Food is fuel for a healthy and strong body. You can walk most often and go to the gym every day, but if your diet is filled with unhealthy carbohydrates, a high amount of sugar, and high calories, most of what you do in the gym can become useless.
For example, if you can’t lose weight despite trying every single thing out there to trim those extra pounds, it might be due to the high amount of calories you’re consuming. Many people think they are consuming very few calories, but the reality is that the standard of measurement has changed. According to MyPlate.gov, a website by the National Institute of Health, two decades ago, a cup of coffee had about 45 calories (when served with whole milk and sugar). Today, a 16-ounce mocha coffee has as much as 350 calories. A stark difference in the number.
Food is to blame for most of your health problems. According to research published in The Journal of Lancet, in 2017 a whopping 11 million people died because of eating unhealthy food and avoiding a nutrient-rich diet. In an email conversation with The Washington Post, Bruce Lee, an associate professor and executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center, said that diet contributes to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) via body weight and obesity, elevated blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and high blood sugar.
With all these research findings and data, you can say that healthy food can be beneficial for preventing diseases. But can a healthy diet also improve your wellbeing, fitness, and strength? The answer is yes. For example, eating leafy green vegetables and nutrient-dense foods like arugula, broccoli, and spinach boost mood, increase endurance, and strengthen muscles.
Top Foods for Gaining Strength and Fitness
You’ll find a dozen different workout plans and food programs targetted at fitness enthusiasts. While they may be useful, but you don’t have to try everything to figure out what works. Because jumping from one diet plan to another and then another is just a lot of hassle. When looking for something to eat, always ask yourself: would my body be actually able to use it? If you know the basics of how different foods affect your body, you will be able to answer the question instantly. If you don’t know yet, here’s what should you look for:
- Few calories
- More vitamins and proteins
- Dense in healthy nutrients
- Low carbohydrates
- Less sugar
- More healthy fats
- Low or no unhealthy fats
If your food ticks most of the above, eat it. Below are some of those foods that you can safely eat and that will improve your strength and fitness.
Blueberry is called a superfood because of the low calories and nutrient-rich content. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Not only blueberries help prevent cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and the risks of developing cancer, but they also reduce muscle damage, improve brain function, and increase muscle recovery after an arduous exercise.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
These nutrients and minerals improve muscles, fight diseases, and aid in training. A study by the University of Reading found that eating berries enhances mood, increases reaction time, and sustains cognitive function. Most experts recommend eating this immunity-boosting food when dried.
Besides used as an additive in certain dishes, ginger has also shown to have many health benefits for athletes. After a strenuous workout or swimming, you may experience dizziness or nausea. To calm your stomach, eat some crystallized ginger roots. You can also eat ginger in the middle of your activity.
For an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, muscle pain and stiffness are common. Research has shown that consuming ginger can delay muscle soreness and help you reduce inflammation.
People with digestive tract disorders also use ginger. Before workout and run, eating a small amount of ginger can help avoid diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and stomach disorder. However, there are a few caveats when it comes to eating ginger on a daily basis: adverse reaction on people who consumed too much ginger.
Leaf Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables have an incredible amount of healthy nutrients that not only prevent diseases but also boost your immune system and increase muscle mass. Research showed that spinach increased muscle growth by upto 20 percent.
Magnesium, which is found in most leafy greens, helps produce energy and develop muscles. According to Carolyn Brown, a nutrition expert and the co-founder of Foodtrainers, “for optimal muscle-building, you want your diet to be as nutrient-dense as possible. Peas, spinach, kale, broccoli are the highest protein vegetables.”
If you’re on a weight loss program and need to trim extra weight off your body, consider eating green vegetables. They are rich in nutrients and minerals that boost metabolism, balance blood sugar level, and burn fats.
Healthy nuts such as almonds, cashew, walnuts, and pistachio are hard to beat when it comes to overall health boosting properties. Not only nuts increase metabolism and burn fats, but they also contain vitamins, healthy fats, and antioxidants that help with muscle building and post-workout muscle injuries.
Some of the most healthy nuts are:
While other nuts may not be as beneficial as the main ones, you can still get more nutrients with them. For example, brazil nuts have a high amount of selenium, which boosts immunity and maintains muscle strength. Because of the high amount of fats, nuts were considered unhealthy until the researchers figured out that nuts contain a high amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are actually healthy.
Fish is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and blood pressure. For a fit and healthy body, you should consume enough vitamin D. There are a few fish types that have a high amount of vitamin D, which can help you strengthen your bones and reduce the risks of injuries during workout.
If you want to build lean muscles, the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial. Many fish oil supplements available in the market are widely used by athletes to improve range of motion, burn fats, and increase muscle strength.
Various studies show that fish oil may reduce muscle soreness and reduce inflammation after a workout. Overall, it’s a healthy addition to your diet if you’re looking to boost your muscles and remain fit.
Most fruits are a source of healthy nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. For someone who’s looking to build muscles, lose weight, and reduce the risks of inflammatory diseases, fruits should be a large part of your daily diet.
Bananas give you a quick boost of energy and improve performance and endurance just before a workout. Because of the rich fiber content, bananas slow down sugar digestion and provide a sustained source of energy.
Other fruits like avocadoes, apples, strawberries, oranges, and pineapples are also a great source of energy. Avocadoes sustain energy levels throughout the day and reduce muscle cramping after exercise.
Tips for Gaining Strength
Physical strength is one of the most important fitness goals for newbie as well as pro athletes. For that purpose, strength training is widely recommended, which uses resistance to become bigger, stronger, and powerful. Not only are these helpful for overall health, but they also improve your muscles, tendon, ligaments, joints, and bones. That being said, strength gaining is a long, steady process and not a quick way to reap the benefits of becoming the bigger, stronger version of yourself.
Below are a few tips to help you with strength training.
You don’t want to keep repeating the same thing over and over again once you complete a specific fitness activity. Many trainers won’t track what they work on. The result is that they fail to keep moving. As you train, always track what you do and keep adding more and more as you progress.
Your body needs to recover from a demanding workout activity. For that purpose, allow yourself enough time to gain the momentum for the next day. People who overdo and don’t take rest are prone to soreness and muscle injury. Besides an alternate day training schedule, you should also utilize the recovery time between different workouts to perform better on your next activity.
Start with simple exercises
In the beginning, don’t do complex exercises that are suitable for only advanced athletes. Bench press, deadlift, and barbell row are some of the classic compound exercises you can do to gain strength. Gradually, you can add more to your plate as you progress.
Strength training exercises are quite hard and require a lot of energy to perform. That energy should come from the food you eat. Eating energy boosting food can help as you’ll be consuming a lot of calories in the process. If you avoid sugary drinks and high carbs meal, consider adding some natural source of sugar instead. It will help you perform well and increase your stamina for the training.
Focus on form
If you ignore the way you execute movements, you’re in for a little trouble: your body may become prone to injuries. Not only that, but you will also not be able to make a smooth transition between different training exercises. That’s why you should focus more on form and less on weight. The best way, according to many experts, is to start slowly without weight. Or if you must add weight, then go with a very light weight in the beginning.
Strength Training Without Equipment
If you’re not a gym guy or don’t have time to lift weights, but are willing to put in the energy and train your muscles, then we’ve got a few useful strength training exercises for your body. The only equipment needed is your body. You can use it to challenge and train your muscles.
Below are a few exercises to get you started.
Planks are also called front hold or abdominal bridge. They help you train your core muscles. To do planks, simply hold your body as you would in a push-up position without touching the ground with your knees. While it sounds easy, planks actually work your entire body and can be hard to hold for longer than 30 seconds. Doing planks can reduce your back pain and improve posture. As a beginner, go with three sets of planks, each for up to 60 seconds.
Sit in a low, squat position with your hips drawn back. And, whoa, you just did a squat. If you properly do squats, you’ll be able to lose more fats and promote circulation. Many trainers recommend squat exercises for people who don’t have access to equipment. One of the most important benefits of doing squats is that they tone up and build your leg muscles. It’ an excellent exercise for your entire body to improve your muscle mass. Do a set of 15 to 20 squats on alternate days.
Push-ups are a great way to engage different muscle groups at once. As a result, your heart starts to work harder and provide oxygenated blood to the engaged muscles. Not only do push-ups improve heart health, but they also correct posture, reduce back pain, and help avoid injuries. Start with 10 push-ups a day and then increase the number as you do them on alternate days.
Lunges engage multiple groups of muscles in the legs, hips, and glutes. When done the right way, lunges can strengthen your muscles, induce flexibility, and increase the balance of your body. You’ll be able to train each leg individually for improving coordination and symmetry. As a strength training exercise, lunges should be done on alternate days. Aim for one set of 10 reps per leg for maximum benefit.
If you want to train and strengthen your postural or core stability muscles, then air swimming is for you. The best thing? You don’t have to dive into the pool; it can be done on dry land. To do this exercise the right way, lie on your stomach and lift your arms, legs, and chest. Your arms should extend in front of your head. Flap your arms and legs up and down without touching the floor.
Health Benefits of Strength Training
If you’re on the fence and thinking about different exercises to improve your fitness level, strengthen your bones, become healthy, and reduce the risks of injuries, then don’t look further than strength training. There are a lot of benefits of this type of training exercise.
Improve bone health
Strong bones are important to help us keep moving and protect our brains. Due to ageing and poor diet, our bone density starts to diminish. Not only these bones need calcium rich food, but they also require high impact training exercises for their formation and strength. Strength training helps you increase bone density because it applies high stress without causing any discomfort and injury. People who do weight training may also see a reduction in the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Strength training is not just about getting bigger; it also helps you lose weight. Unlike aerobic exercises, which help you trim a few pounds during the activity, strength training allows your resting metabolism to spike. It means that you’ll keep losing some weight even if you’re not training or exercising at a high intensity. And that continues for much longer than aerobic activities. To track your progress, you can monitor your fat loss using a weight scale. Research shows that people who did anaerobic exercise lost more weight than those who either didn’t do exercise at all or did aerobic training.
Increase energy level
An afternoon energy slump or a morning mood disorder can be fixed by strength training. Our brain releases natural chemicals called endorphins when we do strenuous workout activity. These chemicals elevate your energy levels and boost your mood. With these benefits, you’ll be able to focus on your daily activities, perform better, and become productive throughout the day.
Become fit and strong
This is one of the most apparent reasons why people do strength training. As we get older, our muscles start to deplete, which can be delayed by resistance training. A resistance or strength training contracts your muscles when you act against a resistance. It helps you keep adding more muscles to your body and improve further as you progress.
Diseases and body balance
Some research shows the importance of strength training for people with chronic conditions. For instance, arthritis can be managed as significantly by doing anaerobic exercise as by taking medication for this purpose. People who do strength training also reduce their risks of falling and injuries in the old age. In short, strength training improves coordination and balance, and reduce the chances of chronic diseases.
Some of the primary health problems strength training can help with are:
- Loss of bone density
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Anxiety and stress
- Mood disorder
- Body imbalance
- Back pain and injuries
- Poor posture
- Fatigue and soreness
- Falling risks
With all those benefits, strength training is a better exercise for making the most out of your workout activity.
Eat low-carb, low sugar and nutrient-rich food. Do anaerobic exercise most often. And keep track of what you do and what you eat. That’s all it’s to a healthy and balanced life. There’s no easy, quick fix to boost your energy level, improve health, remain fit, and reduce the risks of developing diseases. If you eat the right type of food and do so consistently, you’ll be fine. If you’re in for adding some extra muscles to your body and become fit, you can do strength training exercises for that.