Part 1 - Establish a Routine
Things have changed drastically over the past month, there’s no denying that. Many people are working from home, gyms are closed and travel restrictions are in place. Things are different and it’s difficult to adjust. But we’re firm believers in adapting and making the most of any situation.
Now that you’re out of your old routine, it’s important to make a new one for this new normal. This will help give structure to days and will also help to make them feel more normal.
This could look like:
- Write a schedule. This could even be a rough schedule but it will bring some structure into your day. And don’t forget to schedule in some chill time too!
- Having a set wake up time in the morning, and a set bedtime. Our bodies respond well to this regularity in terms of waking and sleeping.
- Establish a morning routine which you enjoy. Many people are working from home meaning they don’t have the usual commute to work. How about spending this time doing something which brings you joy and sets your day off to a good start? This could be making a delicious breakfast, taking some time to read, doing a workout, stretching or doing some pilates or yoga.
- Keep your meal times the same as or similar to what they would be on a regular day in work. This can help keep structure to your day and reduce mindless eating.
- Set aside time for movement. This will be different for everyone but some form of movement every day in the form of a workout, walking, running, yoga, pilates or stretching is guaranteed to make your day better.
- Do something every day which brings you joy. This is something which we always recommend, but with all the scary things going on in the world it’s more important now than it ever has been.
- Be kind to yourself. These are challenging times. Maybe you had anticipated using the time to learn a new skill or clean your house and maybe you haven’t gotten there yet. That’s okay! It will take time to adjust, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Part 2 - What should I prioritise when it comes to my nutrition?
There are a lot of questions which spring to mind at the moment, and plenty of them surround nutrition, how best to approach it and what you should prioritise. So what are the key things you should keep in mind?
1. Prioritise protein!
Consuming enough protein throughout the day is always important, but protein is especially important at the moment. Eating a high protein diet will help to support muscle growth and will be vital to prevent any muscle loss, especially with gyms and other exercise facilities closed. Protein is also a very satiating or filling nutrient, meaning it helps us feel full. This can be particularly helpful if you’re finding you’re struggling with mindless or boredom eating.
We recommend consuming a decent portion of protein at every meal, 3-5 times a day. If possible, choose high quality or complete protein sources such as poultry, beef, fish, eggs, dairy or whey/casein protein powder. You can also boost the protein content of dishes such as curries and chillies with beans and lentils.
2. Eat your veggies!
This is a message which will never change! But eating plenty of fruit and veggies is super important at the moment to support your immune system and make sure you’re getting all the essential vitamins and minerals you need. Vitamin C is especially important and can be found in peppers, kiwis, oranges and berries. They also contain fibre which is essential to support your gut microbiome which is responsible for over 70% of our immune system.
3. Don’t ditch routine
We spoke about the importance of not neglecting routine. While things might be different and your old routine might be gone for now, you can establish a new routine for this new normal. This is the same when it comes to your usual routine for eating.
Keeping meal times in and around the same as you would when you’re in work or college can be really helpful as it helps to prevent snacking throughout the day.
4. Meal prep
Meal prepping and batch cooking is also still a really good idea. Chillies, stews, lasagne, curries, bolognaise and soups are all great options to grab when you get hungry. If you have more time than usual, why not try some new recipes?
Part 3 - Can I boost my Immune System? (1)
It is not possible to “boost” your immune system through diet or supplementation. There is also currently no evidence to support a specific nutrient or diet for protection against COVID-19.
However, a healthy diet alongside a healthy lifestyle which includes adequate sleep and exercise, can really help to support a healthy immune system. These include:
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin which our skin makes when exposed to sunlight. A recent study published by TCD found that vitamin D supplements of between 20-50µg/day may enhance resistance to respiratory infections such as Covid-19, or limit the severity of the illness for those that do become infected.
As we’re all spending a lot more time at home these days, we should all be taking a vitamin D supplement anyway. Coupled with the fact that it may help build resistance to respiratory infections, vitamin D supplementation is a must. This applies to everyone, but especially those who are elderly or in at risk categories.
You can also source vitamin D from some dietary sources such as oily fish, egg yolk and fortified milk. However, the quantities are usually too low to reach recommended amounts. Nonetheless, they’re nutritious foods which can, alongside supplementation, help you maintain sufficient vitamin D levels.
Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds when taken regularly, especially in active and elderly individuals. Currently, there is a clinical trial underway looking at the use of vitamin C for severe COVID-19-induced pneumonia. Foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwis, citrus fruits, berries, peppers and baby potatoes are all super nutritious additions to the diet. The vitamin C content of frozen fruit is actually usually higher than fresh fruit as the freezing preserves it.
Zinc is found in red meat, shellfish and pumpkin seeds. Zinc also plays an important role in supporting the immune system so ensuring you get enough through diet is important. Zinc lozenge supplementation has also been shown to reduce symptom severity of colds if taken in the first 24 hours of a cold, as they inhibit the viral replication at the back of your throat.
Part 4 - Can I boost my Immune System? (2)
Apart from eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet, there are other lifestyle factors which are important to help support a healthy immune system.
Regular physical activity has many benefits, one being that it helps to support a healthy immune system. The immune system is very responsive to exercise. Bouts of moderate exercise have been associated with increased circulation of immune factors such as immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, T cells and immature B cells, all of which play critical roles in our immune defence.
Movement is as good for the mind as it is for the body. There are so many ways to get physically active, whether it’s walking, running, doing a home workout, yoga or Pilates. Find what you love and do it, or take this time as an opportunity to try out some new forms of exercise.
Sleep affects both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. Chronic sleep deprivation is thought to cause low-grade, systemic inflammation which impairs the immune response. This is one reason why impaired sleep quality and quantity have been shown to be significantly associated with an increased risk of getting colds and flus.
Prioritising sleep is always important, but especially at the moment. As many of us are now working from home, we have an opportunity to sleep a little longer to reach the 7-9 hours we all need.
To summarise, food can’t boost your immune system, but a healthy diet and exercise can really do wonders to support it. The key points to remember:
- Eat the rainbow! Eating lots of different coloured fruits and vegetables will help to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients.
- Take a vitamin D supplement and eat vitamin D containing foods (oily fish, whole eggs and fortified milk)
- Move daily and stay active in whatever way you can
Part 5 - Should I be dieting at the moment?
One question that might be on your mind at the moment is whether now is the right time to continue with or start a dieting or fat loss phase.
Like almost anything when it comes to nutrition, it depends. The answer will vary person to person as what’s right for someone else, may not be right for you.
It can be helpful to weigh up the pros and cons of being in a fat loss phase over a maintenance phase.
- You may have more time on your hands than before. You’re not commuting to work or going out to socialise. This means you have more time to dedicate to training and meal prepping than you usually would.
- Adherence and consistency might be easier at the moment as the option for going out for food or drinks isn’t there.
- If you’re looking for something positive to focus your energy on, implementing a successful dieting phase can be a good idea.
- Stress levels are higher at the moment, and for many people, adding the stress of a calorie deficit to your body can just be too much.
- Due to stress and being home all day, the urge to overeat can be higher and harder to deal with. Being in a deficit also means higher hunger levels, which when mixed with high cravings and stress can be a disaster waiting to happen!
-The lack of access to a gym can be an issue for many people. Muscle loss can occur when in a calorie deficit, and a key mechanism to counteract this is resistance training. Unfortunately, access to weights and other equipment is limited at the moment, meaning you may not be able to train as you usually would. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible to resistance train without a gym. There are so many options to provide resistance and stimulus to muscles, such as a bag full of books, filled water bottles and your own bodyweight. It just might require a bit more thought and planning than before.
Whatever you decide, own it! If you want to diet, diet and if you don’t, then don’t. The main thing is you do what you’re happy doing, and that you take care of your physical and mental health in a way that’s best for you.
Part 6 - How to Manage Mindless Eating
With most of our time being spent at home, the temptation to make multiple trips to the fridge is higher than ever.
1. Maintain a routine with meals
This is something we’ve mentioned before, but staying in a consistent routine with your meals is more important than ever. For many, this will be the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner. Avoid leaving long gaps between meals or getting to the point where you’re hangry!
2. Remember the basic fundamentals of nutrition
We always recommend firstly basing your meals around two main things - a protein source such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans or pulses; and veggies or fruit. From there, add in wholegrain and high fibre carbs and healthy fats. If you follow this principle for your main meals, you won’t go far astray!
3. Stay hydrated
Hydration levels can take a hit, especially when you’re not as active as you’d usually be. It’s also thought that dehydration can be confused with hunger, which can lead to mindless eating. If you find plain water difficult to drink a lot of, you can add some lemon, lime or other fruits to your water to add some flavour.
4. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house
If there are foods that you can’t stop eating once you open them (hello granola!), then it could be an idea not to buy them in large quantities or at all at the moment, if they’re making the urge to overeat hard.
5. Be active daily
Exercise has modulatory effects on appetite, meaning regular exercise can help to decrease daily hunger levels.
6. Learn to identify mindless or emotional eating
Before going back to the kitchen to make another snack, take a moment and ask yourself if you’re actually hungry? This might seem simple, but it’s actually incredibly effective at helping to differentiate hunger from boredom eating. If you’re not hungry, then ask yourself what else is going on which is giving you the desire to eat.
7. Find other coping methods, apart from food
Quite often, we can feel like food is the only thig that’s there to make us feel better. But there are lots of other things you can try such as:
- Taking a walk outside
- Journaling and getting your feelings out on paper
- Call a friend or family member
Part 7 - Help, the gym is closed!
Something many people are struggling with is how to adapt to gym closures. Exercising from home is a new and sometimes a scary thing. It can be easy to feel like you won’t get anything done, but this doesn’t have to be the case!
One key point to remember is that now is not the time to romanticise training. Yes, we all miss the gym atmosphere, equipment and motivation, but we all also need to adapt to our new normal. Comparing your sessions to what you’d usually be able to achieve in a gym isn’t going to do any good and will more than likely, only leave you feeling deflated and unmotivated.
So how about you use this as an opportunity to focus on what you can do, rather than thinking of all the things you can’t do (and this applies to everything at the moment!)
Take this time to work on new skills which you wouldn’t normally get to prioritise. This could be anything from nailing push ups, to improving mobility and stretching or improving your cardiovascular fitness levels.
Another point to remember while training from home is that progressive overload still applies!
When you’re in the gym, it’s well understood than in order to grow muscle and progress, you need to continually stimulate the muscle using progressive overload. In simpler terms, this means constantly giving your muscle a new and harder stimulus or force to work against in order to grow. This can be by:
- Increasing the weight
- Increasing the reps
- Reducing the rest period
- Adding extra resistance, such as a resistance band
When training from home, you can and should try to implement progressive overload. You might just need to get a bit more creative! While you might not have access to weights like you would in the gym, but there’s no reason why you can’t get in a good workout and make sure you’re progressing. You could try things such as:
- Adding weight by filling a bag full of filled water bottles or books
- Increasing reps and going close to failure in each set
- Decreasing the rest time between sets
Finally, there are lots of non-traditional or non-formal forms of exercise such as gardening and DIY jobs which all count towards Your daily exercise as well.
Part 8 – NEAT!
In our last post, we discussed how to train at home and ensure you’re progressing. Formal exercise such as strength workouts and cardio are really great ways of staying help and relieving stress.
The other important form of activity is known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or more commonly, as NEAT. NEAT refers to the non-formal forms of exercise we do such as going for walks, gardening and doing housework.
These might seem like small parts of our day, but NEAT actually makes a pretty significant contribution to our total daily energy expenditure ie.the amount of energy or calories we burn every day.
In fact, while many people think that some people just have a fast metabolism and can eat whatever they want, this isn’t actually true. While there is some inter-individual variability in metabolic rates between people, the major factor that differs between individuals is their NEAT levels.
There will be quite a significant difference in total daily energy expenditure between someone who does 2000-3000 steps a day and someone who does 10,000-12,000 steps a day.
Increasing your NEAT levels has many advantages from a fat loss perspective, especially for maintaining the fat loss you’ve achieved. Higher NEAT levels are also associated with better overall and cardiovascular health.
So, how can you up your daily NEAT levels?
- Getting out for a daily walk or jog is probably the easiest way to increase your NEAT levels.
- You can also break up your activity throughout the day into exercise snippets. Going for a small walk, such as around your estate, a few times a day will add up to big increases in activity levels throughout the day.
- If you have to stay at home, set an alarm on your phone for every hour during the day to remind you to get up and walk around.
- Activities such as DIY, housework and gardening all count towards your NEAT levels.
- Walking to the shops or parking further away will also increase your steps.
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift is also an idea.
Part 9 - Stress Management
We’re big believers that stress management is just as important when it comes to healthy body and mind as proper training and nutrition. Stress management is more important than ever at the moment, but will be neglected by many people because it’s one of those things that everyone knows they should do, but really struggle to know how to do it.
- Limit your consumption of the news. It’s important to stay up to date, but it can all get very overwhelming. Choose dedicated times when you’ll check the news, rather than scrolling through it throughout the day.
- Do something kind for yourself every day. It might be giving yourself 10 minutes to enjoy a coffee, reading a chapter of a book or a bit of self-pampering. It doesn’t matter what it is once you enjoy it!
- Get outside when you can. It could be for a walk or a run, or even just to sit in the sun in your back garden or balcony. Fresh air and sun can be extremely relaxing and grounding. We’re also at the time of year when your skin can start making vitamin D from bare skin exposure which is an added bonus!
- Limit alcohol consumption. Balance is key and alcohol can play a part in a healthy, balanced diet. High intakes deplete B vitamins in the body and can majorly contribute to anxiety and low moods.
- Many people like meditation. There are lots of apps available for this.
- If you feel like your thought are jumbled in your head, try drawing or writing them down on a piece of paper. It can be really therapeutic to get them out.
- Have a bed time routine. This will help your body know that it’s time to wind down and sleep. This could involve a bath, stretching, reading or meditation.
- Pilates and yoga are amazing for your body and can also be incredibly calming.
- Call someone you love and talk it out. We’re all missing seeing our friends and family, especially when you need to have a chat.
Part 10 – Mindset Matters
“Change the way you see the world, and the world you see changes”
Quite often we can spend a lot of time focusing on our nutrition and training, but not enough time working on our mindset. And this is actually really important because it’s our thoughts and mindset which drive so much of what we do.
This is more important than ever at the moment. It can be easy to feel like we have very little choice in what we do and our lives in general at the moment. And in some ways, yes, we have a lot less control - we can’t see friends or family, or go to the gym, or out to socialise.
While it’s important to accept these things in order to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus, we shouldn’t view the lockdown as a negative thing.
Instead of thinking:
“I have to stay stuck at home”, see it as “I’m lucky enough to be able to stay safe at home”.
or “I can’t see my friends or family”, that “I’m so lucky to have amazing people in my life who I miss.”
or “I miss the gym”, and instead that “I’ve got an opportunity to try out and improve different styles of training.”
or “I’m so bored” and instead that “I’ve got an opportunity to learn new skills.”
Changing the way, you think and speak to yourself does change the way you view the world. It might not change what’s going on outside in the world, but it will change what’s going on inside yours.