This article was originally published in December 2011, and has been updated.
I always stress to my patients that it is not knowledge that ensures good health, but action. If you are not yet on the road to wellness, you can begin with this sample of a healthy day to get you moving. You can tweak the hours and supplements if you need to — just use this as a guide. Remember the old adage, one that definitely rings true when it comes to nutrition: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
6:30 – 7:00 am: Drink two cups of water with lemon each morning. This simple habit keeps you hydrated, reduces constipation, prevents wrinkles, and is packed with lemon juice’s nutrients and phytochemicals. Take one or two probiotic capsules for immunity, estrogen detoxification, and improved digestion.
7:00 – 7:30 am: Do 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on an empty stomach. This will reduce elevated morning cortisol levels and burn extra body fat. In fact, an older study published in British Journal of Nutrition showed that people can burn up to 20% more body fat when exercise is done in the fasted state in the morning than when it’s done later in the day. Just goes to show you, timing is everything.
7:30 – 7:45 am: Enjoy a smoothie for breakfast each morning during the work week. In a blender, combine a whey protein isolate or vegan protein powder, one tablespoon natural almond butter (or coconut oil), 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 1/2 cup of frozen berries, and water. Turn it into a power smoothie by adding one of these: lecithin, cinnamon, greens powder, or unsweetened cocoa powder. If you need to, skip the berries and put it in a shaker cup and drink it during the day. Consume your nutrient essentials, such as a high-quality multivitamin, a vitamin D supplement, and capsules of omega-3 fish oils. This combo will help to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, lower blood pressure and ensure optimal health.
During your day: Have a snack that contains protein at mid-morning and mid-afternoon each day. Pack two snacks and a lunch for the office each day. Options can include a small apple with some almonds, a boiled egg, tomatoes with balsamic dressing and a piece of feta cheese, hummus with veggie sticks and 4% Allegro cheese, or a protein bar. Ensure you are eating every three hours, and aim to never miss your afternoon snack. Studies show individuals who eat frequent small meals enjoy greater weight loss. Eating regularly will avoid blood-sugar highs and lows that can affect your mood and energy.
Keep a big bottle for water on your desk and fill it each morning, keeping in mind that you should finish it by the end of the day. Fill a thermos or a nice teapot with hot water, put in three or four green tea bags and let it steep. Drink the tea throughout the day in addition to your water.
Get in a workout: Aim to do a 30-minute, high-intensity resistance-training circuit three times each week to maintain metabolically active muscle and improve insulin sensitivity. Be sure to follow up your workout with a sugar-free drink that includes amino acids and antioxidants, which aid energy, exercise recovery, insulin balance and cellular repair.
6:00 – 8:00 pm: Eat your dinner two hours before bed to promote uninterrupted sleep. Your plate should include lots of fibrous carbohydrates, made up of one-third salad and one-third veggies. The other third should be your protein. Your fats may fall on top of your carbohydrate selections (as an olive oil or salad dressing, for instance) or be consumed within your protein selections. I recommend including a complex carbohydrate like brown rice, sweet potato, or squash with your evening meal. Take your second dose of omega-3 fish oil capsules with this meal.
9:30 – 10:00 p.m.: Spend some time alone, even if it is just 15 minutes, to breathe deeply, meditate, ponder, review your goals, or write in a journal to wind down before bed and collect your thoughts. Designate this time as your time daily.
10:30 – 11:00 p.m.: Aim to get to bed before 11pm, sleeping in a darkened room for optimal recovery and to maximize the release of melatonin. Most sleep experts agree that seven to eight hours a night is optimal. However, some people may require more or less sleep than others. If you wake without an alarm and feel refreshed when you get up, you’re likely getting the right amount of sleep for you. If you have trouble sleeping due to high stress levels, you can add in a magnesium glycinate supplement.
Try this schedule, and see if it works for you.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.