Well, congrats to us all: We made it through January. Apart from being that much closer to spring break (aka the unofficial start of bathing suit season), we've arrived at the midway point of our #STRONGer2017 challenge.
When we committed to mixing up our fitness routine with the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout STRONG by Zumba, we wanted to try something new. But after taking the class and learning about the science behind it — we explain here how it burns calories even AFTER you're done exercising — we are officially full-blown superfans.
In case you're new to the challenge, here's a quick refresher: Since January 1, we've been sweating it out at STRONG by Zumba — to awesome music, might we add — two to three times a week. But with warm weather less than 100 days away (yaassss kween), we're kicking it up to three to four weekly classes (or more, if you're equally obsessed). We're also focusing on the role nutrition plays in achieving our health and fitness goals.
But that doesn't mean we're dieting. It's not our style to deprive ourselves of the things we love — life's too short, amiright? Yet when you're working out consistently, the last thing you want is to sabotage your progress with poor eating decisions. To ensure that doesn't happen, we've been reading up, talking with fitness experts and polling Elite Daily staffers on their favorite nutrition hacks.
Along the way we've learned that there are (approximately) a million and one ways to eat healthier and boost the effectiveness of your workouts that DON'T revolve around the dreaded diet. Here are eight of our favorites, along with some personal tips and tricks we're embracing in 2017.
1. Be mindful when it comes to fueling pre- and post-workout.
Exercising doesn't give you license to eat whatever you want. (Cruel world, we know.) And though it's amazing that STRONG by Zumba torches so many calories (including after class), it's also that much more important that you properly fuel before and after working out.
Pro-tip: To keep your energy level steady, STRONG by Zumba instructors Anna Baldwin, Irena Meletiou and Abraham Hernandez recommend a pre-workout mix of complex and simple carbs like whole wheat toast, oatmeal, almond butter and/or yogurt. You'll want a balance of carbs and protein post-workout, so refuel with foods like fruits, vegetables, chicken or an egg white omelet with turkey.
2. Don't buy snacks in bulk.
Living a healthy lifestyle is much easier when you eliminate temptation. So instead of stocking your cabinets with family-sized bags of your favorite snack foods, start buying individual portions of these indulgences.
Pro-tip: You spend a big chunk of time at work, so make sure to keep it healthy while you're there. At Elite Daily, we recently voted to overhaul our snack room (a lovely job perk) to have more nutritious options. Now our work and home snack lives are as perfectly synced as STRONG by Zumba's moves.
3. Stop doing salads wrong.
It's noon on an insane workday and you're trying to be healthy — what better option is there than a salad? That is, until you douse it in high-calorie dressing and add bread and a fountain drink. Suddenly your healthy lunch has been overtaken by junk food.
Pro-tip: For STRONG by ZUMBA instructors Anna, Irena and Abraham, the perfect salad has spinach as a base and toppings like brown rice, beans and nuts. Add grilled meat, quinoa or boiled or poached eggs for a dose of protein, and dress it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon or lime for a blast of flavor.
4. Start drinking more water. Seriously.
You've definitely heard this one before, but it deserves repeating.
H2O is the key to life (literally), but it also helps with digestion, keeps your skin looking gorgeous and is essential to the weight loss process. Upping your water intake — you should aim to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses per day — will fill you up between meals, meaning less aimless snacking and overeating.
Pro-tip: To make tackling this goal that much easier, a bunch of us at Elite Daily (including yours truly) have invested in 22-ounce reusable water bottles. There's something about having one that makes you drink more water, and after two refills you've already hit your daily water quota. They also come in handy at STRONG by Zumba, just saying...
5. Don't deprive yourself — just eat smarter.
Healthy living doesn't mean depriving yourself — it means eating more of the good stuff and less of the bad. Stick with whole foods that are high in fiber, limit your sugar intake and steer clear of anything that's processed.
Pro-tip: Anna, Irena and Abraham from STRONG by Zumba suggest incorporating nutrient-rich foods like walnuts, almonds and avocados, which will keep you feeling full longer, and fish like salmon and tuna, which contain Omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Choose fresh whenever possible.
Fresh foods contain more nutrients, water (hello, hydration!) and digestion-aiding enzymes than processed foods. So whether you opt for fruit salad over cereal or sliced veggies instead of a frozen burrito, your health will thank you for going fresh.
Pro-tip: To eat more fresh, seasonal foods, search for local farmers' markets so you can start making weekly or bi-weekly visits. You can even turn it into a post-work hangout, like we do at ED.
7. Order the right way when you eat out.
Restaurant dishes are often much higher in calories and fat than home-cooked meals. Prepare yourself by scoping out the menu beforehand and choosing the best option for your health goals. You'll avoid any last-minute ordering panic, and you'll be able to stay strong and skip the side.
Pro-tip: Here's another ingenious dining hack courtesy of STRONG by Zumba's Anna, Irena and Abraham: Order appetizers instead of entrees to limit your portion size.
8. Stop drinking your dessert.
We love a PSL or caramel macchiato as much as the next caffeine addict, but these kinds of fancy drinks often feature a landslide of calories, fat and sugar.
Pro-tip: When the mid-afternoon slump hits at Elite Daily, we combat it with a cold brew that's rich enough to drink black or a skim latte sprinkled with cinnamon.
There's no better time than now to set yourself up for a #STRONGer2017. Find a STRONG by Zumba class near you and join Elite Daily as we get healthier and stronger together.