Living a healthy lifestyle and getting into shape as a busy executive in any city is often thought to be an impossible task. In fact, the majority of our clients are just like you: over stressed, under rested and struggling to find any more time in the day than they already have. However, a quick look at the results we achieve with this client base would suggest we might know a thing or two on how to successfully implement healthy habits into an executive lifestyle.
1. Eat a Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At UP, we suggest high protein, lower carbohydrate breakfasts, such as salmon, avocados and blueberries.
Why? Enhanced productivity, sustained energy and focus, as well as increased fat burning through the day, are to name a few of the reasons why it’s crucial to start the day right.
2. Do Not Skip Meals
When you’re busy, it’s tempting to skip meals. However, this can be disastrous for your productivity, and your waistline. Skipping meals can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, and more often than not, reaching for a chocolate bar from the office vending machine. One of the habits we instil in clients straight away is to eat a protein-rich meal every three to four hours.
3. Focus on Hydration
The majority of you reading this are chronically dehydrated. Multiple studies now indicate dehydration can lower productivity dramatically, increase stress hormones, create poor eating habits and hamper your body’s ability to burn fat. A quick solution to this is simple: Fill three one-litre bottles of water at the start of the day and keep them on your desk. By the end of the day, they should all be empty!
4. Master Portion Control
Busy people don’t have the time to count calories or deal with complicated nutrition plans that involve calculators or mobile apps. Instead, at UP we focus on mastering basic nutrition habits and portion control. A good starting point for each meal could look like this: 1-2 palm sizes of meat or fish, a large handful of colourful vegetables and a tablespoon of healthy fats. A cup of starchy carbs can then be added depending on the individual client’s demands.
5. Own the Meeting
A common pitfall in any executive’s day is the time around meetings. If you know you are back to back for hours, it’s vital to go in prepared. Here are the essentials: water, protein powders and some nuts. In between meetings when solid food isn’t an option, mixing a good quality whey protein powder with water can be a lifesaver.
6. Pick the Right Menu
Many executives eat out in restaurants on a regular basis, whether it’s due to time constraints or business meetings. Either way, it shouldn’t be an excuse to indulge on three-course meals, luxurious desserts or binge on alcohol. Restaurants are full of hidden calories, so it’s vital you make your food choices very basic. Sticking to one main of meat, and then asking for a side dish of vegetables (without mayonnaise, butter or the like) is one way to go about it. Alternatively, doing your best to scout the restaurants you know you can eat well in is always best.
7. Dominate the Travel
A lot of the executives we deal with at UP have extremely busy travelling schedules, meaning they are constantly in and out of airports. To maximise productivity and energy during these business trips, one of the best tips is to avoid alcohol in the airport lounge. With champagne and wine on offer all around, sticking with water on your flight will make a world of difference in how you feel. Second, bringing simple, healthy snacks such as biltong, nuts and seeds can help keep you satiated, and prevent succumbing to poor quality airport food.
8. Batch Cooking
For anyone short on time looking to live a healthier lifestyle, batch cooking is essential. To make it easy, pick two days in the week and spend an hour preparing the next few days’ worth of food. You’ll never have to worry about being caught off guard at the office canteen again!
9. Maximize Quality of Sleep
Most busy executives are deprived of sleep, and for the most part, trying to get more sleep is not going to happen. Instead, we can work on improving the quality of the sleep they do get. The first ‘trick’ is to strategically eat your carbohydrates later in the day. Whilst opting for high protein meals earlier in the day is better for productivity and focus, carbohydrate heavy meals in the evening can actually help trigger the relaxing hormone ‘serotonin’, helping with the ability to fall and stay asleep at night. Second, executives are known for always being ‘on’. Switching your phone (and yes, that means email too!) off at least an hour before bed can help the mind relax and unwind, making for higher quality and deeper sleep.
10. Exercise Efficiently
To achieve optimal body composition, you need exercise. If time is very tight, some exercise is still always better than none. A quick 10-20 minute daily bodyweight circuit or even some high-intensity interval training are effective ways to increase your metabolic rate and burn a lot of calories. If done correctly, you may even be able to build some muscle in the process!
11. Chew More Slowly
It can take a while for the brain to “register” that you’ve had enough to eat. Some studies show that chewing more slowly can help you eat fewer calories and increase the production of hormones linked to weight loss .
12. Get Good Sleep
Sleep is highly underrated, but it may be just as important as eating healthy and exercising.
Studies show that poor sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity, being linked to an 89% increased risk of obesity in children, and 55% in adults .
13. Beat Your Food Addiction
A recent 2014 study of 196,211 individuals found that 19.9% of people fulfil the criteria for food addiction .
If you suffer from overpowering cravings and can’t seem to get your eating under control no matter how hard you try, then you may be a food addict.
In this case, get help. Trying to lose weight without dealing with this problem first is next to impossible.
14. Eat More Protein
Protein is the single most important nutrient when it comes to losing weight.
Eating a high protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day, while helping you feel so satiated that you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day .
One study also showed that protein at 25% of calories reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60%, while cutting the desire for late night snacking in half .
This is the single most important tip in the article.
Simply adding protein to your diet (without restricting anything) is one of the easiest, most effective and most delicious ways to lose weight.
15. Supplement With Whey Protein
If you struggle to get enough protein in your diet, taking a supplement can help.
One study showed that replacing part of your calories with whey protein can cause weight loss of about 8 pounds, while increasing lean muscle mass .
16. Don’t Drink Calories, Including Sugary Soda and Fruit Juices
Sugar is bad, but sugar in liquid form is even worse . Studies show that liquid sugar calories may be the single most fattening aspect of the modern diet.
For example, one study showed that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children, for each daily serving.
Keep in mind that this applies to fruit juice as well, which contains a similar amount of sugar as a soft drink like coke.
Eat whole fruit, but use fruit juice with caution (or avoid it altogether).
17. Eat Whole, Single Ingredient Foods (Real Food)
If you want to be a leaner, healthier person, then one of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat whole, single ingredient foods.
These foods are naturally filling, and it’s very difficult to gain weight if the majority of your diet is based around them.
Keep in mind that real food doesn’t need a long list of ingredients, because real food IS the ingredient.
Here is a list of the 20 most weight loss-friendly foods on earth.
18. Don’t “Diet,” Eat Healthy Instead
One of the biggest problems with “diets,” is that they almost never work in the long term.
If anything, people who “diet” tend to gain more weight over time, and studies show that dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain .
Instead of going on a diet, make it your goal to become a healthier, happier and fitter person. Focus on nourishing your body, instead of depriving it.
Weight loss should follow as a natural side effect.