Living a Healthy Lifestyle in College

College is the best years of one’s life. It is a time to find your career path and meet some of your best friends for life. Living the college life at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have a first hand experience of this “good life”. Nevertheless, I want to use my experience and knowledge to educate those on the proper way to live a healthy college experience.

The following information will guide you to a better college exercise and eating routine that will require minimal time to your already busy day:

How you should workout: Try to include a 15-20 minute run after you weight train. Nevertheless, a more fun alternative would be to play basketball or racquetball if your school gym provides them. The average college student can burn approximately 500 calories during a vigorous basketball game. That is better than a 15-minute run on a treadmill or elliptical for some people. (Note: It depends on your level of training when playing basketball versus running on a treadmill to make a more accurate comparison in terms of calorie burning). Remember, if you like to do cardio after you workout with the weights then that is fine also. Nevertheless, doing cardio before you lift weights will warm you up more properly and give you a nice sweat before lifting. Regardless, any time you do cardio, you want to go hard enough to trim the fat and get into better shape, but never overtrain to the point where you can’t work with the weights and visa versa. Weight training is just as important as cardio so never sacrifice one for the other. When you do weight train, try to go at a high intensity pace, where you keep your heart rate going. Anytime you workout in college, you really want to burn off all the unnecessary “garbage” that you consume in college. Even if you choose to train at a moderate or even light intensity, it is certainly 100x better than not training at all. Try to weight train for no longer than an hour so that you don’t become over-trained, which can dramatically hinder muscle growth and recovery time. Moreover, students endure constant stress in college. When you workout, your endorphins will increase, which can lead to a “runner’s high”, thus increasing the happiness and pleasure you will experience throughout the day. In addition, exercising may help to improve your mood by increasing self-confidence and help to lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

How you should eat: When it comes to food intake, try to stick with smaller meals. You will find that eating smaller meals increases your metabolism and will make you hungrier throughout the day so that you can constantly refuel your body with food. Constant food and water are essential in college to refuel your body and mind. Remember, you should eat junk food in moderation. If you are just constantly eating crap, you will look like crap! Your metabolism is your best friend throughout college so treat it well. It will burn fat and keep you lean. In addition, larger meals may lead to more fat storage due to the fact that your body cannot digest all that was eaten. Here would be the ideal small meal eating routine in college.

  • Breakfast (Meal 1): 3 eggs, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast, oatmeal and some fruit
  • Meal 2: Protein bar
  • Lunch (Meal 3): Turkey sandwich with carrots
  • Meal 4: Crackers and cheese
  • Preworkout meal (Meal 5): 1 scoop of whey protein, banana and pretzels. (Remember, you should have an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates before and after you workout)
  • Postworkout meal (Meal 6): 2 scoops of whey protein and 100% fruit juice
  • Dinner (Meal 7): Grilled Chicken with brown rice and vegetables
  • Meal 8: Whole Wheat Toast with cottage cheese

Note: You should always drink liquids with your meals and also drink a lot of water throughout the day when not eating. Try to have a gallon of water a day. Drinking an adequate amount of water daily is just as important as doing the eating.

The aforementioned meal plan requires little food at each time, but it gives a constant flow of food throughout the day that will ensure a healthy diet.

Time constraints: You should workout between classes. Sometimes you will find yourself with a one to two hour break in between classes. You see many students using this time to rest and just “hangout” between classes. You should see this as an opportunity to get your workout done so that you have the whole day ahead of you. Another good alternative would be to go at night in between homework assignments or after you have completed them. The later that it gets into the night, the less amount of people in the gym. Therefore, you may find that you can get in and out quicker because there are more machines available and fewer distractions. Also, try to eat meals that can be taken on the go if you cannot find the time to sit down and eat. Never let your time interfere with your eating!

Alcohol intake: While alcohol use should never be encouraged and has enormous repercussions on your overall health, college students tend to drink. Nevertheless, if you love to party, you need to face the facts: The average 12-ounce beer has 149 calories. Light beer has a little less at 110 calories but don’t let the word “light” fool you. Although light beer does have fewer calories, it fills you up less, thus enabling you to drink more light beers and pounding in more calories. Furthermore, a one-ounce shot of liquor averages about 70 calories. The heavier liquors can possess almost 200 calories in a single shot!

“Chasers” can also be a big problem in terms of weight gain. You’d be surprised to find that many college students drench themselves in these sugar-filled chasers that just pack on the calories. Cut out these sugary chasers. Sometimes it’s the sugar that makes the difference in being slim or chubby. Most importantly, limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink at all. Always remember, alcohol use should never be encouraged and it can have profound effects on overall health and well-being.

The absolute no no: Try to stop eating right before bedtime, especially carbohydrates. Food that you eat before bedtime will stay in your body as fat while sleeping. Think about it: When you sleep, where does the food go? Of course, your body’s natural metabolism will help to burn it off, but it will not be nearly enough to burn off those carbs you downed opposed to during the day when you are doing your daily movement to help burn it off. I can almost guarantee you that if you curtail your eating 2 hours before bedtime, it will make a dramatic difference in your physique over the long run. See it for yourself.

Remember one thing though: College consists of the best four years of your life, and for some, more than four so live it up! Nevertheless, you will find that the healthier lifestyle you live in college, the more productive you will be and the better you will feel about yourself. I can promise you that.

While doing homework and studying is nearly every student’s main priority (and rightfully so), no student should neglect the importance of living a healthy lifestyle in college.

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