Getting fit for less at uni
Getting and staying in good shape at university may at first seem like an impossible task with all the studying, socialising and out and out binge drinking, but it can be achieved. Luckily enough for you students, most universities have well equipped gyms that are very cheap compared to most corporate/independent gyms. This makes getting fit seem a lot more appealing as your student loan won’t take a huge hit.
As well as good training facilities, most universities also usually have reasonable canteens, where you can make healthy meal choices that again won’t break the bank. If you’re looking to get strong or lose some body fat, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding somewhere on/near campus where you can get a healthy high protein meal that includes fresh fruit/vegetables to provide some much needed fibre for digestion and vitamins/minerals for energy metabolism and immune system support.
Here are my four top tips for getting fit and healthy at uni:
Train regularly (3-5 times a week) and focus your training around lifting weights and doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) for cardio. Weight training combined with HIIT is an excellent way of getting fit as it helps to increase lean muscle tissue whilst reducing fat tissue. Muscle is metabolically active tissue as it is extremely good at using calories for energy. 1lb of muscle tissue can burn up to 10 calories whereas 1lb of fat tissue only burns around 2 calories. Therefore, the more muscle tissue you have, the more effective your body is at actually using calories for energy as opposed to storing them for energy in the form of body fat. This also means that the leaner you are, the higher your metabolic rate will be. Metabolic rate is the amount of energy expended in a state of rest i.e. sitting around doing nothing.
Can't afford a gym membership? Try running outside for cardio using apps like couch to 5k, and look on Youtube for strength training tutorials.
Now you are clearly intelligent as you have made it to university; hence you have the intellectual capacity to make good food choices. If it’s processed food, don’t eat it; If it’s loaded with artificial food additives, don’t eat it; and if it’s loaded with sugar, don’t eat it! The easiest thing to do is just stick to fresh, natural, whole foods as these contain the nutrients that you’re looking for. In order to support your training stick to quality sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish and eggs so that your muscles have adequate amounts of protein to actually grow. Stick to healthy sources of carbs (when possible) e.g. wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, oats etc. to give you the energy you need for training. Also, make sure you’re getting plenty of fruit/veg for those game changing vitamins and minerals. To save money, go for frozen protein sources, fruit and veg as these products are frozen from fresh and won’t “go off” so there’ll be less wasted food.
QUICK TIP: After a night out, go for a chicken shish kebab over a burger and chips as it’s a far leaner fast food option that won’t negatively affect your body composition as much.
Typically, student diets are also very basic due to tight funds. To avoid becoming deficient in certain nutrients that will make you more vulnerable to illness and less able to focus during lectures, I recommend taking a multivitamin, an omega 3 fish oil tablet and a vitamin C supplement. This will help make sure your body receives adequate amounts of these vital nutrients to support the immune system, optimise cognitive function and just generally uphold all biological processes.
Keep well rested
Get enough sleep! I’m well aware that being at uni is the best time of your life and you don’t want to waste it sleeping. But for getting fit and healthy, sleep is essential. Getting enough quality REM sleep is critical for physical and mental function and you’ll find that a lack of sleep will result in poor workouts, poor food choices and poor grades. Sleep massively affects hormonal and neurotransmitter regulation which in turn affects a lot of physiological processes, including those that help to build muscle, lose fat and think clearly; so keeping these hormones and neurotransmitters in tune is very important for health. Consequently, on the nights you’re not out at the Student Union bar getting on the grog, make sure you’re getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting enough quality sleep to make up for the nights when you are out partying until 4am.
As a student you can get discounts on all sorts of things, like supermarkets (you can even get 10% off at Morrisons and Co-op), chain gyms (The Gym offer a discount, ask at your local for how much you get) and supplements (get an impressive 25% off Bio Synergy with code SMS25). You can make a good saving on most things you’ll need to keep fit and healthy at uni, so there’s no better time to start your fitness journey.