach for a glass a water before you even wipe the crust out of your eyes, you are doing something right. Your body won’t have to work so damn hard to function, so you’ll have more energy. Go for the gold.
I actually don’t care when you meditate in a day, but I do think you should do it. Often I wake up overwhelmed by all of the things I have to do and the only way I can calm my mind so that I can actually get started is to allow ten minutes for the breath to happen on a conscious level. Meditating first thing primes me for a successful day.
Have caffeine if that’s your thing, eat a super powered breakfast, take your vitamins.
My choices here are as follows
-coffee with a little unsweetened almond milk
-liquid vitamin B12
-oats with chia seeds, blueberries, and protein powder pre workout, smoothie with protein powder, banana, strawberries, and kale post workout. Every single one of theses actions gives me a tangible energy boost that I instantly feel.
What to do in the afternoon:
Drink a huge cup of water
If you can drink a cup of water every 1-2 hours during the day, you will be doing awesomely. Again, an alarm on your phone is an awesome reminder.
Eat muscle building meals and snacks with protein, fat, carbs, and veggies.
You deserve better than the vending machines and the quick food fixes.
I don’t recommend measuring or weighing food for most people, because that seems to be the quickest way people choose to drive themselves wild with anxiety and fear around food.
Instead, I say go for the good stuff and try to find a balance. Typical plates of food for me include sweet potatoes, baked tofu, kale and peanut sauce, tofu scramble with mixed veggies, black beans, and avocado slices, bean pasta with seared tempeh, broccolini, and homemade marinara, etc. My meals are often different logistically, but very similar in terms of a template. Vegan, gluten-free protein, fat, carbs, and veggies are on 99% of my plates and that seems to be what’s logical for most other folks too.
If you’re worried about portion size, my first recommendation is to eat slowly and try to find when you’re full, but for those with a chronic history of eating disorders or dieting, I know it can be difficult to heed the body’s signals. In cases like these, using your fists can be good. Eating tons of veggies, 1 fist sized serving of starch, and 1 fist sized serving of your protein is a good start. You will be the only one who can tell if your body needs more. (Also, PS, I eat six times a day, so my meals tend to be smaller. If you eat three times a day, double the above suggestions.)
Allow yourself breaks to shit around on the internet, but keep your focus in the off break time
For me, 15-20 minutes of Facebook, blog reading, Instagram, and texting just to say what’s up every 2-3 hours works well. I also make myself get up and take a quick walk after the 15-20 minutes is over to signal that my time waste-age is through and I’m ready to get back to the grind.
Have a snack that supports your goals
Because I am in a muscle building/energy maintaining phase of life, I go for protein (the muscle’s building blocks) and carbs (straight energy for the system). Here are some examples:
rice cakes and hummus, carrots and black bean dip, tofu scramble with a little Daiya cheese melted on top, protein smoothies, fruit.
What to do in the evening:
De-stress in the best ways that you know how
Meditate, make out, journal, nap, read, go for a walk, stretch, flip through a magazine, listen to relaxing music, masturbate, sit in a room and do nothing, whatever- just do it consciously and for a good amount of time. Chances are, you work hard. I recommend staying away from screens during your de-stress and really trying to get comfy.
Settling into non-work mode will help to replenish you for when it’s time to get back to it.
Eat a Dinner that supports your goals
I have been playing around with different kinds of dinners, and what I’ve noticed is this: my muscles are more visible when I keep carbs that aren’t vegetables closer to my workouts. Because I am wildly narcissistic and want to see the shit out of my hard work, I tend to eat a dinner that is mostly veggies and protein with a little fat. Sometimes I end up having something more carbohydrate rich, and that isn’t a huge deal, but there’s a bunch of meals I can make with a protein and veggie template, and I like to see abs. SUE ME.
(Most people’s goals will simply be to eat healthfully during dinner and I FULLY support that. Following the same guidelines that you did at lunch is absolutely perfect, too.)
but try to stop two hours before going to bed. No one likes to wake up time and time and time again to pee.
Plan your next day
This is one of the most important ways I prep for success.
Before I go to bed I write down all the stuff I need to do the next day, and I put it in order of importance. Sometimes I would LIKE to study for my personal trainer exam, see clients, write a blog post, work on my conference proposal, and organize my files but I realize that focusing on my clients and my exam are paramount and that’s all I can handle in a day. Taking the time to prioritize means that I can avoid alphabetizing files when I should be brushing up on anatomy.
Another way I prepare for my day is to generally plan my food if I am going to be near my home all day, and prepare and pack my food if I will be out. No matter what I soak some oats and chia for my overnight oat breakfast and take note to make sure I have enough unsweetened almond milk and greens for the next day. Knowing what and how I will eat saves me a significant amount of time.
Wind down in preparation for a serious sleep
This is how I make sure I sleep soundly:
- Try not to have more than two coffees a day, don’t drink it past 3PM.
- Watch ONE episode of a TV show, then call it quits
- Take one dose of melatonin, because that is my JAM and helps me sleep like a baby.
- Try to get screens away from me at least an hour before bed
- Spend time reflecting on my day and write a gratitude list
Sleep for 8 hours
I sleep for AT LEAST 8 hours a night, and I know some can get away with less, but I don’t really understand why one would want to. GOOD SLEEP IS KING!
Repeat most days
Because guidelines are good, but sometimes you gotta break ’em. Work your schedule enough for it to feel like a habit but not a rule.
Of course sometime in there, you will have to work out.
Muscle building happens in the kitchen for sure, but it also happens in the gym. For me, I find that I do best when I workout in the morning, strength train 4-5 times a week, sprinkle in a dash of cardio and bike commuting, and lift heavy using compound exercises. Your exercise situation may look different, and that’s okay. It is likely that you will be working out for ONE HOUR A DAY, which means there are a bunch of other hours that you will need to fill with healthy, productive, energy producing, muscle building habits.
Your body is more than a product of what you lift or how you sprint, so remember to take care of it as such.
I have to tell you something.
Sore muscles don’t necessarily mean you had a super productive, big time results changing workout.
Not-sore muscles don’t necessarily mean you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.
Now that that’s out of the way:
It’s not big secret that I am a high intensity exercise kind of lady. I have done all sixty days of the Insanity Workout twice. I work out at a Crossfit gym (the best crossfit gym EVER, by the way.) Power lifting and olympic lifting are both my JAM. I love a heavy kettlebell. I will try to PR every time I go for a heavy lift (not that I’ll always make it!). I am in the last two weeks of The Blissful Chef’s Personalized 16 week program, which has challenged me with workouts that use supersets, that are longer than I am used to, and that have introduced me to a bevy of exercises that I had never even come close to trying before. I am committed. I like to work hard. And really, I hardly ever get sore.
When I first started high intensity training, crossfitting, and working on other kinds of lifting, I got sore all the time. I got sore because I was using muscles I had never before used and because I was asking my body to do something that it wasn’t used to doing. That is completely typical, makes perfect sense, and gradually, it stopped happening.
The moment my workouts stopped destroying me, I got scared. Was I no longer working hard? Was I phoning it in? Should I go heavier? Should I go faster? Was I just plain lazy?
No. No, no, no, and no.
Although I continue to participate in a variety of exercises (lifting barbells and dumbbells in a variety of ways, bodyweight exercise, swimming, running, hiking, biking, and yoga) my body is quite accustomed to the movements I tend to do. When I increase my weights, or reps, or my speed, I tend to be sore right after a workout, but rarely into the next day. That is both because my body has adapted well, and because I keep my pre-and post workout nutrition in check.
Every single person’s body is different, but there are some things about muscle recovery that science just supports.
1) Minerals are crucial for a host of bodily functions, including metabolism, tissue structuring, and hormonal support. (So, eating a plant-rich diet that is extremely full of vitamins and minerals gives me a huge leg up on recovery)
2) Eating (or drinking) both essential amino acids and quick burning carbohydrate within an hour after physical activity and immediately before exercise has been shown to significantly stimulate muscle synthesis. (I eat both before and after exercise, making sure to have a balance of quick burning carbs- in my case 9 times out of 10 this is banana- and solid protein- usually Vega Sport)
3) No matter what your exercise plan is, regular ingestion of snacks and meals providing both carbs and protein helps to promote recovery and replenishment of muscle glycogen. (I do not fuck around with my eating, and slay wholesome food very, very regularly. Like every 2-3 hours regularly)
4) BCAAs – which are found in the protein powder I mentioned above- are amino acids which cannot be made by your body and must be eaten. BCAAs help to transition your body from a catabolic (breaking down muscle) to anabolic (building muscle) stage after exercise.
Proper fuel makes an extreme difference in muscle recovery. Eating is an intrinsic part of muscle recovery. These are facts!
In short, your tool kit for regular ass-kicking in the gym and out is as follows:
1) consistency about activity, putting the time in to build muscles up. Commitment to working past the time of all-the-time-soreness, and into a time where your muscles come to expect to be shredded.
2) hydration, because muscles need water (just like the rest of your body).
3) adequate rest and recovery time (for me, once every 2-3 days I take a rest day, I sleep a MINIMUM of eight hours a night)
4) Pre-workout quick burning carbs (banana, dates, 100% juice, natural pre-workout products)
5) For longer workouts, sustained carb intake- more about that here
6) Post workout nutrition that proves you take your body seriously. My smoothie today was a great example of this: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup berries, 1 banana, and 1 scoop of Vega Sport recovery.
To avoid sore muscles: Don’t put off eating post exercise, don’t exercise infrequently, don’t skip rest days, don’t shirk sleep, don’t forget your vegetables. Eat your (vegan) proteins!
Now get out there and crush it!
2) Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. Journal of Nutrition.136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. – See more at: http://vegasport.com/product/performance-protein/#sthash.z0MbywR2.dpuf
Lately, my life has been moving very quickly. Between seeing clients, making meal plans, recipe testing, writing, keeping myself healthy with awesome food and exercise and blogging, I feel like days are gone in the blink of an eye. I’m definitely not complaining- things are actually straight up amazing- but I am making an effort to slow myself down. Inspired by the weekly love lists on Bonzai Aphrodite, I have started bringing my camera out a bit more, stopping a little more often to try to smell the proverbial (and literal) roses around me.
Like Ferris Bueller says: “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
I have been vegan for most of the past sixteen years, but it wasn’t until I listened to Rich Roll podcast #93 with Sharon Palmer, RD that I actually decided that maybe it was time to get a B-12 supplement. Feel free to message me if you wonder why I think it is important.
I baked a cake, it tasted like heaven and included vegetables.
Prepping for that post workout life, courtesy of Vega Sport in chocolate. Peanut butter, because duh.
Meal plan recipe testing! Plantain flap jacks, roasted red pepper soup, roasted garlic and coconut quinoa, kale salad with toasted almonds and shaved cashew parmesan, creamy olive oil mashed cauliflower, and miso glazed eggplant.Until next time!