1. Prioritize sleep. Here are some facts, with links to the studies where they are from:
Men have 10-15% higher testosterone when rested. If you're a sleep deprived man, this is a bad thing. The higher your test levels, generally the higher your quality of life. There's a reason so many people take testosterone supplements - they work. There's also a reason I don't - you want your body to make its own for as long as possible.
Sleep reduction messes with your cortisol levels (this is not a good thing). Cortisol is your stress hormone. You don't wanna mess with it.
Chronic sleep reduction is associated with increased diabetes risk. It also messes with the balance of your hunger hormones. Diabetes is bad. You don't want it. If you can avoid it, you should.
Less sleep makes you snack more, which is (yep, you guessed it) BAD. The long nights without sleep with trips to the cupboard for crackers tend to feed themselves (pun intended, sorry). If you're sleeping, you can't eat (amazing how that works).
Sleep loss decreases your activity levels. I'm gonna blow your mind on this next one - exercise is good for you. Sleep makes you do less exercise. That is bad.
Not sleeping enough causes all sorts of bad stuff that will really mess with your body composition goals, health (mental and physical) and overall quality of life.
So - get more of it. You'll be happy (like for real, not just 'I-read-an-internet-blog-post-I'm happy-with-myself-now' happy - but real-deal, feel-better, do-more happy).
2. Drink water when you wake up, first thing. Keep drinking it until late afternoon, then slow it down.
Get Started Early
After my feet hit the floor, the first thing I do is drink 32oz of water. It's cooler than room-temp but not ice cold. I do this before coffee, before anything. It starts my digestive system and gives my joints something to work with. Sound like too much for you? Start with 16, or even just 8oz. Note the difference.
Get it in Around Your Workout
Whatever you do, Zumba, CrossFit, Cardio-dance, powerlifting, bodybuilding, yoga, pilates, the shake weight, running, parkour, WHATEVER - drink water before, during and A LOT after. You're using up water while you move. Put it back. The hotter the temp, the more you sweat, the more you need to put back. In Miami Beach I'll lose 5-6 pounds per workout in the summer. Ya gotta put it back!
If you don't love water, experiment with flavorings - start with natural things like cucumbers, citrus fruits, herbs or even spices. If that doesn't work for you, try some of those new fandangled flavor drops. I've never tried them, but I've had clients that swear by them. Love Crystal Light? I mean, I guess. I can't stop you - I love straight up water and drink a lot, but if you need help - FLAVOR!
Cut it Off!
Because you started early, you'll get to stop early. You don't wanna be up peeing all night, so slow it down later in the day. It's not unusual for me to hit my intake goal by 3pm, then just have a glass or two with dinner, and then maybe a sparkling water later on.
Start Slow and Build
You might not be able to get in a gallon or even a half gallon or 3 liters or whatever. That's OK! Get as much as you can, notice the positive effects and then add a little more the next day.
3. Eat lean protein and plants. Don't worry about the exacts until you get the big picture.
According to the USDA, I (a 6'3", 205 pound 'Very Active' male) should get the following:
Carbohydrate: 436 - 630 grams
Protein: 71 grams
Fat: 86 - 151 grams
Water: 3.7 Liters (about 16 cups)
While I'm not mad at the 630 grams of carbs suggested, I think it may be a bit of overkill, and I know from personal experience that 70 grams of protein is going to make me feel like a flaccid, limp bag of protoplasm. I think they almost nailed the water intake. Good job USADA. Whups...USDA. Same thing? One tests for dope, one gives dopey nutrition advice.
"Elevated protein consumption, as high as 1.8-2.0 g · kg(-1) · day(-1) depending on the caloric deficit, may be advantageous in preventing lean mass losses during periods of energy restriction to promote fat loss."
That sounds closer to the truth for me. Around 150-175g of PRO a day and I recover well, move well and feel alive! If I slip and forget to keep intake up on a training day, I feel it. As I get older, more and more...
Which brings me to:
As we age, the habitual intake of high quality protein in servings of 25-30g at breakfast, lunch and dinner may delay sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle due to aging.
So, there it is. Ingesting enough protein may prevent the onset of sarcopenia.
Simply stated: get enough to feel good. If you train hard 1.8 - 2g per kg of body weight is a safe bet. If you don't train hard, get a little less. As you age, keep getting it and maybe even more. If you train hard, get more to rebuild and recover.
Good sources of protein
Food - Protein (grams)
3 ounces tuna, salmon, haddock, or trout - 21
3 ounces cooked turkey or chicken - 19
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt - 17
½ cup cottage cheese - 14
½ cup cooked beans - 8
1 cup of milk - 8
1 cup cooked pasta - 8
¼ cup or 1 ounce of nuts (all types) - 7
1 egg - 6
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database, 2015
4. Do a physical activity you enjoy and will do at least 3 times per week. Once your body adapts, increase it to 4, 5 or 6 times a week - allowing plenty of time for recovery. Take a week off when you feel beat up.
You love running? Do it, it's great for you. A recent study reports that people who run tend to live about three years longer than those who don’t.
Love getting a pump? Awesome - do it! It's good for you. Resistance training has been proven to improve bone density. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9927006
Maybe you like getting your cardio on the machines while watching Netflix? Excellent. Cardiovascular health is increased by exercising. It's been proven over and over.
Like to get funky on the floor? Awesome - Zumba has been shown to improve the health of overweight and obese Type 2 Diabetic women - and we all know that Zumba is really just aggressive raving with the lights on.
What about the magical art of kipping? "CrossFit, just as any other high-intensity training, increases VO2 max, strength, musculature, and endurance, and decreases lean body mass. With proper training and incremental increases in intensity, CrossFit can be an effective form of exercise for healthy adults looking for a diverse workout routine."
I do CrossFit - I love it so much I've pretty much made it my life and opened CrossFit 305 in 2008 and CrossFit A1A in 2011 and CrossFit 262 in 2014. I do it 5-6 days a week, love the class atmosphere, love the challenge and the camaraderie and the intensity - but I also realize that even though anyone can do it, it's not for everyone.
Bottom line - the human body was made to move, so move it! There is no "One Weird Trick" or "Seven Secret Ab Exercises" that will make you fit.
Ya just gotta move! Sure, there are good ways and standard protocols, but it's more important that you move vs. procrastinate movement while looking for the perfect way to move. So, what exercise should you do? Any.
How important is exercise? Very.
How many times a week should you exercise? 3-6 depending on age, training age and goals.
How long should I exercise for? 10-90 minutes, depending on time available and level of fitness. Some is better than none and a very intense 10 minutes can do a lot.
Listen to your body, find things that excite your mind - and enjoy the gift of movement.