The Healthy College Lifestyle
College can be the best years of your life. It is a time to find your career path and meet some of your best friends. Living the college life at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!), 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.|
Many college students simply do not have the time or effort to eat or drink properly in college. You will find many students not only drinking alcohol into the late nights, but also eating fast foods and doing other things that can lead to bad decisions and bad results on both your body and mind.
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: You see many college students neglecting cardio for weight training but cardiovascular training should always be done as well. Cardio is essential if you want to burn off all that “garbage” you consume in college on a daily basis. There are many ways to do cardio but many of those machines (treadmills, ellipticals) or just running outside can get boring. A more fun alternative could be to play basketball or racquetball if your school gym provides them. Being in college gives you a vast resource of people to play games with like basketball or racquetball. You can be creative in the things you do. 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). Any time you do cardio, you want to go hard enough to trim the fat and get into better shape, but never over-train to the point where you can’t work with the weights and vice 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. 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 “hang out” 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, then it may be more likely that there will be less amount of people in the gym. Therefore, you may find that you can get in and out quicker because there are more machines and weights 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….a lot. 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 can fill 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! Here is a good website to use for a calorie counter of alcohol:
If you absolutely insist on drinking alcohol to go out at night, try to be smart about it. Try to limit yourself to the amount of beers you drink and try to find the lightest beer. Try to have the same number of light beers as you would regular beers so that you ensure yourself of lesser calories than what you’re used to consuming. If you drink liquor, try to not only limit your liquor, but also limit your “chasers”. You’d be surprised to find that many college students drench themselves in these sugar-filled chasers that just pack on extra calories. Cut out these sugary chasers. Sometimes it’s the sugar that makes the difference in being slim or chubby. Stick with diet beverages as chasers if anything.
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 carbohydrates you ate opposed to during the day when you are doing your daily movement to help burn it off. 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. If you want to eat or drink like crap a couple times here and there, go for it. You deserve a break once in a while. 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.
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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