Health Doesn’t Have a “Look”

Have you ever looked at a person and thought to yourself, “wow they’re really fit (aka healthy)”? Or maybe the inverse has happened where you’ve looked at someone less fit and made the judgment that they were unhealthy. Don’t worry if you have, it’s pretty normal and you are not alone in this regard.

There’s this misguided ideal that you can tell whether a person is “healthy” from the way they look. See a fat person = unhealthy. See a skinny person = healthy. See a fit person = super healthy. While size, shape and/or look can sometimes give insight to health, it isn’t the sole determinant of health and there’s so much that goes on beneath the surface.

This is a common image, I went through hundreds, if not thousands, of similar images all depicting the idea that health and weight/size are the same thing.

Size doesn’t show how active a person is, whether that person smokes or drinks excessively, or the general lifestyle that a person lives. Size doesn’t tell you whether that person is living with an illness or disease, or whether they’re happy or sad. And most of all, size doesn’t tell you how dedicated vs lazy a person is. Weight and size only tell you that, weight and size.

Someone told me something that put things into perspective in this regard. Imagine driving along and noticing somebody walking down the street. This person is noticeably overweight. Many people would look at that person and follow a train of thought similar to the opening paragraph. The person was unhealthy and unfit, maybe going so far as to call them lazy or uncaring about their health. What you may not realize, or may not be able to tell from looking at them, is this person has been on a weight loss and health focused journey for some time, losing 100lbs already. They’ve been active during their daily life, spending 3-4 days per week in the gym, and have improved many of their lifestyle habits to improve their health. So, while their physical appearance may not show it (or tell the whole story), they are living an active and healthy lifestyle that has led to marked improvements in their health. Remember that the next time you make a snap judgment about someone based on the way they look (and remember that it’s ok, judging is natural but we should be mindful of and redirect those judgments).

Now, I want to point out that there’s a lot of research that points to the contrary, making weight and thus, size, the sole predictor of health. Head over to PubMed and check out the meta-analysis (data gathered from numerous studies/research following certain criteria for accuracy to weight a large bulk of evidence) titled: The Medical Risks of Obesity. In it they have gathered data from numerous studies between the years of 1995 and 2008 to draw a clearer picture on the risks of excess weight and disease (one portion of health). The stats are staggering, showing that the risk of nearly every disease is increased with an increase in BMI (body mass index) past a “healthy range”. This study, along with numerous others, paints a pretty clear picture: obesity is linked to health risks and disease. [3]

This chart shows the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and “other” causes. The top chart is for men and the bottom chart is for women.

The problem with BMI is that it’s a very basic and simple formulation for generating a number on health, which is anything but basic or simple. Health is a culmination of so many variables, including but not limited to, how active a person is, how much stress they have and how well they manage it, a person’s nutrition and hydration, how well a person sleeps, overall mental health, and much, much more. To sum up health with a number that is based entirely off of weight in comparison to height, while necessary for the medical and research fields, is a bit flawed.

For instance, I am 6 feet tall and currently weight about 213lbs. That puts my BMI at 29, making me “overweight” and just short of the “obese” cutoff of 30. Anyone who knows me or takes a look at me (there we go with judging a book by its cover again), would laugh at me being classified as overweight, much less nearly obese.

In fact, for me to get into the “normal” BMI classification I would have to lose nearly 30lbs and get down to 184lbs. Not only would this be terribly unhealthy in practice, it’s likely impossible without losing about 5-10lbs of muscle, which would mean losing a vital component to health. Muscle aids in metabolic function (improving insulin resistance and sensitivity, and increasing caloric expenditure), reduces the likelihood of osteoporosis, and increases chances of survival from critical illness or injury, like cancer or extreme burns. So, while losing weight may be a good thing, losing muscle certainly is not. [1,4]

While BMI can give us some indication on overall risk of disease and health, it’s not a conclusive depiction and thankfully, researchers have realized this and found alternative ways to measure health. In another meta-analysis, researchers looked at a different variable on the link to risk of disease: cardio-respiratory fitness. And what they found was interesting. Through the analysis researchers found that cardio-respiratory fitness was a better predictor of disease risk than BMI. In fact, “compared to normal weight-fit individuals, unfit individuals had twice the risk of mortality regardless of BMI. Overweight and obese-fit individuals had similar mortality risks as normal weight-fit individuals“. [2] What this means is that regardless of size, those who were considered fit from a cardio-respiratory aspect had less risk of disease than those who were “normal weight” individuals but lacked cardio-respiratory fitness. In other words, playing the part of health and fitness proved more important than looking the part.

It’s hard to say which basis of information is right. Is health a result of your weight or your cardio-respiratory fitness? The truth is, it’s a combination of the two with lifestyle factors and environment playing a large role as well. That’s why it’s important to remember that health is extremely nuanced, and rarely a black and white topic. The most important point to remember when it comes to health it isn’t so much about what you look like, but rather it’s more about the actions that you take, the habits you maintain, and the lifestyle you live. So, rather than worrying about looking a certain way, or being a certain weight for health purposes, focus on living a healthy life, which includes:

  1. Eating a diet rich in whole foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats
  2. Exercising and moving in your daily life. Aim for at least 3 days of specific exercise each week (45+ minutes), and move throughout the day.
  3. Drinking plenty of water and stay adequately hydrated throughout the day. Your pee should be a lightl yellow color most of the day.
  4. Sleeping at least 6 hours a night. 7-9 is the preferred range, but anything less than 6 comes with increased health risks.
  5. Managing stress. Read, go for a walk, listen to or play music, draw, meditate, etc. Find activities that help you reduce and manage stress and make sure you do them frequently.

If you’re looking to improve your health in a safe, healthy and manageable way, something that you can enjoy and sustain for life, send an email to achievefitllc@gmail.com to discuss a plan that will help you feel your best, be your healthiest, and enjoy your life to the fullest!

Citations

[1] Abramowitz, M. K., Hall, C. B., Amodu, A., Sharma, D., Androga, L., & Hawkins, M. (2018). Muscle mass, BMI, and mortality among adults in the United States: A population-based cohort study. PloS one13(4), e0194697.

[2] Barry, V. W., Baruth, M., Beets, M. W., Durstine, J. L., Liu, J., & Blair, S. N. (2014). Fitness vs. fatness on all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Progress in cardiovascular diseases56(4), 382-390.

[3] Pi-Sunyer, X. (2009). The medical risks of obesity. Postgraduate medicine121(6), 21-33.

[4] Wolfe, R. R. (2006). The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition84(3), 475-482.

How to Select a Gym for Health & Fitness Success!

I love my gym, both the one that I work at (and occasionally workout at) and the one that I predominantly workout at. They feel like a second home to me and rather than a place I avoid going, I look forward to going to them daily. It’s because of certain factors about each gym that I have been successful in my health and fitness journey. With so many people starting their fitness and health journeys here in the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips on how to select a gym to set yourself up for success on your health and fitness journey this year.

Selecting a gym may not seem like all that big of a deal, but for many people this can be the difference between sticking with a fitness routine and falling off after a few weeks or couple of months. If you want to stick to your fitness routine this year, make sure you’re taking your gym selection seriously and choose a gym that makes it easy to go to and workout at.

Before you start looking at various gyms and narrowing it down to potential suitors, it’s important that you plan out your goals and what you will need to achieve those goals. If you want to be a powerlifter, it’s likely that Planet Fitness or similar gyms won’t work for you. However, if you want to get in a great workout and have access to tons of equipment, Planet Fitness is an awesome choice. The important thing is to understand what it is you would like to achieve, and what it will take for you to achieve that.

Below are some key factors to consider when choosing a gym. Read through them, use the information when searching for gyms, and make an educated and informed decision that will leave you happy and on the road to success.

Location

Throughout the process of achieving my business degree, there was one saying that was common in every single class I attended: location, location, location. Location is one of the most important aspects of building a business and is even more important when deciding on a gym.

One of the most common reasons that people don’t stick to a workout program is because their gym is out of the way and inconvenient. At the end of a long day, when you’re tired and don’t have much willpower left, driving 15 minutes out of your way (or more) isn’t going to happen. Choose a gym that is either close to work, close to home, or on your way home from work. A close proximity to your work, home or the route you take between the two will greatly increase your chances of making it to the gym, regardless of what occurs throughout the day.

Cost

Cost is always going to be an important part of any purchase. Some gyms will be great and have everything you need, but they won’t be in your price range. Other gyms will be inexpensive, but may not have the equipment or environment you’re looking for. Find a gym that fits your price range and offers everything you want and need to achieve your results.

A quick note on pricing: gyms like Planet Fitness, and other low cost gyms, may seem enticing because of the affordability, but that low cost comes with its own issue. The cost is so low that you don’t have a financial incentive, or pressure, to use the facility like you would something that is more expensive. In general, you’re more likely to put a gym membership to use that is more expensive ($30-75/month) than a membership that is considered cheap. If you decide to sign up for an inexpensive gym, just be conscious of the fact you may give yourself more leeway to slack on using the membership because of the lower cost and be vigilant to fight against that.

Contract

Contracts can be an absolute pain, especially in the gym industry. Gyms are notorious for signing people into extended contracts and making it more difficult to cancel your contract than getting rid of that crazy ex of yours. Instead of getting stuck in a contract that you don’t want to, make sure that you read and understand the contract (a lawyer can help if needed), and only commit to something long-term if you truly believe that the gym is right for you.

Another option is to choose a gym with month-to-month memberships. Many gyms have gone to, or offer month-to-month pricing options, however these usually come at an additional cost. While that additional cost may initially deter you from the month-to-month, it may save you money down the road if you need to cancel your contract. In any case, make sure that the decision you make is made with a clear understanding of what you’re getting into and how to get out of it if necessary.

Hours

Every gym will have different hours that you can access and use the equipment. Some gyms will be open 24 hours, while others will have hours that vary throughout the week and weekend. The important thing is to decide when you will be primarily using the gym and then find a gym that fills that need.

Are you someone who gets up early to workout before you head into the office? Then it’s likely that you need a gym that caters to the early morning crowd, opening early and offering plenty of showers for you to use. If you’re someone who is likely going to workout later at night, take that into account and choose a gym that stays open late, or at least 24 hours. Finding a gym with hours that fit your needs is a great way to ensure that you stick to your workout program.

Equipment

This is arguably one of the most important tangible portions when it comes to deciding on a gym. If you’re someone who plans to spend a lot of time on various pieces of cardio equipment, you want to pick a gym that has plenty of cardio equipment for you to use. The same thing can be said for machines and free weights. There should be plenty of equipment to fit your needs and not get in the way of your training plan. That being said, there will certainly be days where the equipment you want to use is occupied, but that’s where adaptability comes in handy (a topic for another time). Just make sure that there is enough quality equipment to fit your needs and you should be able to make your training program work.

Additional Amenities

Depending on who you are and what your needs are, the additional amenities in a gym will either make or break the deal for you. Some people only need the bare bones type gym, just enough to get in a workout and nothing more. Other people will need additional amenities, like showers, hot tubs, pools, basketball courts, spas, kids care, etc. If you’re a parent, having a kids care option makes a ton of sense and can make it much easier to get in a workout if you have the kids around. Again, it’s about finding a gym that fits your needs and lifestyle so that working out fits seamlessly into your current life.

While hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms are nice, they may be something that you ultimately don’t use, so be honest with yourself and pick based off of need, rather than novelty or want. Are you actually going to sit in the sauna or hot tub after a workout to recover? Will you do it consistently? If not, these additional amenities don’t need to be taken into account when deciding on a gym. Remember, more amenities usually come with additional costs and are only beneficial if you use them.

Take it for a Test Run

Most gyms offer free, or very inexpensive, day or week passes. This is a great opportunity for you to try the gym out and get a hands on feel for what it’s like. If you decide to test run a few gyms, I suggest doing so during the time(s) you are most likely to be using the facility. This will give you a chance to see how busy the facility is during your training times and give you a better idea as to whether the equipment you want and need will be available when you’re there.

Know What you Want, Do Your Research & Execute!

As you can see, there’s a ton of variables that go into selecting a gym that will work for you and fit best for your needs. The first step is deciding what it is you want to achieve, and then figuring out what sort of equipment and facility it will take to achieve those goals. After you’ve figured out the details of what it is you need, then it’s time to dive into the specifics of the gyms in your area including things like cost, contracts, location, equipment and more. Taking these factors into account will give you a better opportunity for success by finding a gym that fits your needs and fits into your current lifestyle. Make the gym fit your needs and life, not the other way around!

A Different Approach to Achieving Health and Fitness Goals

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

In fact, statistics from the Statistic Brain Research Institute (via an article on CNN.com) showed that almost half the population (42%) made New Year’s resolutions in 2016, for the following year, 2017. Of these, roughly 25%were fitness and/or health related. After tracking these same people and their progress toward their goals, they found that less than 50% of those people were successful. Over half of them at the 6-month mark had not achieved their goals,with many of them giving up. This doesn’t bode well for you if you’re looking to shed a few pounds this New Year, and improve your health, but thankfully,you’re not a statistic.

You can be different, because you are different. You’re not just someone who’s going to start a diet and get into working out for a few months, you’re in this for the long-haul and understand that great progress takes time. You are going to be prepared and ready to rock out every workout, nail your nutrition plan (80% of the time, because life should enjoyable), and give your body and mind the respect and attention they deserve. 

If that super motivational speech didn’t get you fired up and feeling like you can take on the world, have no fear I have some legitimate and actionable information I am going to be passing your way. If you want to make a change in this coming year and start showing yourself the love you deserve by taking care of your health and fitness, you will want to continue reading and implement the strategies below. 

Getting Started

When it comes to achieving success at anything, having a plan is the first and most important step, but you must know what you want to achieve to be able to plan for it. It’s hard to understand how to get where you want to go, without building a plan and the steps to get there. Before you do anything, there’s some due diligence that needs to be done by you in order to give you the best opportunity to succeed. Below are some questions you should ask yourself, as they will guide to in your planning stage.

What are your goals? 

Goal setting can be such a valuable component to succeeding on any venture, and fitness is no different. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)and should always be written down to improve your chances of achieving your goals. If you want to make the goal-setting process even more valuable, share those goals with someone else, and put those goals in plain sight. I even have clients who post their goals on their bathroom mirrors, or above their beds, so that they are constantly reminded of what they want to achieve.

It’s important to remember that goals should be process oriented, focusing on habits and behaviors, in addition to outcome-based where the focus is on more tangible aspects like weight loss and waist line reductions. Process-oriented goals are important because they focus on things that you can control: habits, behaviors, and the daily inputs that you truly have control over and ultimately, will lead to your outcome-based goals. Outcome-based goals are great but can also set you up for disaster as many of those goals are outside of your control. While you can certainly control the foods that you put in your mouth, and the exercise that you perform, you can’t control whether you lose or gain weight. That number on the scale will only change if your daily habits, behaviors and inputs change.Focus on what you can control, and the process of reaching your goals will be far more successful and enjoyable. 

By writing your goals down, making them SMART and focusing on both process and outcome-based goals, you can set yourself up to achieve nearly any goal you set your mind to. If you’re looking for help in assistance in setting both process and outcome-based goals, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via social media (Adam Son on Facebook and adamchosenson on Instagram) or send me an email at achievefitllc@gmail.com. 

How will you achieve your goals? What will you need to be successful?

After you have figured out your goals, it’s necessary to reverse engineer those goals to understand how you will achieve them. Ask yourself, “what do I need to achieve my goals(skills, behaviors, environment, etc.). This is an important aspect of the planning stages, as it aligns what you want to achieve with how and what you need to attain it.

If you want to become a world class power-lifter, or just build insane strength, it’s likely that you’ll need a barbell and adequate weights for progressive overload, adequate calories to ensure that you’re able to recover and gain strength, and a training program that will take you from where you are, to where you want to be. The same can be said with any goal, whether you want to lose weight, improve your health, or build muscle and get “strong like bull”, it’s important that you understand what it will take for you to achieve those goals. 

During this part of the planning process, it helps to reach out to others who have achieved what you are aiming for and can walk you through the process, or at least give you information and insight on what it takes to achieve your goals. If you know someone personally who has gone through the same process as you intend to, reach out to them and ask them what it takes to achieve their level of success. If you don’t know anyone who has traveled the path you intend to, then reach out to a professional who can assist you. Experience is something that is hard to replicate, so picking the brains of those who have it can be a huge boost to your chances of success.

The internet is another valuable resource but can also be a double-edged sword. While it’s true that there’s all the information you could ever need to find the answers, you seek for any goal you may have, there’s also far too much information out there and it can make finding what you need very difficult. The great thing about the internet is that anyone can post, but that’s also the bad thing about the internet, because anyone can post like that crazy old guy down the street who swears that aliens are among us, or like this article from PETA, an animal rights organization, posting about dietary needs based off your astrology sign (hint: there’s no merit to this,and the fact that an animal rights organization is writing about health and nutrition, using astrology as its basis, is absolutely absurd) . Unfortunately,people tend to believe that everything they read on the internet is true (which it most certainly is not), which becomes an issue when reading about fitness and nutrition where there’s so many conflicting ideas and information.

When it comes to figuring out the”how” of achieving your goals, it’s important that you do your research and gather information. Ask people you know questions, reach out to a professional, or perform your own research (just make sure you can sift through the B.S.). Use this part of the process to build an understanding of exactly what it will take to succeed in your endeavors. Doing so will make it much easier to outline your plan of action and achieve success. 

Build a Plan of Action

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when embarking on their fitness and health journey is that they try to do it without a plan for what they’ll actually do. Goal setting is just the start, from there it’s important to build a plan for what you’re going to do in the gym, as well as one for what you’ll be doing outside the gym to improve your nutrition and daily habits.

This is where you would either find,create, or have a training and nutrition program created for you. It doesn’t have to be anything advanced or crazy, especially at the start, and should fit into your current lifestyle as seamlessly as possible. This means a busy person, say a parent with multiple children active in sports and other extracurricular activities, working out 5 or 6 days a week may not be feasible. Instead of trying to find the most advanced, difficult, or “hard-core” plans,find or create something that you can succeed at, especially in the beginning when consistency and habit are at their lowest.

The same can be said for the nutrition portion of your program. You may have heard about the Keto diet and are interested in some of the proclaimed benefits, however, if you’re someone who enjoys carbs or would struggle to eat large amounts of healthy fats (not just sauces and junk food, like I was known to do when eating Keto), Keto may not be right for you. Remember, there is no “best” nutrition plan or diet when it comes to losing weight, building muscle, or increasing strength,the best plan is the one that you can stick to and this usually means it fits into your life and is at least somewhat enjoyable.

Ditch the training and nutrition programs out of magazines or from your favorite “fitspo” model and focus on the basics and building a strong foundation to work from. This will set you up for success in the long term, rather than starting off at 100% intensity and eventually burning out, as well as make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Be Aggressive in Your Actions and Patient with Your Results

This is a quote I heard once and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s also something that I used to struggle with on a consistent basis. I would have grand plans and goals that I wanted to pursue and achieve but would lack the aggressive action needed to achieve them and/or the patience to see it through. This led to me starting and stopping a million different projects or goals, without every achieving them (something I still struggle with to an extent). What changed everything for me was learning and cultivating patience by understanding that it takes time to achieve great things. Like they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will your dream body.

If you’re looking to embark upon a transformation journey of health and fitness, it’s important that you have the understanding that it will take time and the patience to see it through, as well as consistent and thorough action on your part. For most people, this is where they fail. They want the easy route, the pill or wrap or magic diet that will allow them to achieve their goals in a matter of days, or weeks,rather than months or years. I’m sorry, but for most people those results simply won’t come that fast (either that or your goals aren’t large or challenging enough).

That’s why it’s so important to focus on the process of achieving your goals, rather than the goals themselves.It gives you the ability focus on the things you can control, while making small, daily progress that eventually leads to long-term success and goal achievement. Keep your goals in sight but understand that focusing on the daily habits and behaviors is what will ultimately lead to you achieving those goals. 

Win Early and Often

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the best team or athlete who wins in a contest?

Oftentimes the winner of an athletic is decided by momentum. Which team has the crowd on their side, who’s players are on hot streaks, and teams that seem to “click” at the right moment, are all examples of momentum in athletics. The same principle can be translated to success in health and fitness, as well as every other aspect of life.

If you want to succeed, you must build, maintain and use the momentum of your successes to propel you forward.This means you must be able to win early and win often to improve your personal momentum and increase your chances of success. Therefore, when working with clients, especially at the start, we begin with simple, almost impossible to not achieve, goals. This allows them to “win” early in the process and often, letting those clients feel the positive effects of momentum and use it to propel them forward. 

If you want to make a change to your body, health, or life, it’s imperative that you focus on achieving success,even in small ways, early in the process. This will build buy-in, increasing your level of motivation, enthusiasm for the process, and engagement, making it easier to sustain your habits and continue progressing. For you to get those wins early in the process, make sure you are setting achievable goals for yourself. If you haven’t worked out in 10 years, and eat fast food every day of the week, telling yourself you’re going to work out 6 days per week and eat a whole-food based and healthy diet is a recipe for failure. Make small,sustainable changes in your daily life to achieve those early and often wins,which will build momentum and make achieving your larger, grand scheme goals far easier to achieve. 

If you’re someone who has health and fitness goals, regardless of if they’re tied in to your New Year Resolutions,it’s necessary to have the right approach and mindset if you want to give yourself the best chances for success. This means setting goals and building a plan of action to achieve those goals, which allows you to visualize what success will feel like and understand how you will get there. When it comes to taking action toward those goals, remember to be patient with the results, as they do not and will not happen overnight. Finally, regarding that action don’t forget to build positive momentum by setting yourself up for wins that happen early on and often in the process. By following this approach to your health and fitness goals, success will be far easier and more enjoyable to achieve.Just remember, it took time to get where you currently are, and it will take time to get to where you want to go.

P.S. If you’re looking to start a fitness and nutrition program in the New Year, stay tuned for article(s) to come on choosing a quality gym/training facility and how to feel comfortable and achieve success within that facility. These are two items that will be a huge component to success in your journey and can be the difference between sticking it out through the struggles in a gym you love and feel comfortable ino r giving up when things get difficult in a gym that is unwelcoming, not supportive, and doesn’t align with your goals and personality. 

Vitamin C for Colds, More like Vitamin B.S.

The cold has come, snow is falling, and as they say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is Coming” (more like it’s already here). With winter comes a whole host of changes: cold weather, hot drinks, and the dreaded common cold.

The common cold is the most frequent infectious disease that affects humans. Symptoms like coughing, sniffling, and runny noses, among other things, are common occurrences when dealing with a cold. It leads to an average of 12 sick days for adults, and over double that for children. That’s hundreds of missed days of work and school over a lifetime, and an increase in health care costs, so it’s no wonder that so many people want a solution to fight off the common cold. 

One of the most popular solutions, and where many people turn when they start to get the sniffles, is a Vitamin C supplement, like Emergen-C. The praise for supplements like Emergen-C is enough to make you believe that it can cure everything from the common cold to more serious issues like the flu.

But how truthful is that? What does the science say? 

If you’re interested in finding out more about Vitamin C, whether it has benefits for the common cold, and how you can do your best to avoid getting sick this winter, continue reading!

What is Vitamin C? Why is it so popular?

Vitamin C became popular nearly 50 years ago, when Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling made public his theory of high doses of vitamin C being able to prevent and/or speed up the duration of the common cold. Since that time, vitamin and supplement companies have done their best to capitalize on a growing industry, backed by the words and ideals of a Nobel Prize winner.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that your body does not produce and thus must be ingested through diet or supplementation. It’s involved in various functions throughout the body, including the production of collagen and assistance with immune cells in fighting off disease. When someone is sick, Vitamin C is depleted from immune cells, making it Dr. Pauling’s theory about Vitamin C helping fight off and speed up the duration of common colds and other infectious diseases. Unfortunately, like many things, what seems logical in theory doesn’t pan out in practice.

Emergen-C, the most popular brand of “cold fighters”, was introduced in 1978, just a few short years after Dr. Pauling made his theories about Vitamin C known

The research behind Vitamin C is rather thorough, and pretty straight forward. When it comes to Vitamin C there are only a few scenarios where supplementation is beneficial. The only benefits for the average person come from either taking it daily (at least 200mg) or getting it naturally through your diet, or taking an absurd amount (8g or more). Getting your daily dose of Vitamin C, while important, will only reduce the average number of “sick days” every year by about one. While it’s nice to get that day back, it’s important to realize that if you eat a well balanced diet you are probably already getting plenty of Vitamin C and reaping the benefits.

As far as the higher dosage, which in some studies has been shown to reduce severity and duration of illness, it can come with nasty side effects like nausea, diarrhea and possibly kidney stones. Luckily, Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, meaning that anything “extra” will be excreted through the urine and doesn’t pose toxicity issues like fat soluble vitamins and minerals. This doesn’t mean that you can ingest as much Vitamin C as you’d like without consequence, but that the consequences won’t be as severe as fat soluble vitamins. 

There is one very specific population that has shown marked improvement in severity and symptoms of common colds, but the average population doesn’t fall into this category. For those who exercise strenuously outdoors (marathon runners, cross country skiers, Armed Forces individuals), you may find that supplementing with Vitamin C (at least 200mg) will help you deal with less instances of colds, and for shorter duration, but again, if you’re eating a well balanced dieting you may already be hitting these numbers.

If Vitamin C doesn’t work, what does?

This is where things get a bit more boring, and a whole lot more practical. There are few things that will truly affect whether you get a cold or not, and how long that cold will last. None of them are as easy to take and easy to sell as Vitamin C though, which is why they get pushed to the side in search of other “cures”.

Sleep

Sleep is vitally important to your health and wellness, and it becomes even more important during the winter months when immune systems are constantly attacked by different viruses. I cannot stress to you enough how important getting both enough sleep, and quality sleep is. It will improve your immune system, and help protect you from colds and shorten the duration.

Sleep is your key to health and vitality, so prioritizing it is key. Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep every night, but 7-9 is more optimal. This means you have to plan ahead, and get in bed at a certain time to ensure you are getting enough sleep. You should also avoid electronics at least an hour before bed, keep your room somewhat cool, and avoid activities that are overly stimulating. Try to find an activity that calms both your mind and body to perform before bed like reading, writing, meditation, or stretching/yoga. These activities will help you unwind from a long day and signal to your body that it’s time for sleep.

Hydration

During the winter months, people tend to drink less water. It’s a result of the temperature dropping and not feeling the need to drink water the way we do during the summer months. I myself struggle with hydration during the winter months, and have to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.

Lack of proper hydration, or worse, dehydration, has been shown to negatively affect numerous functions of the body. When it comes to warding of viruses and shortening the duration of those viruses, water plays an important role. It helps to boost immune function by delivering oxygen to immune cells and helping clean out waste and toxins. Hydration also aids in a quality night of sleep, as it helps to keep your nasal passages and throat moist so that breathing is easy and clear. 

To ensure that you are getting proper hydration, try to shoot for around 2/3 of your body weight in ounces of water. If you weigh 200lbs, like me (at times), your goal should be to drink around 135oz of water. To make it a bit easier to reach your target goal, make sure to start your day with a large glass of water (20oz or more) and always have a water bottle with you. I like to use transition times, like driving to and from work or waiting in line, to catch up and get ahead on water by drinking as much as I can during those moments. 

Wash Your Hands

There is a reason that your mother always told you to wash your hands before dinner and after using the restroom, because washing your hands can be a huge deterrent for viruses. Washing your hands helps to remove germs that can cause sickness, and stats show that consistent washing of hands reduces the likelihood of the common cold by 15-20%. 

If you want to stay healthy this winter, do yourself a favor and get in the habit of washing your hands, especially while in public. Anytime you go to the bathroom, wash your hands afterward and always make sure to wash your hands before you eat. The pores in and around your face are extremely absorbent, so avoiding touching your face (noses, ears, eyes, mouth, etc) and keeping your hands clean is a great way to help keep the colds at bay. 

Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet

Getting a variety of whole foods that are rich in nutrients is a huge part of living a healthy lifestyle. Foods like fruits and vegetables can play a key role in providing your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to assist and optimize the functions of the body, including the immune system. To do your best in fighting off colds and viruses, make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow. The more variety, the better (in most cases). 

Even though we know that fruits and vegetables are extremely important for health, it’s very easy to not eat them. To make it easier to consume enough fruits and vegetables, make sure that you always have some prepped and on hand. That’s the great thing about fruits and vegetables, they don’t need to be cooked, which makes them easier to include in your diet than foods that must be prepared. You can also bake several different kinds of vegetables at once on cookie sheets and prepare all your weeks vegetables in a matter of 20-30 minutes. The important thing is to then make sure that you have them with you and eat them. Keep snack bags of fruit and vegetables that you can grab and go, or leave at work to make life just a bit easier. 

Stick to the Basics, Live Long and Healthy

As you can see, staying healthy and fighting off colds and sickness isn’t as glamorous or complicated as people would like to make it, but simple doesn’t sell well. Instead of spending money on “cold fighters” that don’t make any difference, try focusing on the basics of health that are time tested for success. Make sure you are getting plenty of quality rest, be sure to hydrate sufficiently, wash your hands, especially in public places and when eating, and focus on a balanced and wholesome diet that will provide all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. 

Do you have any favorite cold remedies or family traditions for when you’re sick? Comment below and let’s share our favorite ways to get over being sick (or at least make it feel more enjoyable)