Craig Leonard

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Easy Ways To Improve Your Health And Feel Better

Craig Leonard February 13, 2016
Tips for Being Healthy and Happy

As anyone who frequents this blog is already well aware, the way you feed your body is inextricably linked to your health, physical appearance, mood and energy. There are a number of articles on this site dedicated to exploring the intricacies of how nutrition impacts the body.

At its most basic level a healthy diet is one that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts/legumes, and complete proteins. This is because a diet consisting mainly of natural plant-based foods and animal proteins is dense with the essential nutrients the body needs to stave off disease and perform optimally.

Today, I am going to briefly cover several easy strategies I use in my daily routine to keep my body healthy and vibrant so that you can start putting them to use, as well.

Eat Calories Based on Your Stomach Fat, Metabolism and Goals

Calories supply the energy your body requires to perform any and all of its various functions from breathing and blinking to bench pressing. The more active you are, the more calories your body expends. Trust me, it’s science.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the number of calories you consume on a daily basis should be commensurate with your activity level, overall metabolic activity and personal goals.

If you’re a skinny maggot in need of quickly packing on some muscle mass you will obviously want to consume more calories than you’re expending each day. This is known as maintaining a positive energy balance.

On the other hand, if your abs aren’t visible (or your belly isn’t at least flat), your health is at risk and your goal should be to maintain a negative energy balance until it is. Excess fat around the midsection is a strong risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancers.

Don’t worry about how much fat you have on other areas of your body for the time being. If you’re carrying excess fat on your stomach, your highest health priority needs to be to burn it off. Once your stomach fat is under control you can focus on building your body back up with sexy muscle while keeping your stomach fat at bay.

As a general starting point, men should consume around 2,500 calories daily. Women should consume approximately 2,000 calories daily. You can also use the calorie calculator on Authority Nutrition to get you started.

However, this is just a starting point. As I recommend to all my clients (and in all of my books), the final determination of calories you ought to be ingesting each day should be based on your personal metabolism, activity levels and measured results. (For specifics, see my free book: Round the Clock Fat Loss.)

Eat a Wide Variety of Foods

It’s certainly acceptable to eat many of the same foods from day to day for the sake of simplicity and consistency. Although, we can’t ever forget that optimal health requires us to provide our bodies with a wide array of nutrients to help ensure that we’re not nutrient deficient.

Eating leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables is perhaps the best way to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. But it will still require additional foods to keep your body supplied with the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

For the best nutritional insurance you should strive to eat a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and animal proteins of the organic and/or grass-fed varieties. Try buying a small amount of some type of new fruit or vegetable every time you shop for food.

This will help you to find new nutritious foods you can add to your healthy eating arsenal. The more, the better.

For those that struggle to get enough fruit in their diets, try snacking on fruit whenever you’re hungry between meals. Nutrition Einstein advises including fruit as a quick and easy add-on to any breakfast, which is also a good idea for those who eat breakfast.

Healthy Fats Are Your Friend

Western diets have been infiltrated with toxic polyunsaturated fats and trans fats that are wreaking havoc on the health of those ingesting them, leaving chronic inflammation, heart disease, cancers and other diseases in their wake.

This link isn’t a secret and it has, unfortunately, led to mass hysteria regarding fat consumption, particularly as it pertains to saturated fats.

Unbeknownst to many today, certain fats are actually extremely important for disease prevention and overall good health.

The two fats that are indispensable to human health are omega-3 fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides (MCT), specifically those that come from coconut oil.

Flaxseed, chia seeds, salmon, cod liver oil and mackerel are all excellent natural sources of omega 3. Although, my experience is that most people prefer the convenience of simply using a quality omega-3 supplement, which is what I do, as well.

I still eat salmon on occasion, but wild caught salmon isn’t cheap and my wife doesn’t care for the smell it leaves throughout the house.

By the way, you should avoid farmed salmon whenever possible. It contains about 25% less omega-3 than wild caught salmon. The even bigger problem with it, though, is that it comes with over five times the omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are way too high in the typical American diet and this is directly responsible for contributing to the rising rates of cardiovascular disease. Farm raised fish isn’t near the contributor to this problem that the refined oils in virtually every processed food is.

Still, given how exposed to it we already are, it’s well worth the effort to limit omega-6 fats wherever we can – and supplement with additional omega-3. Read my posting The Truth About Eggs, Cholesterol And Heart Disease for a more detailed explanation of the problems associated with high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.

Coconut oil is another source of fat that everyone should have in their nutritional repertoire. Coconut oil is composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). As it pertains to this posting, it’s important to be aware of the fact that MCTs are processed by the body differently than short chain or long chain triglycerides in that they mainly contribute to energy output and are not at all inflammatory.

To put it another way, MCTs give you energy, are not stored as fat to any appreciable degree, and don’t contribute to disease! The best source of MCTs in existence is coconut oil. There are a plethora of health benefits that have been associated with coconut oil (you can read about some of them in my article: Research Confirms Coconut Oil Increases Testosterone).

The bottom line is that your health will be greatly enhanced in the long run by regularly providing your body with a dose of omega-3 fats and MCTs from coconut oil. Just be sure to track the calories you’re getting from these sources. Because they’re fats, they will come in at a hefty 9 calories per gram and will quickly contribute to your daily calorie totals.

As long as you’re accounting for this in your daily calorie tracking and food planning you’ll be alright.

Drink Plenty of Water

When it comes to adequately hydrating our bodies it seems we all suffer from a case of proximity bias. Water is so readily available and obviously important, yet we tend to ignore it to our detriment.

Drinking water enhances the metabolism, helps control our hunger, flushes toxins out of our bodies, increases our energy output, and even keeps our skin looking wrinkle-free, vibrant and healthy.

The more hydration you lose due to sweating, the more water you’ll need to drink for replenishment. Regardless of how much you sweat, though, a gallon of water per day is a good base target of hydration. Those that release a lot of sweat should be closer to 2 gallons.

Bonus tip: Drinking ice cold water will enhance your metabolism to a greater degree than drinking water without ice in it. This is due to the energy that must be expended by your body to maintain its temperature as the ice cold water passes through and is assimilated.

That’s It?

This list could have contained dozens of additional strategies. When it comes to enhancing our health in today’s milieu of processed foods, toxic ingredients, fast food chains, constant advertisements for junk and lack of personal responsibility, the opportunities to improve are endless.

Nevertheless, this short list of relatively simple strategies can be implemented right away and will greatly help in terms of alleviating obesity, disease, lethargy, and diabetes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a coach it’s that you can “lead a horse to water”, but you can’t make it drink.

I’ve led you to the pond. Now it’s up to you to get in there and gulp it up.

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