Especially if your university accommodation is catered, it can be tough to stay healthy at college. Beat the Freshman 15 by following our tips for staying healthy while you study.
I have always loved cooking and adore being able to use fresh fruit and vegetables to make my meals. So, deciding to live in catered over non-catered halls was a tough decision, but eventually I gave into the idea of Sunday brunch always being ready for me. However, this meant I sacrificed a kitchen and also a lot of freedom over what I could eat and when.
The food in my hall was tasty but a lot of the time very unhealthy. Combinations such as pasta with gravy and fish and chips with samosas came up regularly. I found myself having to creatively avoid these options by becoming a part-time vegetarian. This worked most of the time, but I was still being served pasta a lot or puffed pastry with cheese…still not my idea of a healthy balanced diet. To my hall’s credit, there was a salad bar, but this was the same every single day and got very boring. I ended up ordering in food a lot, but even then, those options were also unhealthy with pizza and Chinese usually being the winners amongst my friends.
Eventually, I turned vegan as I realised there were only 4 other vegans in my hall and therefore the food was cooked specially for us and with a lot more care than to feed the other 300 students. Other than veganism (which was broken pretty regularly by the odd chicken breast or egg) I managed to learn a few tricks in order to stay healthy whilst living my best student life. I didn’t want to restrict myself and I still wanted to have fun. Drinking is also a big dilemma as a student as nights-out are unavoidably part of the experience.
Tips for staying healthy at University
The following are tips anyone can follow in order not to gain lots of weight without having to go vegan:
- Make the most of your university gym.
- Do not get a late-night McDonald's after a night of drinking. Instead, save yourself a banana and put it in your room so you can eat it when you get home.
- Try not to eat anything fried. Curly fries were often my weakness.
- If you know you’re going to get hungry after the gym, buy some carrots and celery to snack on.
- If your university's gym has a cafe, the food there is more likely to be healthier.
- Keep yogurt and seeds in your fridge so you always have a healthy start to the day.
- Take a hand-held food processor to university with you. This means you can whip-up smoothies (or even soup) without having a kitchen.
- Take a nice selection of herbal teas and make sure you have your own thermos - I love the Sundried eco coffee cup. Most cafes will give you a discount on coffee when you have your own reusable cup.
- If you’re going to drink alcohol (which I did) drink tequila or vodka with soda and lime as they contain fewer calories than drinks like wine and beer.
- If you’re going to order take away try to go for Thai, Vietnamese or Sushi (always better than pizza!)
By Siena Barry-Taylor
If you're as much of a fan of cycling as we are here at Sundried, chances are there'll be a few things we have in common. We take a look at some of the things we do as cyclists that might make us seem mad to outsiders.
1. 5am starts are the norm on a Sunday.
Nothing compares to the peacefulness of a Sunday morning ride. No cars on the road, no pedestrians, just you alone with your thoughts on the open road. Bliss.
2. The road is safer than a bike path.
People stepping out without looking, opening car doors in front of you, and dogs off leads are all potential hazards when cycling on a designated bike path. Sometimes it's just easier to cycle along the road.
3. That split second of panic when your shoe won't unclip.
We've all been there; you're approaching a junction or a set of traffic lights and your shoe just won't budge. I've seen it plenty of times myself where cyclists have had a tumble because of unruly cleats. Just brush it off and pretend no one saw.
4. Watts, VO2 max, FTP, and elevation gains are every day speak.
How many watts did you put down up that hill? What was your max elevation gain? These are all things we love discussing with fellow cyclists which probably make no sense to anyone else and frankly, they probably don't care!
5. You can convert miles to kilometres easily in your head.
Some of your friends prefer miles, some prefer km. Some races use one or the other and now you don't even think twice about converting the distance. Oh you cycled 80km this morning? That's 50 miles, nice!
6. When people talk about going on trips, you wonder if you could cycle it.
Why fly to Amsterdam when you could cycle it in a day! Family holiday to Europe? You bet I'm taking my bike! It took you how long to drive to London? I could cycle it in 2 hours!
7. The hillier, the better.
There's something strangely satisfying about destroying your legs up a 15% incline only to be able to whizz down the other side at 40mph. Oh, sorry, you prefer km? 64kph then.
8. The soreness is worth it.
The curse of the numb bum, achy back, sore shoulders and neck after being on the bike for 5 hours is all worth it for the stunning views, sunrises, sunsets, and spending time with like-minded enthusiasts.
There are a lot of myths surrounding the infamous metabolism, but what is true and what's not? We take a look at whether you can really speed up your metabolism and how to utilise the metabolism in weight loss.
Can you change the speed of your metabolism?
The metabolism is the chemical reaction in the body that keeps us alive. The metabolism is controlled by hormones and the nervous system and this process breaks down the food you eat and turns it into energy. Your metabolism is measured as BMR, basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of calories (energy) your body burns just by being alive.
You inherit your metabolism and so your BMR is mostly controlled by your genetics, however there are external factors such as physical activity and diet which can speed up the metabolism.
How do you increase your metabolism?
There are different lifestyle factors which affect your metabolism and it gradually decreases as we age. If you want to increase your metabolism, try some of the following tricks.
Eat regular, small meals throughout the day
Your blood sugar peaks and troughs naturally throughout the day, but too many spikes and dips can lead to mood swings, irritability, and cravings. By eating small meals regularly throughout the day, you will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable and therefore keep your metabolism ticking over too.
Eat more, don't be restrictive
A very common motto in the fitness industry these days it that you need to eat more to lose weight. Gone are the days of magazines recommending we eat less than 1,000 calories per day and people mindlessly following fad diets like the baby food diet. We have now realised that to boost the metabolism and stay healthy, we actually need to eat plenty of food to fuel ourselves, so long as it's whole, unprocessed food and that we are also following a good exercise regime.
By doing high intensity interval training like a Tabata workout, we create what is called the EPOC effect. The EPOC effect means your body continues to burn calories even once you've finished the workout. Tabata training is also proven to increase the BMR, which means your body will burn more calories at rest.
Do strength training to build muscle
It has been proven that the more muscle you have, the more fat your body burns. Having a high lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism and so you will burn more calories at rest.
Metabolism boosting foods and drinks
As well as the physical activity you do, there are ways to speed up your metabolism through your diet. The following foods and drinks are proven to increase your metabolism.
Studies have shown that spicy foods can (temporarily) increase your metabolism by up to 8 percent. By adding chilli and other spices to your food, you will be speeding up your metabolism, but only slightly.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and as we've already seen, it's the central nervous system that controls the metabolism. By drinking coffee, you will be boosting your energy levels and stimulating your BMR. But remember, caffeine can be addictive and can potentially have negative affects on your sleep.
Eating plenty of protein is good for you as it builds muscle and helps to maintain healthy body and tissue function. Protein is also proven to make you feel fuller for longer, so you will end up eating less in the long run.
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins which are proven to boost your metabolism. If you're not a huge fan of drinking green tea, try adding matcha green tea powder to smoothies, which is ten times more powerful than a regular cup of green tea.
Physical exercise has an enormous effect on my mental well-being and I am sure that's the case for a lot of people reading this too. It allowed me to stop taking anti-depressants and instead of relying on a pill each day for endorphins, I decided it would be better in the long run to replace them with natural and simple exercise.
I reinforce this with other things; practising mindfulness, not rushing, going to bed early, and eating more vegetables! But overall, I feel happy that this is a better way for me to cope with my depression and anxiety. It’s important to talk and I find that being open about my experiences encourages others to do the same. It’s too easy to hide issues away and forget they exist, but that’s not healthy and at some point down the line they will resurface and be even more difficult to deal with.
The knowledge we have of the benefits of physical exercise has grown and a quick search through research papers shows just how much evidence there is to suggest that exercising can be seen as medication or therapy in its own right. Even Sport England now has mental well-being ‘at its heart’ of its current strategy. Doing any kind of physical activity, whether it be yoga, climbing or running, is proven to improve mood, reduce stress, better your self-esteem and help to manage or even prevent depression and anxiety.
So it’s a no-brainer right? It should be. But with all the knowledge in the world, it can still be hard to make the time or find the motivation to get your heart-rate up.
So what can we do to help ourselves not skip out on mental health therapy? I struggle when it’s early morning, dark, cold and I’m in bed, but here’s what I find helps me:
- I’m an independent person but I can feel isolated at times. Having like-minded people to support, motivate, and exercise with me is good for me. Therefore, I choose to be around those people and limit my time around those who do not fit this ideal.
- I highly value having a goal and a step-by-step plan of how to get there. For me, that means sitting down with a flipchart (plus bright pens) and writing out a triathlon training plan for my bedroom wall. Without one, I’d be stumbling around in the dark mentally and probably physically too. Being able to see the progress I make fills me with motivation each day.
- I’m more interested in new experiences and opportunities that will aid my personal development and ultimately enrich my life. However, I take care not to take too much on and I’m okay with saying no when things get too much. So if anyone needs a kayaking buddy, I’m itching to try it and maybe enter a cool adventure race!
It’s a no-brainer to help yourself and others who may struggle with mental health, but I think we can do it better, even in the most simplest of ways, and sport provides us with a huge platform to help make more of a difference and to put our health first.
About the author: Alister Brown is a coach with Tri Energy Triathlon Club and an advocate for mental health awareness.
Having your world turned upside down can affect your mental and physical wellbeing in a number of ways. Follow these 5 daily habits to make sure you stay healthy both mentally and physically during these testing times.
1. Stick to a routine
Humans are creatures of habit and there is nothing we love more than a daily routine. Now that we're not going into work every day or taking the kids to school, it can be hard to know what to do. By creating a new daily routine and sticking to it, you will soon find your brain has time to calm down and settle, which will take a lot of pressure off other areas.
When we follow a daily routine, it allows us to do things on autopilot which eases the workload for our brains. Once your new routine is in place, you will find it easier to focus on other tasks and chores. By doing things at the same time each day such as getting up, eating meals, doing certain activities, and exercising, you will ease a lot of stress and brain power.
2. Get up early (and go to bed early)
For a lot of people, not having to get up early to go to work or school is a dream come true and the temptation will be to snooze until midday then lounge around until bed time. This is not a healthy habit and after doing this for a few days you will soon find yourself feeling lethargic both mentally and physically.
Give your day purpose by getting up early and doing something productive, whether this be household chores or your daily exercise. Enjoy some downtime in the afternoon and go to bed at a sensible time (before 10pm if possible!)
3. Eat healthily
A lot of people are finding that by spending all day indoors, it's far too easy to snack constantly as the kitchen is always open. Feasting on a diet of sugar will inevitably lead to mood swings and fatigue, so stick to a healthy diet to make sure you feel at your best. Plan your meals in advance to take the guess work out of it and to prevent mindless snacking. You could even get the kids involved in planning a weekly menu to make things more fun.
Avoid keeping unhealthy snacks in the house and instead stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables during your shopping trips. This will mean you can snack on fruit instead of junk food which will help you to feel healthier and keep your mind clearer.
4. Exercise daily
The government have identified that being able to go outside for fresh air and exercise is imperative for both our mental and physical wellbeing, which is a huge benefit for everyone. Make the most of your exercise allowance by going for a walk, cycle or jog outdoors. Don't push yourself too hard as you want to keep your immune system fighting fit, but a one-hour walk, jog, or cycle will do wonders for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Allow your mind to focus on other things while you are exercising and enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of the endorphins and runner's high. If you're someone who usually has to squeeze a workout in after work in the dark, make the most of the day light and Vitamin D from the sun by going at lunchtime instead.
5. Keep your mind active
Staying at home all day will inveitably lead to boredom for a lot of people and inside the same four walls there can be a lack of stimuli for our brains. Keep your mind active by doing crosswords, puzzles, quizzes, and stay connected with friends and family.
Thanks to modern technology, you could even organise a nightly 'pub quiz' with friends and family via video chat or play games together. Just be wary of getting out that dusty game of Monopoly as we all know how that often ends!