We all try, more or less, to improve our fitness level. To change our routine in fitness, add diversity, add myriad of exercises and approaches in the pursuit of the next level in fitness. And while we relentlessly try to do that, we are, in fact, ignorant to an extent about what our body needs.
I’m not speaking about needs in the terms of supplementation, but rather an altogether natural replenishment, and even prevention to some conditions that may occur while we put our body under additional stress.
And while some people would listen to the wizard, trying every supplement out there without changing even a bit in terms of lifestyle, then that’s their business. I would rather poke the curtain and see things for myself in the sense of what can be done as to keep our body safe while trying to climb one bar higher in terms of fitness.
What are the basic needs of the body that must always be checked?
It’s really a no-brainer to explain this. Whether you are interested in building some muscle, improving cardio endurance or adding strength or flexibility or countless aspects of fitness, the truth is that your body will need almost the same care and attention.
When going through a fitness routine that is considered of a regular intensity, or even a more intense one, you must always keep in mind to keep your body hydrated.
It’s not just the muscles that require this, but the whole organism in general, since it is faced with an additional effort that in a way slightly disrupts some of the processes that are happening inside all of us.
That being said, try and drink half a gallon of water throughout the day, and consume fruits and vegetables which are actually more water than anything else.
Nutrition is also a key factor, and since I’m about to say more about it later on, now just let me say that you must replenish your body constantly throughout the day, so the three meals a day won’t cut it anymore.
Add two or three additional meals that will be placed between the regular ones, and constituted mainly of somewhat lighter food, fruits and some nutritional bars.
Another thing you must pay a close attention to is resting your body appropriately.
But what does this mean?
Well, since your body is experiencing more stress in physical terms, you should give it more rest than usual. For anyone enrolled in a more advanced fitness routine, regardless whether we are talking about weight lifting or cardio exercises, seven to eight hours of sleep at night is a must.
Often times we forget the importance of rest, and soon after you realize, you are already more prone to injuries, elevated stress levels, hindered improvement in terms of fitness. The immune system suffers as well.
So this is the basic layout which many of us already know, and many of us preach over and over. However, no matter how much straightforward and familiar this is, it often happens that we tend to neglect it, so I felt the need to mention it again.
Now about the more complex type of care and prevention you should take when enrolling in a more complex fitness program.
Next level of fitness requires taking care of your body to be taken more seriously
Here goes the science.
You cannot expect to demand more from your body in terms of physical endurance and achievement, and stay the same with your diet, habits, lifestyle.
There must be a change in some aspects of it.
For starters here are the don’ts:
No, seriously; you cannot expect to ask your body for more VO2 max if you are still smoking. It doesn’t go that way. I know now, that it is a science fiction to advice this to some people out there, but if you are after the next level of fitness, then you will have to choose.
Try even one day without it while you are still on your fitness program and notice the benefits for yourself.
Forget late nights
Forget the booze
This is another thing that doesn’t go hand by hand with fitness or physical improvement in general. Sure, you can take a glass from time to time and enjoy even the benefits that some drinks have to offer, but forget the six packs, or the booze parties.
Since rest is crucial, then you must also make another choice if you want to continue to improve in fitness. No wonder athletes go to bed earlier. This would be better if you make a complete change in your sleeping schedule and start waking up early too.
That’s almost it about the don’ts. Let us now delve deeper into what you should implement.
Protein, protein, protein. I cannot stress it more. It’s not only for building muscle, but also for maintaining the muscle tissue. And more protein into your diet usually means less carbs and fats, the end of which is more healthy diet.
You will need protein as a crucial part of your main meals, and you can even supplement it in the between meals with a protein bar, or foods also rich in protein such as hazelnuts, nuts, almonds…
Protein is found mainly in meat and fish, so try putting some of those into your diet.
It is also interesting to know that protein needs more time to be processed, so your body will be supplied longer with it, when compared to carbs that give a drastic and more instant, but short lived burst in energy.
Yes you heard it right – healthy fats. You see, there are fats that don’t harm your body, but give more benefits instead. Those are the monounsaturated fats which can be found in olive oil (about 75% monounsaturated fats), nuts, avocados, olives, whole grain wheat, sunflower oil, peanut oil, macadamia nuts etc.
Omega fatty acids are also healthy for you, and those can be found in fish, flaxseed oil, eggs, algae, black raspberry, hazelnut etc.
These types of fats play a big role in many processes going inside the body, and it’s interesting to know that they can also increase the testosterone production in the body – hormone that is crucial for muscle growth and muscle endurance and strength.
Vitamins and minerals
Since it’s a widely spread belief that you need tons of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, I’m sorry to break things up for some.
You see, vitamins and minerals should be taken as a supplement so they can fill any gap that is there in nutrition. The main source though should be the nutrition itself. So only one multivitamin a day is enough to supply you with what is missing supposing that you are having a healthy diet.
I myself also take a zinc supplement since zinc is not stored in our bodies, so we should take it regularly. It also plays a big role in protein synthesis, and testosterone production, things that you will obviously need more now since you are doing more physical activity.
It helps the immune system too, and you will also gonna need that. If you want to take it naturally though, zinc is found a lot in pumpkin seed, spinach, oysters.
You will also need additional B vitamins, since they rejuvenate the neural system. And some additional C vitamin since it cannot be produced in our organism just by itself and since it has countless of benefits upon our body.
The truth is that all vitamins and minerals can be found in diet, so supplementation may only be considered if there is a gap in nutrition.
You will need one per week, and that’s a must. On that day no physical activity should be considered, and the body should be given the chance to replenish itself. However, the muscles replenish themselves over the period of seven days, so that’s why people who go into the gym have each day dedicated to a different muscle group.
If you however not take your muscles to failure one group at a time, but instead do exercises of a more compound nature, then one day is really enough. This is the reason why workout programs such is the Insanity workout or the P90 workout give only one day for rest per week.
I wrote about this issue here: Insanity workout review and the new P90 workout review.
Without rest, not only the muscles won’t grow, but you will also be more prone toward injuries, start feeling fatigue, testosterone production will be slowed due to the high level of stress to the body, your immune system will take a hit, and so on.
If on more advanced fitness program, you should consider giving another additional day of rest, when you will only enroll yourself in mild physical activities, and change the nature of them.
For example, if you are weight lifting most of the days on that day do some low cardio, or if your exercises are more cardio oriented, do some strength exercises, or some stretching. Consider compound exercises too.
Your breakfast is always a must since your body metabolism is slowest during the night. Once you get up it still maintains the same rate as if you were still sleeping, so you need to give it a boost. That can be achieved only by eating a rich and balanced breakfast.
Here is where you can eat the bigger portion of your daily carb intake, since it will give you instant energy and it will not be stored.
Rich breakfast also allows the body to function properly, and it allows testosterone production.
You notice me mentioning testosterone couple of times. The thing is, you see, it’s a very important hormone to balance while on rigid fitness regime. Not only you will need it for muscle growth, but just as I mentioned before, it helps muscle strength, endurance, it will put you in better mood, have better libido, more endurance for exercising, and in fact more will power for it.
There are many supplements that enhance this hormone, but if you should remember only one thing from this article, let that be this – never take any supplement available out there, since a slight misbalance in hormones may cost you a lot.
Instead, try and enhance this hormone the natural way, through some changes in diet and lifestyle.
Just follow the advices above, and you will be able to achieve higher level in fitness, and do that while staying healthy not worrying about harming your body along the way.
However, you must also know some things that must be done in order to avoid, or should I say prevent some injuries or conditions.
Avoid sore muscles and injuries by always stretching
Naïve as it may sound this is working. Running or strength exercises, whatever it is, you will not only be safer, but also pull better performance during your workout.
Stretching allows better blood flow and circulation, and also prepares the muscles for what is about to take place. You will also be far more flexible, which is in itself an aspect of fitness.
Again about hormones; you see, doing additional physical effort and having a healthy diet may ensure high testosterone production. Now here comes the warning – if testosterone levels are elevated rapidly and are very high, the body uses an enzyme called aromatase, which actually makes androgen converted into estrogen.
If this takes place, a huge hormonal battle is under way, and your body will be supplied with some unwanted levels of “bad” estrogen.
In men this may cause a myriad of problems, and in women it may cause as serious problems as breast cancer. In order to avoid all of this, you will want to put the enzyme aromatise under control by supplying your body with aromatase inhibitors.
And while these are taken through medications, if you are about to prevent the conversion that aromatase makes, you can also take them from other sources, for example your diet.
These are the foods that contain some different types of aromatase inhibitors:
- Green apples
- Brussel sprouts
- Dark cherries
- Raw honey
- Bee propolis
- Bee pollen
- Red vine
- Red grapes and red grape seed extract
- Lemons, tangerines
- Olives, olive oil
Some of these work even better when additional nutrients are taken. For instance, the propolis based sources are better processed when you also have black pepper as a supplement into your diet.
Or another example would be, the sources of food containing quercetin like cabbage, broccoli, kale, onions, garlic and apples would function better if you also have pineapple in your diet since it contains bromelain. This will not only balance your hormones the right way, but also make you a healthier person in general.
You are now more prepared to achieve improvement in fitness, and not worry about the side-effects, and about harming yourself and threatening your health. The natural way is by far the best way to get in shape and stay in shape, while preserving your health and wellbeing.
Since being fit and being in shape is nothing without being healthy. Go on, and have a fun ride.