Lockdown is over and we’re all finding our feet and trying to figure out what the f*ck is going on with 2020. Many of us are completely out of our usual routines, healthy eating regimes or exercise programs.
That’s okay, the world hasn’t exactly been “normal” of late, with the gyms being closed and the world effectively sh*tting itself for the last 4 months – we can’t be expected to be perfect on our training and diet plans, right?
However, now we’re gradually returning to something that may resemble “normal life”, we would be well advised to start thinking about how to look after our health. Why would this be a priority?
Well, aside from the fact that health is always an important thing to think about for quality and longevity of life, the current global climate should illustrate my point for me. The strategy for dealing with COVID-19 thus far has been to hide from the virus, protect ourselves and avoid coming into contact with it in any form. I am not slating this strategy, it is always important to look after the most vulnerable in our society and give them priority when something dangerous comes around the corner.
However, looking into the future, hiding from a virus isn’t a sustainable strategy. I understand that it’s disconcerting watching the news every night and seeing how many people have died with COVID-19, or how many people have contracted the disease, but we cannot run from this thing forever. This virus is, whether we like it or not, here to stay. I am no scientist and I cannot offer a cure, and I’m not going to play doctor on the internet. But what I can say with conviction is that the only way out of this crisis for the population at large is to improve our health to a point where we are much more robust and less vulnerable to any virus or infectious disease.
If we’re going to return to any kind of regular life and society, health has to be very high on our list of priorities. That’s why over the coming days and weeks, I’m going to be producing content here on my blog and over on my YouTube channel to give you some pointers on where to focus your efforts to get healthy and give you a kick start on your fitness & body goals.
Hang On – I Just Want A Better Body!
If you’re reading this thinking – I’m not bothered about all this COVID-19 stuff Andy, I just want to find out how to get a better body! I hear you. But this article still 100% applies to you.
See, we don’t get to make the choice between whether we want to be healthy or we want to build muscle and lose fat. Health is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to a great body. Without a body that functions properly from a health standpoint, our chances of getting a great looking physique drastically diminish.
Okay, I can already hear the 18 year old experts screaming about “CaLoRiEs iN cAlOrIeS OuT BrO”, so let me explain further:
Yes, the key to weight loss, or even fat loss, is calories in versus calories out. There is no force in the universe that can override this law of thermogenesis. If we expend more energy than we take in, we lose weight. If we take in more energy than we expend, we gain weight. Simple, right?
It is, in a metabolically healthy person. What this viewpoint doesn’t take into account is what Jake Carter likes to call the “health handbrakes”. This is when your body isn’t functioning as it should in one or more ways, leading your metabolic rate to slow down for one reason or another. Essentially what this means is the amount of calories you burn at rest could get substantially lower if you don’t look after yourself, meaning you will have a much harder time losing body fat.
How Do We Get Healthy?
So, we’ve examined the reasons it’s important to focus on health. Now, whether you want to get healthy to protect yourself from disease or you want to get healthy to help supercharge your muscle building/fat loss efforts, it may help if you actually know what to do to get healthy. As I mentioned earlier, I will be doing a series of articles & videos on all aspects of health to help you create the strongest & most robust body possible, but here’s a quick overview of some of the main points to focus on:
Sleep is, in my humble opinion, the single most important factor in improving health (and as an extension, body composition). A chronic lack of sleep, or chronically “under sleeping” can have dire consequences. Everything from high blood pressure to Alzheimer’s and even Cancer has been linked to poor sleep, if not as the primary cause, at least as a major contributory factor.
Not only does sleep affect health, but it can screw up your physique, too. Changes in our hormonal profile and spikes in hormones controlling hunger can cause us to overeat by up to 600 calories per day without even realising it when we’re sleep deprived. Not to mention the fact we have poorer recovery from workouts & less ability to repair and grow muscle tissue when we’re in a state of sleep deprivation.
For more information on why sleep is such an important factor for health & body goals, and how to improve the quality and duration of your sleep, check out the article I’ve written on sleep by clicking here.
If you’ve ever referred to people as “house plants with feelings”, your statement isn’t as ridiculous as it might at first seem. Of course, we’re much more complex beings than plants and we have a much wider array of wants & needs. But one thing the human being and the humble house plant do have in common, is a need for sunlight.
We intuitively know this about plants, we water them and put them in a place where maximal sunlight is available to help them grow and stay healthy. But rarely do we afford ourselves the same luxury.
It’s no coincidence that low levels of vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) has been strongly correlated with severity of COVID-19. Those of us that synthesise sunlight on a more regular basis are the beneficiaries of a multitude of health and body composition benefits that boost our immune system, give us more energy and help us to have a much easier time building muscle & burning fat.
To read my thoughts on sunlight & how you can increase sunlight exposure safely to improve health, click here to check out the article I wrote on this topic recently.
NEAT – or “Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” refers to how much general bodily movement you go through on a daily basis that isn’t directly related to your formal training or cardio sessions. When we talk about NEAT we can talk about it in terms of how active or how sedentary we are on a daily basis. Logic dictates that the more active we are, the healthier we tend to be, and the more sedentary we are, the unhealthier we tend to be. This is an accurate assumption to make.
Studies have shown that individuals that have a greater tendency to stand rather than sit have around half the risk of developing heart disease, when compared with individuals who spend most of their day sitting.
The obvious benefit to body composition is one of increased energy expenditure, it will come as no surprise to you that individuals who lead more active lifestyles tend to be much leaner than individuals who sit on their backsides for the majority of the day.
To read more about the benefits of NEAT and how to increase your activity levels, you can check out the article I wrote on the topic by clicking here.
Nutrition is an obvious and huge element of improving your overall health. Getting the right nutrients in on a daily basis not only boosts the immune system but also gives us more energy, strength and improves mental health, but also improves body composition due to the normal essential daily processes in the body becoming more efficient and effective.
There are many nutritional considerations when it comes to health & body image, so to read a full overview on how to approach your nutrition as a beginner, click here to check out the article I wrote on that topic.
The Ritual Of Eating
It’s often said that “you are what you eat”. This is a partial truth. The full truth is more like “you are what you eat, digest and absorb”. Nutrition doesn’t end with our food choices. We can make the best choices ever and adhere to the best diet in the world, but if we don’t digest and absorb those nutrients properly, we aren’t going to be getting the full benefit of what we’re eating. This is where our “ritual of eating” comes in.
To check out what the ritual of eating entails, click here to read the article I wrote on this exact topic.
What’s the most important human function for health? Breathing, clearly. We can’t survive for very long without using the trusty old lungs. But there are many aspects to breathing that are poorly understood by the general population, things that if mastered or slightly tweaked in our own lives, could revolutionise our health, immune system & body shape. Click here to read some tips & thoughts on how you can make that happen.
Grounding is one of the most incredible tools we can use to improve our health. Although upon first glance it looks like some hippie BS, grounding is actually a great tool to reduce inflammation, improve recovery from workouts, improve sleep and reduce the risk of a number of different diseases. This is before we’ve even mentioned the massive reduction in stress we often see with individuals that implement grounding into their daily routines!
Check out the natural power of grounding and how you can utilise it to boost your immune system and supercharge your physique by clicking here.
Mental health is a massive part of overall health. Our modern western society has classified physical and mental health as two separate things – you go to the doctor for a physical ailment and the psychiatrist for a mental challenge. I’d like to challenge this paradigm by adding that physical and mental health are intrinsically connected. What affects the body affects the mind, and vice-versa. For this reason, it’s essential we consider mental health factors when looking at strengthening overall health. Meditation is a great, accessible and easy place to start with this end of the spectrum. To read more about how meditation works and how you can utilise it to improve your physical and mental health (and your physique), click here.
The final point for overall health I’d like to specifically mention is another mental health aspect, and that is gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling is one of a best ways to pull the positives out of even the worst of days, flipping you instantly out of a negative, victim mindset into a positive, grateful mindset. Studies have shown an increase in optimism in 94% of suicidal patients when practicing gratitude journaling, and a reduction in feelings of hopelessness in 88%. To read more about this useful tool, click here.