When it comes to overall health and fitness, there 4 pillars that will serve as your foundation for achieving success. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to get stronger, lose weight, or just feel better, if one pillar is lacking, your results won’t be as great as you’d probably like.
These 4 pillars I’m referring to are:
NUTRITION, SLEEP, STRESS, AND EXERCISE.
These are like the legs of a chair. If one leg is broken or shorter than the others, the chair might still work… but it’ll be a pain in the ass to sit in comfortably.
Now there are a plethora of things that can be done throughout your life to positively address each one of these pillars. In fact, it can be damn right overwhelming when trying to figure out what’s best, especially when motivation is scarce and time is a highly precious commodity.
So out of the wide variety of options to choose from, what is the single best thing you can do to improve each pillar?
It’s like if you had to choose only one brownie from a freshly baked batch. Where do you cut your brownie from? (FYI: you cut from the center of the batch, anyone who prefers the edges is likely a terrorist.)
NUTRITION: FOOD PREP
Honestly there are A LOT of things to choose from here, and arguably any of them can be the best thing you can do to see improvements within this pillar.
Avoid sugar, drink more water, focus on protein, etc. It’s an endless list.
But in my humble opinion, food prep takes the cake… no pun intended.
When you take the time to prep your lunches and/or dinners for the week (a protein and some veggies), you are setting yourself up to succeed by making smart choices for most, if not all of your meals. Plus, you eliminate the following excuses:
- “I have no time to make a healthy dinner when I get home after a long day at work.” Not a problem when you prep meals on Sunday!
- “I’m so tired after work, its so much easier to just order something.” Not a problem when you prep meals on Sunday!
- “Ugh I’m so stressed, I’m just gonna indulge tonight.” DAMN IT YOU HAVE A HEALTHY, FULLY PREPARED MEAL IN THE FRIDGE. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO NOT EAT HEALTHY.
It’s a time investment on Sunday, yes. But you will save so much time and so much effort the following five days, I guarantee it.
Start prepping your meals.
SLEEP: GET CONSISTENT
Read this next sentence carefully. There is no single better way to improve the quality of your sleep than to establish a consistent sleep schedule.
This means falling asleep and waking up at around the same times every day of the week.
Aaaand cue the groans from the folks with buzzing social lives.
Look, I know going to bed at the same time on weekends as you do on weekdays might be a damper on your social life, but the development of your circadian rhythm stemming from ancestors who had no electricity (and therefore no night life) don’t care. So blame them.
Your brain and hormones are literally geared to make you sleepy once that sun goes down. When you consistently pull all nighters or just have a sleep schedule that’s totally out of whack, you can bet a pretty penny that your body and hormones will be totally out of whack. This will negatively effect your ability to build muscle, shed fat, mentally focus, regulate hormones, etc.
Try to establish a consistent sleep/wake schedule every day.
But what about night shift workers?
Ah, the overnight crew. Obviously with a crazy schedule that has you working both nights and days, you can’t go to bed at the same time every day. Well, if that’s the case, I’d recommend establishing a consistent sleep routine to help set the mood for sleep whenever you do decide to get some shut eye. Invest in some blackout curtains too as this will help simulate night time if you do need to sleep during the day.
omg…. OMG… DOUBLE PILLAR….
Seems a little redundant that we just talked about sleep (and it’s a pillar in and of itself) and yet, here it is again. You think it’s important?
Mental, physical, emotional… doesn’t matter. Your body needs to recover from stress. And there is absolutely no better way to recover from stress than by getting some quality shut eye.
Getting good sleep is the equivalent of charging your phone. If you’re at 15% battery life but you still need to make phone calls or send messages, you’re gonna need to eliminate social media browsing, web surfing, etc. Your phone gets stripped down to the bare essentials.
Soooo what do you think happens when you don’t get enough sleep?
Answer: you sure as shit won’t be recovering from the multiple stressors in your life. This makes seeing results, and even just staying healthy, waaaaaay harder than it needs to be.
Get 7-9 hours every night.
EXERCISE: STRENGTH TRAIN
Sorry cardio lovers, but if you have to pick only one thing to do in terms of exercise, strength training is king.
Getting stronger will help you build more muscle mass, burn more calories at rest, preserve joint health*, enhance your ability to express power (move quickly), enhance mobility*, maintain your youth, improve aesthetics, improve stability, reduce stress, increase bone strength/density… the list goes on and on.
Cardio is great, don’t get me wrong. But almost all of the benefits you’d see from cardio, you can also obtain from strength training.
You can’t say the same thing in reverse.
Strength train 1-4x week.