With all the government agencies ordering the temporary shut down of restaurants, gyms and other people dense establishments across the world due to COVID-19, you may be wondering how to stay healthy, and continue to work toward your fitness goals while simultaneously practicing social distancing. Fitmark is here to guide you through these times with a calm and collective set of 5 recommendations to stay on track given the current global situation at hand.
1. Eat as Healthy as Possible. There is a reason all health professionals stress exercise AND diet. You will never achieve the body you want without giving both their fair share of attention. That being said, it is much easier than you think. Just add some common sense to your meal planning!
- Protein- We all know to eat more protein for muscle growth, regeneration, stamina and fat reduction. Now make it lean protein! Where so many go wrong is adding the wrong protein. A protein shake is a good way to add in extra with little to no calorie additions. Otherwise stick with seafood, white meat poultry, beans and eggs.
- Fruits and Vegetables- Now balance that lean protein meal with loads of veggies. High fiber vegetables and a very small portion of fruit here and there should be the bulk of your carbs on your plate.
- High Quality Carbs- Ditch the white bread and go for whole wheat and multigrain options when choosing your carbohydrates. Refined and processed carbs in short trigger your pancreas to create insulin, which throws off your sugar balance causing your body to turn that muffin into a muffin top.
- Healthy Fats- If a slice of smoked turkey with a side of roasted veg doesn’t give you the stamina you need, then add in healthy fats. If you’re thinking the whole idea of eating your way to abs is getting rid of fat, you are only half right. Healthy fats like those from avocados, nuts and seeds are fantastic because it takes very little to give you the staying power you need in your day. Sliced avocado goes well on anything as it adds a nice buttery flavor, but if that’s not your thing, keep a small portion of toasted nuts and seeds available for those afternoon hunger pains.
- Fiber- By following these basics, you should be getting a good dose of fiber, but if you look back over your day and see more animal products than plant, you need to up your fiber. This will keep your metabolism active longer thereby keeping you felling fuller and burning more calories.
However, with stores and restaurants shutting down and limited supplies until restocking occurs, there are ways we can adjust during these times:
- Is the grocery store out of produce? Go for canned veggies instead. Be careful when picking fruits due to the sugary syrups that are usually used to preserve the contents. You can also check your frozen section for frozen steamable veggies and fruits that can be used for protein shakes and other integrated meals.
- Low on fresh meat? Stock up on frozen bags of lean chicken, beef, fish or other sources of protein.
- When you can’t shop for protein shakes or other necessary items for our fitness goals, use online services such as Amazon or bodybuilding.com to order supplements and other items that may not be found at your average grocery store.
2. Supplements/Vitamins. While COVID-19 is different than most viruses, what’s important for everyone is to keep your immune system as strong as possible in addition to practicing social distancing. Fitmark Athlete Michael Wittig shared some of the best ways to superboost your immune system:
- The Sunshine Vitamin– Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it also plays a role in both the innate and adaptive immune system. A deficiency might impair normal immune functions and regulation, and increase chances of infection. It is reported that up to 42% of the general adult population have a vitamin D deficiency and it’s much higher in certain groups. Around 600 IU is recommended for the average person, but some special cases may need up to 4,000 IU depending on health needs. I broke a metatarsal in my right foot a few years back. The podiatrist recommended me taking up to10,000 IU to help my broken bone heal faster. Then she recommended I continue taking a higher amount of vitamin D moving forward. Currently I supplement my diet with 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. The body can stock up on vitamin D by getting sunshine as well as foods such as tuna, Swiss cheese, salmon, fortified orange juice and milk, egg yolk, beef liver, and more. It is best to try and get essential vitamins through food, but a supplement can help as well.
- Vitamin C– A lack of vitamin C was the downfall of many pirates in the form of scurvy. The lists of health benefits of vitamin C are many including boosting ones immune system to fight off sickness. Since our bodies do not store vitamin C we have to obtain it from foods daily. Research has shown that vitamin C doesn’t effect the severity or duration of colds, but can help reduce the frequency of ever catching one. So taking a bunch of vitamin C once you are already sick is probably not helping. The key is to bring in adequate levels of vitamin C all the time. The RDA of vitamin C is 75-90 mg daily, but supplementing with 500 mg of vitamin C has been shown to drastically reduce the frequency of catching colds. I personally take 1,000 mg in the morning and another 1,000 mg in the evening daily. Foods high in vitamin C include raw guava, sweet red and green peppers, tomato and orange juice, strawberries, broccoli, potato, citrus fruits, and papaya among many other things.
- Minerals that start with Z– The answer is zinc! While this ‘essential trace element’ will not strengthen your immune system to help prevent getting sick studies have shown that supplementing with zinc acetate lozenges of at least 80mg daily can reduce the duration of colds by 40%. Our bodies do not store or produce zinc so we have get it from foods and/or supplements. One of the best sources of zinc are found in oysters. A lot of proteins contain zinc such as beef, crab, lobster, and pork chops; but small amounts can also be found in beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and even yogurt. If you feel a cold coming on it’s best to start supplementing with zinc acetate immediately until symptoms go away for a shorter, less severe cold.
- Affordable and Powerful- Green tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It also happens to be extremely healthy and affordable so you might consider putting the sodas aside. Discovered by the ancient Chinese green tea has been around for centuries with a long list of health benefits that include strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. The key ingredient in green tea is an antioxidant called EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) which helps prevent cell damage among other things. Switching out soda and other sugary processed drinks with more water and green tea can be one of the healthiest choices you can make all while saving you money.
- More Fiber Please– In addition to helping with digestive issues a diet with appropriate amounts of fiber can strength immunity and reduce chances to getting the flu. According to doctors women should look to have 20- 25 grams of fiber and men 30-38 grams depending on age. If you are under 50 shoot for the higher range. Fiber is part of plant based foods that your body cannot break down so it helps clean your digestive system. You can increase your fiber intake with whole grain cereals, oatmeal, spinach, broccoli, carrots, various beans, fruits, and seeds. More natural foods tend to give our bodies what we need to be our healthiest.
3. Meal Prep. Meal prep may not be for everyone but it sure makes life easier for those trying to balance work, family, fitness and everything else that life throws our way. Here are the 6 steps to meal prepping:
STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR FITNESS GOALS- Whether you want to lose weight or you’re looking to build muscle, you need a goal so you know how much food you need to eat every day. This will help you plan out your meals for the week ahead. When you know what you’re eating at each meal, you’re more likely to stay on track.
STEP 2: CREATE A SHOPPING LIST- Before you go shopping, make sure you have a list of everything you need, so you don’t forget anything. Having a shopping list will keep you out of the junk food aisle and stop you from giving into temptation.
STEP 3: TRACK EVERYTHING YOU EAT- When you account for everything you’re eating with the help of a fitness tracker, you’ll have an easier time of sticking to your fitness goals. Tracking every meal also helps to keep your diet balanced, so you’re fueling your body with a steady flow of nutrients throughout the day. Eating smaller meals every 2-4 hours helps regulate blood sugar and that’s good for fat loss.
STEP 4: COUNT MACRONUTRIENTS NOT CALORIES- We’ve talked about counting your macros over calories before and how important it is to know your macronutrients. Your meals should be a healthy balance of carbs, fats, and proteins, so you’re getting the best of everything each time you eat. Counting macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), is a flexible way of dieting that can adapt to any lifestyle. Knowing your macros will also help you design healthy, balanced meals. It takes the guesswork out of your nutrition needs.
STEP 5: COOK YOUR FOOD IN BATCHES- So, you have your carbs, your fats, and your proteins, now you want to cook them so you’re all ready for the week ahead. Meats and fish can be baked together on a cooking sheet in the oven. Veggies can be steamed, grilled, or roasted in bulk, together with your carbs. This is the essence of meal prep. Once you have everything prepared, you can put your meals together quickly and easily, saving you time during the week.
STEP 6: WEIGH & MEASURE YOUR FOOD- Don’t leave anything to chance. Weigh and measure everything you eat. Weighing solid food is much more accurate than using a measuring cup, and will be easier to track.
Meal prep doesn’t have to be tricky or time-consuming. It only takes a couple of hours a week to shop for and prepare your food, and it will save you loads of time during the week. Not only that, it’s the proven method of keeping you on track with your fitness goals. So let’s get prepping!
4. Short Workout Sequences at Home. With fitness facilities closing worldwide, you may be wondering how you can keep working out without your gym membership or a home gym. Lucky for you- Fitmark athlete Michael Wittig has several great workout plans, including this home workout that only requires a chair! Do each of these exercises back-to-back without rest in circuit fashion for one set. Do 4 sets total and 15-20 reps for each movement. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Canyon Push Ups:
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Pectorals
Secondary Muscles Targeted: Shoulders and Triceps
Execution Notes: Place two chairs facing each other far enough apart that you can place yourself between them. Get into push up position on the chairs with your hands. Your feet should be on the ground and your body straight from shoulders to feet. Don’t fully lock out at the top of each rep, but stop just shy of lock out. Keep your chest forward and contracted, and your shoulders back. Lower yourself slowly as far down as comfortable. At the bottom position your arms should make 90 degree angles with your hands directly below your elbows.
Lat Lift Ups:
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Lats
Execution Notes: Place two chairs facing each other far enough apart that you can place yourself between them. Get into position by sitting between the chairs. Place a forearm on each chair and then lift your body up off the ground. While keeping your body fairly straight and your hip off the ground allow your body to dip down and concentrate on letting your lats stretch (you will feel this in the area below your arm pits and back to your scapulas). Now with your lats in mind lift your body up pushing through your forearms and push your chest forward to fully contract the lats.
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Triceps
Secondary Muscles Targeted: Pectorals
Execution Notes: Place two chairs facing each other far enough apart that you can place yourself between them. Get into position by sitting between the chairs. Place a palm in the middle of each chair and lift yourself up so your arms are straight. Your legs should be on the ground straight out in front. Your hip should be off the ground and just hanging. Lower yourself down as far as comfortable stretching both your triceps and chest then power back up to the top by pushing through your palms.
Feet Up Crunch:
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Abs
Execution Notes: Lay down right in front of a single chair. Place your feet up on the chair so your lower and upper legs are 90 degrees. Crunch upward by lifting your shoulder blades just off the ground and contract your abs. The range of motion on a crunch is very small. Concentrate on spending more time at the top contraction than at the bottom resting. Breath out as you crunch upward so your lungs are empty at the top of each rep for the contraction.
Shoulder L Press:
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Shoulders
Secondary Muscles Targeted: Triceps
Execution Notes: Use a single chair and lift both feet up on the chair while your body is prone facing down. With your feet on the chair walk inward with your hands until your body makes a 90 degree L shape. Your arms should be outside shoulder width. Slowly lower your body until your head just brushes the ground. Your hands should be right below your elbows and your arms should be making a 90 degree angle.
Primary Muscle Group Targeted: Quadriceps
Secondary Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves
Execution Notes: Step one foot up on a single chair. The elevated knee should be behind the toes at all times. While keeping your body straight, and not hinging at the hip, stand straight up on the chair flexing that working leg and glute. Then lower yourself with control rather than dropping. Then repeat with the other leg. Don’t bounce up, but use your leg muscles to lift. Alternate legs with each rep. Do 15-20 reps on each side.
Curl & Press:
Primary Muscle Groups Targeted: Biceps and Shoulders
Secondary Muscle Targeted: Pectorals
Execution Notes: Stand up straight holding a single chair by its sides. The seat should be facing away from you and you will be standing between its legs. In starting position squeeze the chair so your arms are tight then curl the chair up while keeping your elbows pinned to your sides. Once you are at the top of the curl press the chair straight outward in front of your chest until your arms are fully extended. Bring the chair back in and curl it back down to starting position. This home workout can be repeated 2-3x times weekly for general fitness.
This home workout can be repeated 2-3x times weekly for general fitness. Remember workouts can be great anywhere with a little creativity and effort.
5. Mental Health. Mental health and physical health are connected so it is equally important to take care of both. A few tips to take care of your mind set and well being include:
Sleep- Not only is it extremely important for physical recovery after our workouts, but it’s important for keeping hormones and other parts of our body balanced. Although everyone is different, it is recommended on average to get around 8 hours of sleep per night.
Yoga- This form of exercise is helpful in building strength and flexibility along with mental focus. Why not stream a yoga video at home and give it a try?
Meditation- Being mindful and in-tune with our body can do a lot for our mental health. There are many meditation guides for those who haven’t given it a try, but this may be the perfect solution for those with anxiety over the current situation.
As always, stay in tune with the CDC and WHO for the latest information and verify/check whatever news sources you come across on social media to avoid the spread of fake news. We are all in this together!