New Year’s Resolutions are all about creating new goals (mostly lofty) that’ll transform our life, change our body, and make us better overall. Problem is, New Year’s Resolutions don’t work.
Plus, you’re probably already doing all of the right things in order to build better health, stronger muscles, and a happier life. You could just do them a little better. We all could.
So take these 16 improvements with you to the gym, the kitchen, the bedroom, and everywhere in between this year to fast-track your results—and leave the New Year’s resolutions in the dust.
1. Strength Train Better
Technology has brought new ways of training, but newer isn’t always better. “It is quite apparent now that body weight exercises provide a full, thorough, total-body workout,” says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S, a New York-based exercise physiologist and trainer. You’ll get muscular strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility. “By mastering the body you will acquire the skills necessary to be successful at any physical endeavor.” Sick of push-ups? Be more adventurous by mastering the 30 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Men. Basic equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands, medicine balls, and barbells are also great tools to help you step up your fitness game. We have tons of plans to help you do just that. Try the Elimination Workouts, The Gut Check Workouts, The Inner Beast workouts, or something else altogether starting January 1, 2016.
2. Run Better
In a fast-paced world, it’s time to speed our workouts up, too. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has showed us that we can do way more in less time assuming we work hard—really hard. Plus, some research suggests that a mix of agility and military-style training can improve your VO2 max, your agility, and even your memory. So how do you go from slow slogging on the treadmill to speed workouts? Give us four weeks, and we’ll give you the 4-week speed-and-agility training plan. You’ll be faster—and smarter—by February.
3. Do Group Fitness Better
A run or ride with the guys is great—but if there are too many people involved in your workout, you could wind up comparing yourself too much to others, says Weiss. “It’s important to make sure you don’t join an exercise group for the wrong reasons and get discouraged looking at everybody else.” After all, the race is only against yourself—only your body benefits from a good workout. If you’re going to work out with a partner, keep it to one or two people, suggests Weiss. And if you’re in a studio class like hot yoga, use mirrors to correct your own form only.
4. Build a Better Belly
All fat isn’t created equal. Belly fat or visceral fat—unlike subcutaneous fat (the kind you can pinch)—can wrap around important organs like your heart and lungs, putting you at risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. The worst part: Men are more likely than women to suffer from a beer belly (maybe it’s all the beer?). But fighting back and slimming down isn’t all about cutting calories. Start carving a better mid-section with these 10 ways to lose your gut backed by science.
5. Recover Better
“Just lying there like a pancake will make excess byproducts from exercise pool in the lower and upper extremities,” says Weiss. Your new off-day plan: Do light aerobic exercise at 20 percent of your max heart rate for 10 to 15 minutes, he says. This will help flush the cardiovascular system and clear stagnant lymph tissue.
6. Protect Yourself Better
Men and doctors just don’t seem to get along. Some research suggests guys are less likely to see their primary care physician and their dentists than women are. And while studies on the effectiveness of a yearly physical are mixed, doctors will all agree: Preventing diseases is a better approach than treating them. So this year make it a habit. Get reacquainted with your doc (or find one); find out what screenings you need (the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists them here); and keep up with STI exams. Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating that STIs are on the rise—some at alarming rates. But according to a recent survey, 44 percent of men have never been tested.
7. Eat Better
“The body only needs two fistfuls of food on a plate—any more is excess and will be stored,” says Weiss. By eating four to five smaller meals a day, your body gets the exact amount it needs each meal and there’s nothing left to store, he says. Just make sure to fill up on a mix of fruits, veggies, and whole grains to ensure your body is getting all of the vital nutrients it needs. “By adhering to a diet like this, you can effectively nourish the body while reducing caloric intake and even jump-start your metabolism to help you burn more calories.”
8. Cook Better
“Soups are the new juicing,” says Molly Kimball, R.D., a sports nutritionist at Oschner Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans, LA. So if you have a Magic Bullet or a Ninja, give green drinks a rest in lieu of chilled soups—a great way to get your nutrients without losing the fiber. You can blend up broths, stocks, liquids, and other fruits and veggies in the fridge. You’ll knock frozen pizza off the dinner menu for good. Start with a classic Easy Grilled Gazpacho.
9. Supplement Better
Supplements have their time and place within a healthy lifestyle—but alarming research out this year suggested that 29 percent of men surveyed admitted that their supplement use could be damaging their health. Even more: The researchers warn that overdoing it with supplements could be a risk factor for eating disorders—especially in guys. The best way keep your use in check is to be an informed customer. Make sure you’re not replacing meals with supplements; know what’s in your pre-workout supplement; and consider these top 5 supplements for men.
10. Grocery Shop Better
If you eat Greek yogurt for the probiotics, it’s time to broaden your horizons: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir all give a good dose of probiotics, too, says Kimball. Other foods—like Nancy’s Cottage Cheese—are also cultured with live active cultures. Want more ideas? Pick up these 7 Fermented Foods You Should Be Eating.
11. Read a Food Label Better
Food labels are confusing enough—and this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed even more changes to the current ones. (Outsmart all food labels with these 5 tips.) But, according to Kimball, there’s one number you should stop looking at all together: total fat. “It matters more where those fats come from,” she says. “You want to be looking to incorporate more plant-based fats.” Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados promote heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties. Here are 5 fats you shouldn’t fear.
12. Lose Weight Better
The formula for weight loss may be a mix of diet and exercise, but if the scale won’t move, it could be because you’re neglecting your shuteye. Research shows that sleep deprived people are more likely to overeat and reach for carb-rich, sugary foods, says Kimball. But it gets worse: One study found even when sleep deprived people and well-rested folks ate the same amount of calories, the zombies lost 55 percent less body fat over the course of the study. “Not getting enough sleep makes it hard for the body to shed extra body fat,” says Kimball.
13. Sleep Better
Speaking of sleep... 2016 is finally the time to make nice with your alarm clock. While sleeping in feels good, messing with your circadian rhythm—by sleeping till 11 a.m. on Sunday and waking up at 6 a.m. on Monday—can throw your body out of whack. In fact, research out last month found that even routine changes to your sleep schedule could put you at an increased risk for metabolic issues like heart disease and diabetes. Your body doesn’t understand what a weekend is, so your best bet is picking a bedtime and a wake time—and sticking to them both. Read more: 7 ways you’re destroying your sleep schedule.
14. Think Better
Your body isn’t the only care you should have: Brain health matters, too—and is making headlines more than ever. Christmas Day, Concussion—the story of Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovered the degenerate brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of athletes—opens in theaters. Research this year IDed an Alzheimer’s protein plaque in people as young as 20. We learned that too much TV and not enough movement can weaken your brain. So can fast food. The good news: For every brain-sapping activity there seems to be a good-for-you-noodle alternative. Make your brain a priority with these 25 ways to make your brain more efficient.
15. Have Better Sex
Sure, you might think about getting frisky all the time, but actually getting down and dirty every time you think about sex isn’t necessarily going to make you happier. In fact, research this year found that the happiest couples have sex at least once a week. It’s about quality, not quantity. Start with these 10 moves she’s begging you to make.
16. Dress Better
You could spend your whole paycheck on expensive clothes, accessories, and grooming products—and still look, well, a little sloppy. Why? Because dressing your best comes down to the little things: perfecting the art of tying a tie, making sure your shirt fits, and knowing whether or not you can wash those pants. These things seem simple enough, but—like with fitness—you don’t move on from the basics until you’ve mastered them. So this year, before you buy a thing, get familiar with the 10 fashion rules every guy must know.