When I had my gym in Venezuela I didn’t often give general dietary and fitness guidelines to my clients. Why not? There’s no one-size-fits-all on this topic, and people didn’t like to change their lifestyle. They may try hard to add to or change their routine, but nothing that makes lives too complicated works in the long term.
I quickly learned in fitness and dieting, you really need to identify your lifestyle to properly address your unique needs. This will have a domino effect. You’ll achieve your goals faster; thus, putting you mentally and physically on the right track to move forward.
There are many lifestyles and many temporary ones, a fact that made me think about starting a series of articles on this topic to tackle them all.
One very common one is what I’ll call the Proud Professional.
Who is this? late 20s and up, single, divorced or married without kids, travel, lots of meetings and business related activities, the pressure to look good is another stressor, driven, time-pressed, regimented, may be dating… In this category we also have the working parents with kids, a factor that adds even more stress.
What are your dietary risks? Stress can wear out the adrenal glands. This sets you in a pattern of fatigue, muscle wasting and fat accumulation. To add to the situation, you probably are eating out several times a week, which puts you in an erratic meal schedule and puts overindulgence in motion. Likewise, traveling may be part of your agenda so your immune system is taxed as well.
What to eat?
- Eat protein at every meal, starting with the breakfast. Since you are in a rush, smoothies will do the trick to squeeze in a good amount of protein (think Greek yogurt, skim milk or whey protein), fruits for carbohydrates and healthy omega-3 fatty acids such as almonds, flaxseed or hemp seeds, which also adds complete proteins. The rest of the day, chicken, lean beef, fish or beans should be in your plate at lunch and dinner.
- Keep food with you at all times: Your schedule varies often. Best trick: almond, Brazil nuts and pistachios. Pair these with a fruit such a pear, apple, and orange or yogurt for calcium. Nuts are rich in tyrosine, which will boost your energy and concentration.
- Increase sources of potassium, vitamin C and magnesium such as oat bran, bulgur, spinach, buckwheat flour, tomato, beans, dates, potatoes, berries, peppers, orange and black tea, which has been linked in stress reduction.
- Focus on hydration as Tara Gidus, registered nutritionist and team dietitian of the Orlando Magic, points out: “You should carry a bottle of water at all times. Dehydration will increase fatigue and sluggishness.”
- When you eat out, know where you go and know in advance what you’ll ask. Nowadays, more restaurants are placing the calories on their menus. Play safe and don’t pick anything over 500 calories (as the main and only dish or ask for two appetizers splitting the calories). If you still don’t know, choose a broth-based soup to start and a salad – without the croutons and heavy dressings – with dressing on the side. Add protein like chicken, shrimp or fish.
- Strengthen your immune system by taking good quality probiotics. Make sure the label says “live and active cultures.”
- You may be holding off on having babies for now, however you still need to include sources of folic acid. Add to your diet: oranges and orange juice, lentils, legumes, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, avocados, and fortified grains, like breads and cereals. And if you are a man, keep your sperm healthy with oysters, beef, wheat germ, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, crab, whole grains and poultry.
What are your risks? 40-50% reduction in muscle mass from muscle fiber atrophy and loss of motor units happen between the ages 25-80. After 20, we lose 1% in aerobic capacity every year. You are glued to a chair (either working on front of a computer or attending meetings), which is an independent factor of increase mortality. This means that regardless of how many hours your workout in the gym, if you spend too much time sitting, you are at risk. People who spend long hours sitting tend to increase body fat around the waist.
How to work out?
Very complex and long fitness programs may not work for you. Have two programs: one when you are at home and one when you travel. You should be all about keeping everything in your agenda. Pencil in your workout just like any important business task or appointment.
The proud professional is always in a rush, so the best workout is moderate- to high-intensity that combines cardio and weight training in one 30-minute session.
Perform this routine either at the gym or in the house three or four times a week.
a) Do any cardiovascular machine such as the treadmill, elliptical or bike for 20 min. Warm up 5 minutes and then perform intervals of high intensity 1 to 1 (meaning one minute at 8 in a scale of 1-10 and one minute at 5-6 for recovery). Cool down the last three to four minutes.
b) Do two circuits (one exercise after another with no rest, just at the end of the circuit rest for 60 seconds) of these five exercises: 1.squat, 2. deadlift, 3. pull-up, 4. push-up and 5. squat to shoulder press. Do one exercise for 10-12 reps with heavy weights the first circuit and the following do it for 15 reps. Select barbell or dumbbells according to what makes sense. As you make progress, do push-ups incline, decline or on a physioball. The idea is to keep increasing the intensity.
- Ideally, add one weekly class of yoga to your fitness regimen.
- When you travel, don’t complicate your life so either hit the gym for 30 minutes of cardio (it’ll be easier to follow a cardio routine than getting used to new strength equipment, placement, etc.) or do this circuit in your hotel room for 20 minutes: jump rope for one minute to warm up. Start the circuit with a squat, jump squat, jump rope, lunge, split jump lunge, jump rope, push up, dips, jump rope, plank. Perform each exercise for one minute and repeat the circuit once more. Twenty minutes of this will keep your metabolism on fire.
- Also, in your late 20s to late 30s is when your endurance peaks. This may be the time to join a cycling or running team at your office.
As you can notice, you don’t have to change your lifestyle to be healthy and fit, what you have to do is be smart and make diet and exercise fit your needs.
Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.