My five essentials for getting in the best shape of your life—and staying there.

Overall mind and body wellness is a journey, not a destination—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be broken up a little. Doing this work is hard. If it weren’t, everyone would be in shape. Here are five easy tips that will make this journey a little easier and more successful.

1. Maintain a positive mindset

When it comes to transforming your body, the biggest key to your success is a having a positive mindset. It helps you stay focused on the outcome, but being positive and focused also encourages your body’s hormones to remain balanced. When you’re positive, you lower your body’s stress response, which lowers catabolic cortisol. Cortisol can stifle fat burning and eat away at lean muscle.

Keep focused by celebrating small wins. I also recommend regular meditation, which will help reduce stress and keep you focused on the journey ahead.

2. Keep your nutrition on point

What you eat is crucial to your gym recovery and how you will end up looking. Even if you’re following a calorie-reduced diet, if you’re not eating the right food, you could end up “skinny fat” instead of lean and trim. Follow a consistent diet that is high in protein and low to moderate in carbs and fats.

Additionally, make sure you’re eating fresh food that comes from high-quality sources. Build your diet from lean protein such as chicken, whole eggs, tenderloin and whey protein; carbs from high-fibre sources such as brown rice, oats and root vegetables such as sweet potato and squash; and fats such as olives, coconut, nuts and avocados.

3. Follow an intense training program

You can’t have success without a proper workout incorporating both strength training and cardio. Your strength-training program should utilize plenty of muscle-building compound movements such as squats, presses, rows and deadlifts. These movements recruit multiple muscle groups at once, burn more calories and trigger greater lean gains.

Combine your lifting program with an intense cardio program such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This form of cardio combines short blasts of all-out intensity with intervals of low intensity. If you have never tried HIIT, start with shorter intervals and less intensity.

4. Strive for consistency and balance

Above all else, when it comes to achieving success with a transformation, you must be consistent. That means you can’t decide to be on your diet one day and off of it the next. You have to go to the gym even when you don’t feel like it. Consistency breeds habit changes and over time you’ll have a new healthy lifestyle that will maintain the body you worked so hard to achieve.

That said, it’s important also to have balance. Occasionally, it’s okay to have a “cheat” food or miss a workout. If you have a bad day, take a breather, do something different, then reset and start again. Drop the guilt you feel and get back on track without a second thought.

5. Use supplements

Dieting and working out are essential to a successful fitness transformation, but supplementation can also offer an added edge and convenience. A scoop of whey can ensure you meet your daily protein needs, while a good pre-workout product can help lift your energy for a great workout when you’re not feeling in the mood.

Finally, supplements such as branched-chain amino acids can help speed recovery; melatonin is a sleep aid; and a good multivitamin helps with your daily vitamin requirements.

Author: Karen Gauvreau is co-founder of RIPPED FEMME and an expert in sports nutrition.  She has devoted her career to helping women reach their health, wellness and fitness goals. Karen provides regular columns for Optimyz print and digital editions.

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