With the typical US adult working 47 hours a week (and about 40% putting in over 50 hours), Americans are working on average an extra month of work each year when compared to those in European countries!
You can say that Americans are commonly Type A: ambitious, driven, and possibly borderline obsessive-compulsive. Which also can translate into fitness motivations and a strong drive to perform or compete. But where do you find the time to be a fitness enthusiast if you’re also a workaholic, not to mention possibly married with children, friends and a life outside of Beach Fitness or the office.
If you’re hard-pressed for time and looking to build or maintain a leaner, stronger physique, take a few minutes to read this. Here are 3 simple focus points and a few action items to get the most out of your limited time.
Focus #1: It all starts in the Kitchen
One of the most important components of fitness does not involve the gym or exercise at all. It start’s in YOUR kitchen– not a commercial kitchen.
People who work longer hours tend to dine out or order takeout more frequently because the convenience of prepared foods at the end of the long day trumps the time or energy that it takes to prepare a meal.
The numbers support this, according to the USDA’s latest food expenditure data: Millennials spend 44% of their food dollars on meals out of the house. Even baby boomers are spending close to 40% of their food dollars dining out.
But the problem with this is that eating out is one of the main reasons that people become overweight.
When you know what’s going into your body from a fuel stance, it’s much easier to get what you want out of your body as it pertains to your health and fitness goals. That’s why preparing your own food is so important. You have direct control over what and how much you eat, and it allows you track how your body responds to dietary intake. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, try following these steps for a few weeks and see how your body responds.
- Learn your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR (aka, the minimum amount of calories you need in a day), most easily done with a simple body composition scan. This will give you an estimate of the calories you should be consuming.
- Pick one day of the week to prepare an array of wholesome, nutrient-dense foods to eat over the week. (Calling all workaholics, Sunday is typically the best day to plan and prepare for the upcoming Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 grind): Here’s a sample list of what to include:
- A selection of greens for the week (the 16-oz. bulk tubs of organic spinach or mixed greens are a great place to start)
- Roast a variety of root vegetables in a little olive oil and salt (try a combination of beets, carrots, onions, and parsnips)
- Prepare a big batch of quinoa, brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal or other whole grain you enjoy eating. (Mix it up or try different options for variety)
- Grill or bake a large batch of lean proteins (chicken, pork, fish, or tofu)
- Buy raw nuts and seeds. You can roast them with a little salt or mix them with dried fruit to have on hand as a healthy option when you need a midday snack.
If you spend an hour or two on Sunday preparing everything for the week, it only takes you 5-10 minutes the evening before to put together a lunch option for the following day (or none at all if you pre-package them during the initial prep) or to get a dinner option when you return home. That’s less time than it takes to wait for your to-go order or you will sit in a restaurant dining out!
- Use a food diary to track everything you eat. Tedious and annoying as it may sound, it’s one of the most effective tactics, especially if your goal is weight loss. According to research, keeping a food journal can double weight loss. With the abundance of technology, there are several apps available that make it easy to track what you’re eating in 5-10 minutes a day. The numbers don’t lie, but even if you’re not deliberately tracking calories, tracking overall intake gives you a better understanding of your body composition and how that will ultimately get you closer to your health and fitness goals.
Focus #2: HIIT + Strength Training = More Muscle, Less Fat
Your workday already consumes most of your time, and you need your workout to be as effective and efficient as possible so that you don’t compromise on those other important things, like sleep and life. To improve lean body mass and achieve a toned, healthy look in the shorted time possible, incorporating resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will have the best outcomes.
Just look at the health impacts of each.
Commonly known as “strength training,” resistance training is simply any load-bearing exercise that causes your muscles to contract against an external force. There are a wide-variety of health benefits including: Increased lean body mass, stronger bones, joints, and skeletal muscles, and increased BMR to name a few. But here are two reasons why many of the secrets of health are ‘in the muscle’:
- Muscle is more dense and metabolically active than fat. So while you may not see the numbers on the scale change drastically at first (and the scale should not be your golden standard, body composition analysis should be), muscle takes up less space than fat, so you will see more of a transformation and a toning effect from resistance training and the increase in lean muscle mass will boost BMR so you will ultimately be burning more calories over time.
- More muscle can mean a longer life. So all you workaholics that don’t see yourself slow down, muscles may be the inherent secret to keep you going longer. Studies show that lean muscle mass strongly correlates with longevity. Resistance training can be an effective long-term strategy to prevent weight gain and unwanted changes in body composition as we get older.
High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT, is a type of workout of quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed up with short (sometimes active) recovery periods.
When it comes to burning body fat in the least amount of time possible, HIIT is a proven approach, and has been shown to be equal to or better than steady-state cardio for overall cardiovascular health. Bonus for you workaholics, HIIT is more time-efficient.
- Aim to get at least two strength training and/or HIIT workouts every week (the minimum amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA). Bonus, these workouts are short enough you can do them on your lunch break (especially if you did Focus #1 and meal prepped ahead of time!)
- Track your body composition to see overall change. The more you incorporate strength training and HIIT workouts in your schedule, the more improvement you’ll see in your body. Focus # 3 will show you how you can do that.
Focus #3: Become a Data Junkie
Tracking your progress is one of the most often overlooked and underutilized tools that gets you to your goal, and as a Type-A person, you likely have lots of goals whether professional or personal. And it’s highly unlikely you’ve gotten to where you are without plenty of data analysis. So don’t you think your body and tracking personal changes is critical to your overall success?
Similar to how a food diary can help you track patterns overtime, scheduling your workouts in advance and recording your exercise routines creates the same documented accountability and records that you can use for tracking. But how can you tell if you’re getting closer to your goals?
Like we mentioned earlier, the scale should not be the gold standard for measuring progress or change, there is a better and more accurate tool that can tell you how your body is responding and changing physically over time.
BODY COMPOSITION ANALYSIS
Tracking your body composition gives you objective, measurable feedback that translates into physical results. Even better, it’s easy, painless, and FAST. Body composition analysis tests can be done in less than a minute and help you determine what’s working and what’s not. With each test, you’ll be able to directly make data-driven adjustments and tweaks to help you achieve your goals. As a working individual, you don’t have time to waste and being able to instantly see and measure how your body is improving by the numbers makes tracking your health a whole lot easier.
- Start with a body composition scan. If you haven’t already, get your body composition measured. It’s easy and only takes a minute for the test and you will know your results instantly. How can you get to where you’re trying to go if you don’t know where you’re starting from.
- Track your progress. If you don’t already have a daily planner, get one. It’s highly likely that you have the capabilities on your smartphone- so just use that or something like Evernote, Google Calendar/Docs/Sheets, Apple Notes, Momentum, etc. The key is to record what you’re doing. Keep your numbers, set a new goal, and get your numbers checked every 1 to 3 months. For food tracking, you can try a free service like MyPlate or MyFitnessPal.
The “best” approach for you, the busy professional, is the one that you will actually follow, one that helps you find the right personal balance between work, health, and play, as well as aligns with your health and fitness goals.
If your goal is to increase lean body mass while and improve muscle tone for a leaner physique, resistance training is a proven method. If you’re goal is to lower body fat, HIIT is a great option.
Regardless of what fitness routine best fits your busy life, eating right and tracking your progress have even more impact on your health and fitness than sweat alone! The next generation of successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and big thinkers already utilize this highly strategic, data-driven approach in their daily lives. If you haven’t jumped on the body composition bandwagon, it’s never too late to start.