Healthy habits make a healthier you – which is exactly why habit challenges like 75 Hard have become so popular.
The premise is simple. Every day (for 75 days) you do two workouts a day, drink a gallon of water, follow a nutrition plan, read 10 pages of a book and – of course – take a progress picture.
But is 75 Hard worth the time and effort? We asked a nutritionist to take us through each step of the program.
1. Complete two 45-minute workouts.
Two workouts a day can definitely have a positive impact. But the key is to be smart about it.
“In general, moving your body for 45 minutes twice per day is a great idea,” says Elizabeth Glass, MHA, a registered dietitian-nutritionist at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “But be careful starting a new exercise regimen, especially one that isn’t tailored for your specific needs.”
Before trying anything new, Glass suggests talking to your physician. “That’s even more important if you have underlying conditions,” she adds.
And remember that all workouts don’t look the same.
”A workout for one person might seem more intense, while another person might just be focused on getting their body moving. Either way – that’s a success,” says Glass.
She recommends doing different types of workouts each day, and taking a few days off before focusing on the same muscle group again.
“Each type of workout offers unique benefits,” Glass says. “Cardio keeps your heart in shape and improves endurance. Weight lifting helps to build muscle and develop balance and coordination. Stretching helps with flexibility and preventing damage.”
And bad news for anyone looking to start their 75 days in the winter – one of those workouts is supposed to be outdoors, so be sure to factor that into your planning.
2. Follow a nutrition plan.
For this portion of the challenge, you’re able to select a nutrition plan of your choice – as long as it doesn’t include alcohol or cheat meals.
“Particularly when you’re starting a new workout program, focusing on proper nutrition is key. That doesn’t mean cutting out certain foods, it’s more about creating balanced meals,” says Glass.
So if you were planning to cut out carbs or fats, you may want to think again.
“Carbohydrates before a workout will give your body energy – but try to aim for a whole food rather than a processed carbohydrate,” she says.
Looking for a healthy snack before you work out? Glass has these suggestions:
- Peanut butter and banana
- Whole grain crackers and hummus
- Greek yogurt with granola
And once you’ve finished your workout, try one of these healthy snacks:
- Cottage cheese and vegetables
- Scrambled eggs with vegetables
- A slice of whole grain toast
“Even a glass of chocolate milk can offer a balance of carbs, fat and protein if you’re on the go,” Glass adds.
Giving up alcohol can also be a great way to eliminate hidden calories in your diet, she notes.
“The World Health Organization released a statement last January saying that no alcohol consumption is good for your health – mental or physical,” says Glass.
When you do return to drinking, try to stick with a light beer or swap mixers out for seltzer.
“And if you’re really struggling with limiting alcohol intake, please speak with your doctor,” she urges.
3. Drink a gallon of water.
If you haven’t gotten your Stanley cup yet, this might just be your sign.
“It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but there is no set amount that’s right for everyone. Exercising regularly will cause you to need more water, because you need to replace the water that you sweat out,” says Glass.
But there is such a thing as too much water.
“Drinking too much water can be dangerous. It affects the regulation of your body. If you’re not sure how much to drink, pay attention to your pee. If it becomes light yellow or near clear, you can reduce your water intake,” she notes.
4. Read ten pages of nonfiction or personal-development books.
This challenge isn’t just about physical health, mental health plays a role as well.
Nonfiction reading can help you stay focused on your goals and remember what you’re working towards, a key component of 75 Hard. And it can also help you unwind at night without using electronics, which can improve sleep.
“As a nutritionist, I love to read books about healthy habits. One of my favorites is Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, which is all about understanding your relationship with food. It’s a great book if you’re looking to change an unhealthy relationship with dieting,” says Glass.
5. Take a progress picture.
“Progress pictures can be a great way to see improvement, but that progress often comes slower than we want it to,” Glass cautions. “If you find pictures discouraging, there are plenty of other ways to check in with yourself.”
She suggests asking yourself:
- How are you feeling?
- How are your energy levels?
- How are your workouts progressing? Are you getting faster or stronger?
- Are you sleeping better?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, the challenge is successful – no matter what the progress pictures show.
And the last piece of advice?
“75 Hard may have certain requirements, but remember that small challenges lead to bigger ones. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it all at once. Start small, and start building long-term habits.”