By Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan
I used to think I was "busy" and that I understood how difficult it can be to eat well and stay active. But, time changes everything. Throw in two young children (thankfully they’re now sleeping through the night), a full-time job, and fitness goals... and that turns most days into a blur.
But I’ve found that re-evaluating my priorities, and then setting priorities, can make all the difference with setting values and building a plan that works.
I will never claim to have it all together, but I’m lucky that science (particularly my science) has helped me to be more efficient and effective with my exercise and nutrition goals. As a former collegiate distance runner, I was programmed for hours of cardio and lots of carbs. Believe it or not, I also used to have a hard anti-supplement stance.
It took me years of research to understand that this doesn’t have to be the only approach to fitness, and, honestly, supplements can be a great way to fuel and support your body and health goals.
If I were to analyze the practices that are most important to my success, these are the practices that make it easier for me to stay healthy on a day-to-day basis.*
For most people, meal frequency isn’t a huge deal and not something that should cause stress. But eating enough protein and spacing it throughout the day can be beneficial for curbing feelings of hunger and maintaining muscle.
Unfortunately, at about age 30, we start to lose muscle and slow our natural production of things like collagen, which plays a vital role in bone and joint health. That's why ensuring that you eat enough high-quality protein every day can help keep the muscle that you do have. My secret: focus on 25 to 30 grams of protein when you eat. It might sound like a lot, but it's not as bad as you might think.
In my case, here's what 25 to 30 grams of protein might look like at any meal:
Lunch and Dinner
Everything is based around a high-quality protein: chicken, lean beef, or fish paired with leafy greens or other vegetables.
Greek yogurt, protein bar, or a whey protein shake.
With all of my meals, I keep it simple and accessible. I also bring my meals to work and cook at home in bulk. This saves me time and energy and frees up time to squeeze in work and exercise.
Strange but true: only one in 10 adults consume enough vegetables and fruits. While I believe in supplements, I’m a bigger believer in trying to knock out the majority of your vitamin and mineral needs through high-quality foods. (And, if you need it, you can fill in some of the gaps with Ladder Superfood Greens).
I strive to add a vegetable to every meal. Personally, my meals are filled with fresh and frozen greens, like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, and Brussels sprouts. Conveniently, the vitamin content of frozen veggies is nearly identical to fresh — and as a busy mom, frozen options are much more feasible (and cheaper).
Whether I'm lifting weights, pushing through high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or chasing my kids in the park, physical activity is my therapy. It’s become so much of a habit that it has to be a part of my daily routine. I personally get my workouts in at the end of the day before I pick up my kids.
Sometimes it’s only a 20-minute workout to get my blood flowing, and that's enough! A few times a week I do intervals (running or biking). The workouts are short but intense: 10 minute total where I push hard for one-minute and then go easy for one-minute. This protocol is efficient and effective.
In fact, even in my thirties, I can still sustain 6:30 minute miles and I can squat, bench, deadlift more than my younger self (and my students). For now, I’ll take it.
The supplement industry is hard to navigate, which is a big reason I do research on products to help determine what is safe and effective and choose NSF Certified for Sports products like Ladder when possible. Here's a quick overview of the supplements I take regularly:
Probiotic: I take this once daily before bed.
Fish Oil (2,000 mg): Taken daily with food.
Vitamin D (2,000 IU): Taken daily with food (you can find a 3,000 IU dose in Ladder Superfood Greens)
Whey Protein: I take one serving almost every day.
Brene Brown said it best: "It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful."
Even if I don’t make the best food choices or my workout is sub-par, being grateful for having access to healthy foods and the ability to exercise puts things in perspective.
Some days I only train for 20 minutes, but I make those 20 minutes count. Some days I under-consume protein, but I try to plan better the next day.
Even more, being grateful for my kiddos and the chaos, brings out the joy in life, instead of being nagged by the feeling of always needing to do more and be better.
*This is the fitness, nutrition, and supplementation regimen that works for Dr. Abbie. Speak with your doctor to determine what is most appropriate for you.