by Tony Gjokaj August 14, 2020 6 min read

When I started lifting, I would scour the various fitness forums for information and advice on how to build muscle and eat well. For a time, a lot of it worked for me... but not effectively.

As the years progressed, I started to notice contradictions in posts and information, so I started to question the new training programs or diets that would cyclically show up every couple of years. It led me towards a more science-based approach in fitness.

Today, I dive deep into the newest studies and read pretty much all of them. The terminology and the science can get boring to explain at times, so I like to simplify it... and most of it is pretty practical.

In this post, we will dive into 8 simple foundational habits that will help you reinforce a healthier lifestyle. While we will include scientific studies, our goal with this article is to provide you practical guidelines to help you improve your lifestyle - mind, and body.

Let's dive in!

I. Keep A Water Bottle With You.

Drinking water is one of the best habits you can build for exercise and nutrition! Staying hydrated allows you to regulate body temperature and provide nutrients throughout the body. In addition, it has cognitive benefits by improving mood, sleep quality, and more. This is why it is imperative that you drink about a gallon of water per day.

Remember that habits can be influenced by your environment. If you find yourself working at your desk, it's quite easy to stay hydrated if you have water in front of you. In fact, there is a correlation that drinking water can reduce calorie intake.

One of the easiest habits you can implement is carrying a stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go. This allows you to habitually drink water throughout the day. I personally carry a 64 oz Hydro Flask with me for this reason.

II. Wear Your Gym Clothes.

If you feel like you're neglecting exercise, carry gym clothes with you at all times and put them on immediately when you NEED to work out. This not only is a reminder, but it also has psychological benefits as well. In one study, scientists found that specific clothing influences our psychological processes. 

In this study, scientists called this process enclothed cognition. It works for all of us: if you wear your best suit to your sales job, you feel like a true professional.

This is an environment hack that I used to utilize constantly when I would work. I personally kept my gym clothes in the car so I could put them on, and go straight to the gym. For about two years, I wasn't motivated to work out at all... but putting my clothes on motivated me to go. If I didn't do so, I would've skipped days consistently.

Having gym clothes with you and putting them on (whether it's work or home) will remind you that you gotta get some gym work done.

III. Avoid Having Junk Food In Your Home or Workspace.

Send your junk food away from your home. According to one 2002 study, individuals who had access to junk food in the workspace ended up eating more calories.

No matter what kind of willpower you might have at the beginning of the day, your willpower can always drop. Stress and other busywork tend to get the best of us to give in to junk food. I know from personal experience.

Here's what we recommend:

  • Keep fruits that you enjoy in your home/work that you can snack on if you're craving sweets.
  • Keep nutrient-dense foods in your home only: your fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources, and more.
  • If you really need to consume junk food: go drive to a fast-food restaurant, and grab a dessert to reward yourself.
  • If you can't avoid junk food at home or work: put it on the top shelf and away from the eye's view. You might not think it, but there are psychological benefits to this.

IV. Eat 2-5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Per Day.

Remember the "5 A Day" campaign? Only 90's kids remember.

One of the most simple habits you can implement is eating 2-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

This will not only keep you full; it will also improve you physically and mentally in a plethora of ways. According to Harvard Health, the bigger the intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, weight, high blood pressure, and more.

This is how we would track serving sizes:

  • If you measure in grams: 80g = one serving.
  • 1/2 cup of fruits = one serving.
  • 1 cup of leafy greens (spinach) = one serving.
  • 1/2 cup of stalky greens (broccoli) = one serving.

Eating this many servings daily should give you the minimum nutrients necessary to keep you going healthy.

V. Eat Protein With Every Meal.

Protein is a necessity for not only cells but for recovery and satiety. According to one study, it keeps you fuller for longer periods, as protein takes longer to digest. In another study, a high-protein diet helped overweight women consume 441 fewer calories (on average) per day.

This is why we recommend eating it with every meal - eating it first before your carbohydrates. This will allow you to get fuller with your meal.

When eating protein, here are the guidelines we recommend the following:

  • If portioning: one palm = one serving of protein.
  • If tracking in ounces: 4oz = ~25g of protein (for chicken, fish, etc)
  • If tracking Macronutrients: 0.8-1g per pound of body weight.

VI. Use A Food And Workout Tracker App.

When I was overweight in high school, one of the biggest changes I made in my lifestyle was journaling what I ate throughout the day. This led to me being aware of how much I ate... and how bad I ate. As a result, I was able to make the necessary changes.

You don't need to track everything you ate in its entirety, but logging or tracking how many times you eat per day and what you eat gives you awareness of what you consume. In one study, overweight individuals who tracked calories with a fitness tracking app ended up losing a significant amount of weight.

Using an app like MyFitnessPal or MyMacros allows you to accurately track what you're eating throughout the day. These kinds of food tracking apps will also allow you to educate yourself on healthier food options, portion control, and better eating habits in the future.

Today, I use apps to track my food, but most of the time I "guesstimate" based on personal experience and intuition. I don't obsess over it, and if I go out on a dinner date, I make sure to guess what the calories equate to. Based on the previous habit recommendations, I make sure they're nutritious 99% of the time.

VII. Have A Consistent Sleep Schedule.

Sleep is one of the most overlooked habits when it comes to health and nutrition. In fact, sleep deprivation has a correlation to obesity, heart health, depression, and other challenges. One meta-analysis showed that sleep-deprived individuals ate an average of 385 calories extra.

Because of this, we recommend having a consistent sleep schedule. When we say a proper sleep schedule, we don't just mean the same sleep time.

1-2 hours before bed, you should try the following:

  • Remove blue light from your television or phones. If you can't avoid them, consider wearing blue light glasses or having "night shift" selected on your phone.
  • Stop looking at YouTube and Social Media. It's quite easy to spend hours doing something like this, which is pretty unproductive. Only use it if absolutely necessary.
  • Practice a mindful exercise like meditation or reading. Avoiding technology before bed allows you to unwind and relax.
  • Drink a cup of water before bed if you feel dehydrated. 
  • Prepare for tomorrow. Set goals you would like to accomplish for tomorrow.

We recommend falling asleep is around 9 pm-11 pm. The reason for this is to optimize both melatonin and serotonin levels, which both build sleep pressure.

VIII. Be Active.

We are meant to be active. As jobs steer from manual labor toward desk work, we tend to be less active as a result. Tighter hips and poor posture can lead to a plethora of 

What we recommend is to utilize exercise for its plethora of benefits physically or mentally. In fact, when it comes to mental health and wellbeing, cardiovascular exercise has some great benefits. Complement it with weight training to experience synergistic benefits between the two.

Whether it's working out for 15-30 minutes every other day, we recommend having some form of physical activity that allows you to break a sweat.

Rome Wasn't Built In An Instant

When making better exercise and nutrition choices, it's not a temporary thing... it's a lifestyle change. These small habits, if utilized daily, will eventually become ingrained into your lifestyle.

While I wish I had created these habits from the beginning of my journey, it took me years to finally understand the practicality behind exercise and nutrition. When you have a system in place, you can edit small things as need be. Need to lose weight? take out a serving of carbs or fats in a meal and assess after a week or so.

Build a foundation, and everything will fall into place.

Any questions, comments, or insights? Throw them below or email me at tony@reforgedperformance.com.

Until next time, Reforged Legion!

    Tony Gjokaj
    Tony Gjokaj

    Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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