Becoming a parent inspired me to be the healthiest person I could possible be. Why?
Because I wanted to be the best example to my children? Yes, that is true. Children follow our example, especially when they have to eat what we cook for them, or what we buy for them, but there is more to it than that.
I want to live life to its fullest. This means that I want to live as long as possible for my self and for those that I care for. It also means that I will not miss opportunities to be physically present in developmental stages in my children’s life. If I keep fit as I age, I can be there to teach them, keep them safe, and just enjoy being in the game.
Before my son was born I spent five years researching how to improve my physical fitness, and I followed through. But after three children and helping my wife get through midwifery training while holding down a full time job, I slowly began to neglect my goals. So I decided to get out all my old research, update it, and start again.
Here are 20 healthy tips that I found the most helpful:
1. Turn fat into muscle.
I know that sounds simple, but if you are going to carry weight, you want that weight to be useful muscle. Fat carries toxins, and muscle metabolizes fat and carries DHEA hormones which make us look and feel younger. Fat acts as an extra weight that puts pressure on our bones causing pain, while muscle supports our bones keeping them inline, stronger, and healthier.
2. Eat 5-6 small meals a day less than three hours apart.
Eating every three hours keeps your metabolism up and cuts down on catabolism which eats muscle. Always start with a protein, as soon as you wake in the morning. The more often you eat, the less likely you are to over-eat when you dine, especially in the evening.
3. Eat more fiber.
Take in plenty of both types of fiber. Insoluble fibers work to clean your colon and help you digest food, while soluble fibers regulate your body’s digestion of fats and sugar, allowing you to have steady energy throughout the day. Fiber also lowers your blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and helps increase blood flow. Fruit, like apples, also contin pectin which helps your body burn fat.
4. Eat more protein.
There are so many healthy ways to get protein in your diet other than meats. Eggs contain vitamins that help produce muscle, raise testosterone, and contribute to overall health. Milk is a perfect protein for after-workout recovery. It contains whey, a fast absorbing protein, for quick muscle repair. It also contains casein, which absorbs slowly into your body over a long period. Greek yogurt is another healthy protein, plus it provides your body with beneficial bacteria to improve digestive health. We like to substitute unsweetened plain yogurt in place of sour cream, cutting down the fat in our food and increasing the protein.
5. Reduce carbohydrate intake.
Carbs, especially those that are rich in simple sugars and starches, lead to the production of the hormones insulin and cortisol which fight and diminish testosterone production. Researchers are revealing more and more about the negative effects of eating too much sugar. Besides weight gain, high blood pressure, liver damage, and many others, your blood becomes acidic which sets the stage for fungal, viral and bacterial infections and also for system imbalances which may lead to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
6. Eat fats.
This means eating more foods with saturated fats like meats, butter, avocados, and coconut products. Fats help your body use energy properly, aid in the absorption of various vitamins, and are vital for proper cell function. Polyunsaturated fats, such as flaxseed, walnuts, and fish in the forms of omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal testosterone production, and help with brain function, energy levels, and even inflammation. Monounsaturated fats are fine as long as they’re not heated. Hydrogenated fats, and trans fats are dangerous and should be avoided.
7. Increase your zinc and magnesium intake.
Magnesium and zinc are two of the most important minerals necessary for the production of testosterone. They also help heal and develop muscles, and in the end, increase your overall health. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and plays a role in regulating blood pressure, hormones, sleep patterns, and both mental and physical health. Similarly, zinc is vital for many bodily processes and most people are deficient in this key mineral that boosts immune and brain function. Oysters, nuts, seeds and even yogurt are great sources of both.
8. Start eating real salt.
Table salt you buy in the store is 97% sodium chloride, which besides tasting horrible, makes your body swell, raises your cholesterol, and is chemically produced and processed with a number of toxic chemicals. Real salt contains a large number of trace minerals that your body not only craves but needs that are difficult to find in other foods and are vital for nerve and cardiovascular health. Himalayan, Celtic, black lava, and Real Salt are all great options that are high in trace minerals.
9. Drink water.
When your body is low on water your metabolism slows down. You actually swell when you develop a habit of being dehydrated, because your body is trying to adapt to a lower water environment. This doesn’t mean to drink sports drinks which are full of high fructose syrup. Drink regular H2O.
10. Raise your testosterone.
Don’t be afraid of cholesterol, especially good cholesterol like from avocados, eggs, and nuts. Do shorter more intense workouts. This burns more fat over a longer period of time, builds fast twitch muscles, and raises your testosterone. Testosterone keeps you feeling younger and helps your body produce more muscle when you exercise regularly.
11. Limit your caffeine.
Coffee is a great way to jump start your metabolism in the morning, and it also helps your muscles absorb protein after a good workout, but if you consume it continuously throughout the day your body begins to produce more cortisol, which raises your stress, and eats muscle. Try taking a break from coffee on the weekends so you don’t grow dependent on it to encounter human beings.
12. Lower your stress.
Short bursts of stress are a good thing. They help build strength, and give us a better nights sleep. But too much continuous stress can reak havoc on your immune system, lower your testosterone, and produce even more cortisol. Take a walk outside, or take a short nap to restart your brain if you ever find yourself in a high stress situation. If that doesn’t work, find a pet to pet. Researchers are finding out more and more about the stress-reducing effects of spending time with pets.
13. Carry your kids.
Carry your kids when they get tired instead of pushing them in a stroller. It is a great way to get a full body workout and also allows more close interaction with your children. Carrying them at our level incourages better communication skills and gives them an increased sense of security, which I feel makes them more confident and trusting of others as adults.
14. Start sweating.
We live in an air conditioned society where sweating is looked at as being negative, unhygienic, and gross. But it is a very important part of having a healthier body. Sweating raises our metabolism, rids our body of toxins, and helps our system better regulate fevers.
15. Eat protein before you go to bed.
After a few hours of sleep, our metabolism slows down and our body begins to develop more cortisol, and catabolism begins to take over. This is when our body begins to eat muscles instead of fat and calories. Eating protein before you go to bed helps to keep your cortisol at bay. Cottage cheese is a slow digesting protein that is perfect for a bedtime snack, because it keeps your metabolism up during sleep, and delays your body’s tendency to produce cortisol.
16. Get good sleep.
I know that is a lot to ask of parents, but sleep is when our bodies mend muscle damage and produce DHEA, an important growth hormone only produced during sleep. When you get a bad night of sleep, you are more likely to eat junk food the next day for energy.
17. Exercise fast twitch muscle and slow twitch muscles.
Fast twitch muscles are built by doing short intense exercises, which burns a lot of fat and keeps your metabolizm high even after you are done exercising, but they don’t help with endurance. Slow twitch muscles are built by doing long exercises at a maintainable intensity. This helps with those long days at amusement parks, the zoo, or any activity that requires us to outlast our kids. Having a good balance of both fast and slow twitch muscles not only helps you live a healthier life, but it will allow you to participate in a wide range of activities that require strength and endurance.
18. Workout with your kids.
Besides giving them a healthier start on life, working out with your kids is a great bonding time. It instills confidence in them, and keeps you on track on those days when you are struggling with motivation. Letting your kids get fit with you sets ground work for teaching them about human biology like knowing muscle groups, skeletal structure, and proper diet.
19. Slow down and take a deep breath.
The way in which we receive our oxygen is so important for our overall health. When we get stressed, our breathing changes. We either hold it in or breathe shorter and more rapidly, which causes our body to go into a state of panic. Deep calm breathing lowers your heart rate, your blood pressure, and increases your blood oxygen level. Breathing deeply expands your lungs to their full capacity, exercising your lungs and allowing for more oxygen to flow through your body. Many believe Wim Hof (The Iceman) has mastered a breathing technique to improve your immune system and enable the body to withstand extremely cold temps.
20. Get some sun.
We have all heard of how excessive exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, wrinkling, and aging, but sunlight is very necessary for our overall health. Daily exposure to the sun is the best way for our bodies to produce the hormone melatonin, which helps us sleep at night. We produce this hormone less and less the older we get, so more sun is necessary to maintain healthier levels.
Besides being a germ killer, sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, and gives us an overall sense of well-being.
It would be an unreasonable goal to implement all of these things overnight, but pick a few at a time and try to incorporate them into your life. I promise you’ll feel better and your kids will thank you for it, and if they don’t thank you at least they aren’t trash talking you about your poor fitness.