I have always been active but I didn’t start going to the gym until my freshman year of college. Now I have been working out consistently and tracking either calories or macros for a little over a year. There was a bit of a learning curve and I am still learning every day, but I have a few tips for you guys to hopefully make it easier!
Use your time wisely
Transitioning into college from high school comes with a lot of responsibility especially when it comes to managing your time. It can be overwhelming to figure out how to manage classes, homework, a job, going to the gym, your social life, and any other “extra” things you may do. That is why it is so important to use your time effectively. When my classes were in person, I would pack my gym stuff in my backpack and workout before, in between, or after my classes. Now that my classes are online, I plan out when I am doing my classes, homework, and job for each day and then plan my workout around that. I generally try to work out around the same time for each “set” of class days, so my Mondays and Wednesdays have the same schedule and my Tuesdays and Thursdays have the same schedule. Ultimately, you have to make fitness a priority or you won’t make the progress you want to.
Don’t drink or limit drinking at parties
You might be rolling your eyes at me for this one but this has seriously been helpful for me. That’s because you won’t consume any calories from alcohol or from “hangover food.” I personally choose not to drink for religious reasons, but I know that isn’t everyone’s choice. So, if you are going to drink, figure out which ones are low calorie and set a limit on the number of drinks you are going to have so that you hit your macros/calories. This way, you can enjoy yourself, hang out with your friends, and still meet your goals.
Track your macros or calories
Speaking of goals, you will most likely need to track your calories or macros to accomplish them. Depending on whether you want to lose, gain, or maintain weight, you will either eat less, more, or equal to the number of calories you burn in one day respectively. In order to find out how much that is, you need to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). You can find free resources for this online, although those may not be 100% accurate, or by buying a plan from a company like the Bowmar Fitness nutrition plan. To lose weight eat 25% less than your maintenance calories and to gain weight eat 25% more.
Once you have figured out the number of calories you need to eat, you need to track them. My personal favorite way to do this is through the app MyFitnessPal. Most restaurants have nutrition information online and everything you could buy at the grocery store does as well which makes it very easy and convenient to log your consumption. Additionally, most universities have their dining hall nutritional information online as well. To find this just google your university, the name of the dining hall, and nutritional information.
My go-to meals
When I am on campus, I will go to either the dining halls or to the “grab and go” meal options. In the dining hall, my go-to is a salad, grilled chicken, and any “side” that I want. That could be rice, sweet potatoes, or a vegetable of some sort. This meal provides the protein that I need as well as helps me get in those daily vegetables. Your portions of each part of the meal will vary from mine which is why I didn’t specify how much of each item I will eat, but I eat within the number of calories I allocate towards my lunch for the day. For the “grab and go” options, I will go for a salad that has some protein in it or a sandwich. Again, I check that the number of calories fits within my range for lunch. If I don’t have time for a full lunch, then I will make sure to pack a snack for the 10-15 minute break in between classes. My go-to’s are Bowmar Nutrition protein bars (my current favorite flavor is cookie dough or coffee cake) or a protein shake (my current favorite flavors are vegan peanut butter cookie or cookies and cream). However, APEX jerky or protein popcorn are also great options!
When I am at my house, I prefer to meal prep and make all of my dinners for the week on one day. I didn’t really cook when I was in high school so I stick to yummy recipes that are simple for me to make. My favorite easy meals to cook are taco salad, homemade Chipotle-style bowls, or chicken with veggies or sweet potatoes. For something sweet, I like to have a Bowmar Nutrition mug cake with protein frosting since it is low calorie and super yummy. I have a roommate who really enjoys rice cakes with any nut butter and bananas, which is also an easy option.
Supplements I take
On top of making easy meals, I also help stay on track with my goals using supplements. My personal favorite brand is Bowmar Nutrition because I trust that they use quality ingredients. Throughout the day I will take Fiber, Colon Cleanse, Probiotics, and PRE on top of those previously mentioned. I take these particular things because they are what I need to feel good and be healthy. You may need to take a supplement that I don’t need or I may take one that you don’t need. Ultimately, supplements are just a good way to make sure you are taking care of yourself in the best way possible, none of them are essential for you to make progress.
If you want to purchase supplements from Bowmar Nutrition, I would greatly appreciate you using my link or my code “Jessica” at checkout. I get a slight commission but this also just lets the company know that I am generating traffic for their website!
I typically workout 5-6 times a week with 1-2 rest days. My split is shoulders, legs, biceps, back, triceps, and abs. If I can only go 5 days then I will combine abs and back since those are my least favorite to lift. I will add in a few reps of chest on my ab day as well, but I don’t dedicate a day to my chest because it isn’t a priority I have at the moment. If you can only spend 3 days at the gym then just pair up muscle groups and lift two per day. Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and what you enjoy so that you will stay consistent and see the results you want!
Also, you don’t need to be at the gym for 4 hours to see results. I will typically lift for 45 minutes to an hour (getting about 300-400 reps in that time) for each session and then do 20-30 minutes of cardio after. However, depending on your goals you may not want to add any cardio (check out Sarah’s blog “How much cardio should I be doing?”)! If that amount of time still sounds daunting then a 20-minute workout is better than nothing. Now that I have been working out for some time, I will make my own workouts, but when I was first starting off, I would just look through fitness influencers that I wanted to look like and do the workouts they posted. This helped me feel more confident going into the gym and not waste time trying to figure out what to do when I got there. So, if you need to do that then do it! Again, push yourself but do what you enjoy so that you will follow through.
I hope this was helpful! Remember that consistency is key and that you don’t need to overcomplicate things. Happy lifting!