How to Exercise and Eat Healthy When You Don’t Have Time
I know I’m not alone in feeling like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do list. We’re all pressed for time these days thanks to our busy lifestyles, and often, that means exercise and healthy eating go out the window for many people. But it turns out incorporating these two habits into our daily routine can actually help us accomplish more throughout our day: Results from a Brigham Young University study found that employees who didn’t eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were 66 percent more likely to be unproductive at work than those who did eat a healthy diet. What’s more, people who did not exercise during the day were 96 percent more likely to experience a drop in productivity.
While I’m still trying to figure out how to balance work, exercise, eating healthy, and building this blog (along with many other things), I wanted to share some exercise and healthy eating shortcuts I’ve come across, along with a few time-saving tips of my own, that can help you fit in a workout and maintain a healthy diet no matter how hectic your schedule may be.
Exercise Time Savers:
1. Workout at home. Driving to and back from the gym, plus waiting for other gym members to finish using a machine can tack on an extra 30 to 45 minutes—or more!—to your gym routine. (Bonus: think of all the money you’ll save on gas and not having to pay a gym membership!)
2. HIIT it. Cut your 45 to 60-minute cardio session down to 20 to 30 minutes by upping the ante. High intensity interval training—alternating short burst of near-maximun effort with recovery periods— burns more calories than longer cardio sessions at a moderate pace. It also challenges your fitness level and is shown to be effective at reducing abdominal fat.
3. Circuit train. Circuit training combines calorie-burning cardio with metabolism-boosting strength training for one efficient workout. To do this, perform a weight-lifting exercise for one to two minutes, then immediately follow that with an aerobic activity (i.e. jumping jacks, running in place, jumping rope) for one to two minutes. Repeat the circuit
4. Perform compound exercises. Compound exercises (such as dumbbell squat to overhead press; plank with alternating rows; and lunges with biceps curls) work multiple muscles groups at once—so you get more done in less time. Plus, by working several muscles at one time you increase your calorie burn and improve your balance and coordination.
Healthy Eating Time Savers:
1. Plan & prep on the weekend. While this does require some extra time on Sunday, it will save you big throughout the week. Wash and cut fruits and vegetables and store them in airtight containers in the fridge so that you can quickly grab them for a snack or add them to a stir-fry. I also plan my meals for the week (for the most part) so that I know exactly what I’m going to eat every day and have one less thing to think about.
2. Stock up on healthy snacks. Keep a stash of nutritious, easy to grab snacks in your drawer, work tote, and/or office fridge to hold you over between meals and keep your energy (and productivity) up. A mix of carbs, protein, and a little healthy fat will keep blood sugar in check. Some good options include:
• Almonds & dried fruit
• Greek yogurt & a piece of fruit
• String cheese & whole grain crackers
• Baby carrots and hummus
• Instant oatmeal
• Protein/Nutrition Bars (Quest, Lara, Luna, Kashi, or Clif Bars)
• Peanut butter & celery or apple slices
• Microwaveable popcorn
3. Buy quick and healthy staples. Having the right ingredients on hand can make meal time easier and quicker. Here are some basics that are always on my grocery list:
• Salsa – a great low-calorie flavor enhancer for eggs, chicken, and fish
• Sweet potatoes – 5 minutes in the microwave and you have a hearty side dish or snack…just add a sprinkle of cinnamon
• Canned chickpeas (look for “low sodium” versions) – chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber. Give them a quick rinse and add them to salad, soup, or try this recipe for spicy baked chickpeas from Food Network Chef Claire Robinson.
• Frozen vegetables – frozen vegetables are just as nutritious—if not more—than fresh vegetables and make for a quick stir-fry
• Brown rice
• Tuna fish – requires zero cook time
• Herbs & spices – a few of my favorites include crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning,
• Balsamic vinegar – can be used as a salad dressing or marinade
4. Choose healthy fast food options. Sometimes the convenience of hitting the drive-through is all to tempting when we’re starving and pinched for time. Luckily, most fast food joints have incorporated healthier options into their menus. Check out this guide from Fitness magazine for 24 Healthy Fast Foods.