Common gym habits and “health” foods may be sabotaging your goals. As spring peeks around the corner, many of us begin the well-worn tradition of dusting, sweeping, mopping — cleaning out the remnants of winter and freshening our home for the rest of the year.
It’s also the perfect time to spring clean our lifestyles from anything that doesn’t serve our vision of being our healthiest, happiest selves. Maybe it’s a “healthy” snack that hides too much sugar, or perhaps it’s a gym habit that’s actually hurting us. Take this season as an opportunity to clean up your health routine from the following common problem areas.
Juices and smoothies
Few things boast a bigger badge of health than the current juicing trend. If you’re like me, words like “cold pressed” or “kombucha” set your heart aflutter. Unfortunately, many popular juices and smoothies sold in stores are so loaded with sugar that they’ll also make our livers flutter.
For example, one very popular juicing company’s trademark juices contain upwards of 35 grams of sugar in a single 325 mL bottle. To put that in perspective, a can of Pepsi contains 41 grams of sugar.
To clean up your juice or smoothie habit, check the ingredients. For a lean green drink, most of the leading ingredients should be cucumber, kale, spinach or other green juices. Fruit juices and natural sweeteners like agave syrup should be minimal or non-existent. Better yet, skip the juice and go for the whole food — it contains more fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Protein bars and shakes
Protein bars, powders and other supplements may be rich in muscle-building protein, but a lot of what’s on the market is also rich in high fructose corn syrup, sugar in its many forms, palm kernel oil (typically used in “chocolate” coating) and artificial flavours.
For example, the label of a major brand shows that the bar contains 250 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat and 22 grams of sugar. That’s almost indistinguishable from a Snickers bar, which has 250 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 27 grams of sugar.
Look for products with minimal ingredients, little to no sugar, and no artificial flavors. For example, a scoop of LeanFit 100% Whey Isolate Protein is made with just a handful of healthy ingredients and has no fat and no sugar – a smart snacking choice!
Missing the post-workout stretch
The cool-down after sweating it out is a crucial stage in any workout routine, and unfortunately many busy gym-goers skip this step. Stretching offers significant benefits. For example, studies have shown that it can reduce the muscle aches — also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — that many athletes experience. It also minimizes the risks of athletic injuries and speeds up exercise recovery time.
Aim to do five to 15 minutes of stretching to any part of your body that you’ve targeted. Gentle cardio, plus a foam roller, can also enhance the movement and remove the lactic acid that builds up during exercise.
Skipping rest days
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest we lift weights at least twice a week and engage in 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. More is better, but only to a certain extent.
Rest days are essential for seeing results in our gym routine. In fact, all fitness progress is made outside of the gym when we’re recovering.
A rest day isn’t a no-movement day. We should all be moving every day, all day. However, we do need to take one or two recovery days between strenuous workouts.
Rethink your fitness calendar by scheduling true recovery days. On these days, go for a walk or enjoy other moderate activity, but avoid the temptation to hit the weight bench. If you haven’t tried it yet, yoga can be an excellent recovery tool.
Busy night-time habits
It’s during sleep that our bodies release peak levels of the growth hormones responsible for repair and rebuilding after working out. Alas, approximately 3.3 million Canadians have trouble sleeping.
Our modern lifestyle is actually cluttering our evening with sleep-preventing electronic stimulus. Get rid of unhealthy night-time habits and you’ll not only sleep better, but also see improved athletic endurance and performance.
Follow a regular bedtime, avoid the blue light from electronic screens any time after sunset and keep the bedroom cool for a better night’s sleep.