The 24 hour guide to being productive, building muscle, and maintaining energy.
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.