By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer

College is a unique and exciting experience. Exciting in a way where you are now your own person, calling the shots, setting your own schedule and caring for yourself. For most, this is the freedom every teenager has been waiting for. On the flip side, this can also be a stressful time for students. During this time in young adulthood, there is a dramatic shift in lifestyle following high school. Poor dietary habits, irregular daily routines and lack of exercise may be the leading cause of poor health, weakened immune systems and the dreaded “Freshman 15.”  While a couple pounds may be natural, there are ways to make sure you don’t exceed a healthy weight, which can lead to problems far beyond the scale. Check out these tips to help your mind, body and diet remain as fit as possible during your college years.

1. Ditch the Processed Foods – Eating on the run may be the way of life for every college student balancing a busy class schedule and social life, but fast food doesn’t necessarily have to mean junk food. Most university cafeterias provide a healthy variety of nourishing food options and salad bars as opposed to just serving subs and pizza. Be sure to always go for the protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (in moderation). Foods rich in these macronutrients will stimulate your brain and fuel your energy level for hours, so you can get in those late-night study sessions at the library. Here are other food options to keep on hand or in your dorm room for easy access:

  • Fruit (fresh or dried), nuts and seeds make great snacks or on-the-go options for in between classes. These travel well in your bag and are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids for brain power.
  • Pre-made protein drinks are a way you can supplement a meal when in a hurry. Protein powder is also smart to keep in your room to add to oatmeal, smoothies or blend in a shaker cup for an easy protein-rich meal. Hotze Pea Protein Powder is a clean nutritious, vegan formula that provides all the essential amino acids to help keep you strong and focused.

2. Drink up! Water, that is. Staying hydrated throughout the day (and night) is key to weight management and electrolyte balance. Dehydration can often lead to brain fog, headaches, fatigue and wreck havoc on your skin. Aim to drink at least 3 liters of water a day to avoid unwanted symptoms, flush out excess toxins and keep hunger pangs at bay.

3. Stock up on Vitamins – It seems nearly impossible to eat a perfectly wholesome diet as an adult, let alone as a busy college student. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals is essential for boosting and protecting your brain health, immune system and energy levels. Dr. Hotze’s PowerPak is the ideal combination of supplements needed to fuel your body throughout the day. Dorm rooms and small college apartments have limited space to store anything, so in place of numerous vitamin bottles, the My HotzePak stores all your vitamins conveniently in one box, individually packaged according to the time you need to take them. They travel well and make vitamin supplementation effortless and easy to remember. You can also customize your My HotzePak to suit your needs, health goals, and have peace of mind knowing you’ll be supplying your body with pure, high quality ingredients. 

4. Exercise – Walking all day from class to class is a great start towards incorporating a more active lifestyle while at college. Exercise is so important for your health and is a great way to relieve stress, keep off excess weight and boost brain power. Exercising for just 30 minutes a day at least 4x a week can significantly produce results in terms of better sleep, mood regulation, and increased strength, endurance and memory. Most universities have fitness facilities for students to use free of charge, as well as free group exercise classes and personal training. If you were a big athlete in high school, joining an intramural sports team is great way to fulfill your sports craving, as well as meet other students with similar interests. Staying active and incorporating exercise into your daily routine will have a significant impact, not only on your physical appearance, but your academic performance, as well.

If working out at a gym isn’t your style and you prefer to do a quick workout in your dorm room, apartment or an outdoor space, you can perform a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, which can take less than 30 minutes. Total body routines are the most beneficial, since you can combine movements, incorporating several different muscle groups for a higher calorie burn. Some of the best equipment to keep on hand that takes up little to no room at all would be exercise bands, resistance bands, jump rope, a yoga mat and a small set of dumbbells (ranging from light, medium to heavy).

Here is the perfect dorm room HIIT workout you can try anytime:

Warm up: Jump rope 5-6 minutes at a moderately intense pace.

Set a timer for 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest/recovery. Perform all the exercises for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and move on to the next exercise. Rest for a total of 1 minute after you complete the first set of exercises and repeat the circuit 2 more times. Advance to the next circuit once you complete all 3 rounds. Work as hard as you can for the best results. You get out what you put in! Good luck!

Circuit 1: repeat 3x (30 seconds on, 15 seconds off)

  1. Jump Squats - Stand with feet hip-width apart, squat down pushing your hips back, keeping all the weight in your heels. Explode up and land back softly into your squat position. Perform this as quickly as possible, maintaining proper form. (glutes, quads, hamstrings, and cardio)
  2. Mountain Climbers – In high plank position, hands placed beneath your chest, drive one knee forward towards your chest and keep that foot elevated off the ground. Return your foot back to start and switch knees. Perform this move quickly.  This should reflect a running motion once you get going. (abs, chest, shoulders, and cardio)
  3. Tricep Dips – Using your desk chair, stand in front as if you’re about to sit down. Place hands with fingers pointed forward on the edge of the chair. Bend down, placing your body weight on your hands and stretch your feet out in front of you until your legs form a straight line. Arms should be straight. Begin by lowering your body weight down toward the floor by bending your elbows straight behind you. Once your elbows form a 90 degree angle, use your triceps to push your body weight back up until your arms are straight again. Your body should never touch chair. (triceps, chest and shoulders)

Circuit 2: repeat 3x (30 seconds on, 15 seconds off)

  1. Step-Uups with Knee Tuck - Using your desk chair, stand in front it about a foot away. Place your right foot on top of the seat and drive through your heel as you stand up. Drive the left knee up towards your chest once you are standing and squeeze your glutes. Use your abs and glutes to help you balance. Next, lower your body back down to your left foot in starting position. Repeat this move using the same foot until the 30 seconds are up. (abs, glutes, hamstrings, calves)
  2. Repeat Opposite Leg.
  3. Plank Jacks – In low plank position, position your elbows beneath your shoulders, chest-width apart. Begin with your feet together and jump them out at the same time as if you were doing a jumping jack and jump them back in to start. Keep abs tight and back straight. Try not to let your hips and lower back sag. (abs, chest, shoulders, back, legs)
  4. Bicycle Kicks – Lying on your back with hands folded behind your head, extend your legs straight out, elevated off the ground about 6 inches. Bend your left knee and bring it in towards your chest. Twist your opposite elbow, your right elbow, towards your left knee and crunch inwards, exhaling as you twist. Return to start and repeat this movement on the other side. Keep legs off the ground the entire time. (abs, quads)

Following this guide will not only prevent the dreaded “Freshman 15,” but will also help promote a healthy lifestyle long after college. Developing good eating and exercise habits early in life will pay off tremendously as you enter the job market as a healthy, responsible individual. Regardless of where you are in your college journey, it’s never too late to “do  a 180" and take charge of your health and fitness goals.