Living a healthy lifestyle and getting into shape as a busy executive can feel like an impossible task at times.
At Ultimate Performance (UP), we deal with busy executives on a daily basis. In fact, most of our clients are just like you: over-stressed, under-rested and struggling to find any more time in the day than they already have.
However, a quick look at the results we achieve with this client base would suggest we might know a thing or two on how to successfully incorporate healthy habits into an executive lifestyle.
1. Eat a Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. At UP, we suggest high protein, lower carbohydrate breakfasts, such as steak, nuts and green vegetables.
Why? Breakfast sets the tone for the day, keeps hunger at bay and squashes any mid-morning cravings that may conveniently appear when the sandwiches get passed around the meeting room.
2. Do Not Skip Meals
When you’re busy, it’s tempting to skip meals. However, this can be disastrous for your productivity, and your waistline.
Skipping meals can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, and more often than not, reaching for a chocolate bar from the office vending machine.
One of the habits we instil in clients straight away is to eat a protein-rich meal every three to four hours.
3. Focus on Hydration
The majority of you reading this are chronically dehydrated.
Multiple studies now indicate dehydration can lower productivity dramatically, increase stress hormones, create poor eating habits and hamper your body’s ability to burn fat.
A quick solution to this is simple: Fill three one-litre bottles of water at the start of the day and keep them on your desk. By the end of the day, they should all be empty!
4. Master Portion Control
Busy people don’t have the time to count calories or deal with complicated nutrition plans that involve calculators or mobile apps. Instead, at UP we focus on mastering basic nutrition habits and portion control.
A good starting point for each meal could look like this: 1-2 palm sizes of meat or fish, a large handful of colourful vegetables and a tablespoon of healthy fats. A cup of starchy carbs can then be added depending on the individual client’s demands.
5. Own the Meeting
A common pitfall in any executive’s day is the time around meetings. If you know you are back to back for hours, it’s vital to go in prepared.
Here are the essentials: water, protein powders and some nuts. In between meetings when solid food isn’t an option, mixing a good quality whey protein powder with water can be a lifesaver.
6. Pick the Right Menu
Many executives eat out in restaurants on a regular basis, whether it’s due to time constraints or business meetings. Either way, it shouldn’t be an excuse to indulge on three-course meals, luxurious desserts or binge on alcohol.
Restaurants are full of hidden calories, so it’s vital you make your food choices very basic.
Sticking to one main of meat, and then asking for a side dish of vegetables (without mayonnaise, butter or the like) is one way to go about it. Alternatively, doing your best to scout the restaurants you know you can eat well in is always best.
7. Dominate the Travel
A lot of the executives we deal with at UP have extremely busy travelling schedules, meaning they are constantly in and out of airports.
To maximise productivity and energy during these business trips, one of the best tips is to avoid alcohol in the airport lounge. With champagne and wine on offer all around, sticking with water on your flight will make a world of difference in how you feel.
Second, bringing simple, healthy snacks such as biltong, nuts and seeds can help keep you satiated, and prevent succumbing to poor quality airport food.
8. Batch Cooking
For anyone short on time looking to live a healthier lifestyle, batch cooking is essential. To make it easy, pick two days in the week and spend an hour preparing the next few days’ worth of food. You’ll never have to worry about being caught off guard at the office canteen again!
9. Maximise Quality of Sleep
Most busy executives are deprived of sleep, and for the most part, trying to get more sleep is not going to happen. Instead, we can work on improving the quality of your sleep.
The first ‘trick’ is to be strategic about when you eat your carbohydrates.
High protein meals supplemented with a serving of healthy fats are best for most people’s productivity and focus early in the day. From experience, eating more carbohydrate-rich meals in the evening can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Second, executives are known for always being ‘on’. Switching your phone (and yes, that means email too!) off at least an hour before bed can help the mind relax and unwind.
10. Exercise Efficiently
For best results, you need to resistance train a minimum of three times a week.
As a busy executive, you will always have plenty of competing demands on your time, like travel, social, and work events. Motivation can be fleeting, and it’s tempting to skip workouts when life gets busy.
Unless you’re an elite athlete, your work, your family and social commitments will ultimately determine when you can or cannot train.
However, there is still some flexibility. For example, whether to train before or after work, or on weekdays or weekends.
Select your regular training days and times, and schedule them into your diary like you would a meeting.