College is a special time for broadening your horizons. You're going to be busy studying, going to class, having fun at parties, stressing over exams, and (gasp!) putting on weight.
In fact, according to the American College of Health, nearly 50% of students gain weight their freshman year. And while everyone doesn’t necessarily put on the “freshman 15,” there’s definitely some truth to the problem that plagues new college students.
What’s the main reason for the weight gain? Nutrition.
Many college students don’t have the money, equipment, or time to cook extravagant, healthy meals. Instead, make the most of what you have with these tips.
Here are 6 tips to follow to stay healthy & lose weight in college:
1. Eat Healthier Snacks
Snacks aren't meant to be meals; they just tie you over until lunch or dinner. That’s why they should be low in calories and high in nutrients.
That’s why they should be low in calories and high in nutrients.
It can be tough to keep fresh fruits and veggies around a dorm room, so think about keeping snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated and can be resealed for later use. Here are some excellent options...
Here are some excellent options:
- Nuts and seeds: A great option full of healthy fats that give you extra brainpower.
- Dried fruits: Try to find ones that aren’t coated in sugar or come packed with lots of preservatives. Go as natural as possible.
- Protein Bars: Watch the sugar content and keep it simple with a FitJoy.
- Protein powder: Quick and easy way to get a clean protein without the fat, sugar and carbs.
- Grain-free tortilla chips: A better choice than greasy potato chips and will calm cravings for salty and crunchy alternatives.
2. Make Healthy Choices at the Dining Hall
As you make your way to the cafeteria, you'll find lots of healthy and not-so-healthy options. Sometimes your choices are limited because they only have cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, etc.
Nevertheless, you can ask the person serving food to ditch the buns from a burger or sandwich and enjoy a grilled piece of meat such as the burger patty or chicken.
Then, head to the salad bar and fill up on vegetables for extra nutrients, vitamins, and fiber.
3. Don't Drink Your Calories
Any food or beverage that adds extra calories with little to no nutritional value will sneak up on you. I'm not talking about alcohol either. I'm talking about juices, teas, sugary energy drinks, soda, etc...
At breakfast time, for example, try to steer clear of orange juice and other types of fruit juices. Instead, eat the whole fruit.
One small orange contains about 45 calories and 9 grams of sugar whereas an average 8-ounce glass of orange juice has 102 calories and 20 grams of sugar.
Save your calories and use them on whole foods.
4. Allow Yourself To Cheat
Life, especially college life, is all about balance.
That’s why there's nothing wrong with having a cheat meal or several— it only becomes a problem when you eat unhealthy every day.
A great time to eat something less-than-healthy is after a workout because your body will utilize that food to help refuel.
Honestly, if you can eat healthy 80% of the time, you’re doing better than most college students. And it’ll go a LONG way in keeping the weight off and starting great, healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Sure, nutrition is always the number one factor when it comes to putting on or taking off extra fat. But your diet isn't the only thing that affects weight gain while at the dorm.
5. Get More Sleep
Whether you’re doing a lot of late-night partying or you’re always up late studying (or both), it's very common to sleep less than you should at college.
Unfortunately, poor sleep is detrimental to maintaining a healthy weight.
In a study of over 6000 participants, Japanese researchers found that shorter amounts of sleep were associated with higher BMI levels and larger waistlines in men.
When we sleep, our bodies reset their hormones — HGH production is at its peak during sleep and cortisol levels are low. Heightened cortisol levels, however, can contribute to extra body fat, especially around your midsection.
That's why it’s critical to get between seven and eight hours per night to keep the fat at bay.
6. Join An Intramural Sports Team
In high school, you might have played on several sports teams and trained all the time. Now, in college, it’s like there’s never enough time to do all of those organized activities you used to.
Instead, get some type of daily activity to keep your metabolism high and your fat gains low. Join a few intramural teams or make a trip to your university gym a few times a week.
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and helps guys get ready for their wedding at GroomBuilder.