The No-Nonsense Guide to Dieting in College, Made Easy Part 2: Six General Rules of Thumb (1-2)
By Ari Snaevarsson, Health & Wellness Columnist
Before I get into breaking down college dieting step by step, I think realistically it would make sense to include a section for everyone who does not think they will be able to follow through with a well-planned diet. It is unfortunate, because dieting is really extraordinarily easy when boiled down to its basics, but it would be idealistic to think everyone reading this is going to read all the way through and take away all the important points I hope to touch on.
For that reason, what follows is a list of some general rules of thumb I believe could have a huge impact on one’s health. We will be discussing rules 1 and 2, and rules 3-6 will be saved for the next two articles.
There are a couple things to keep in mind here. First, these are not ranked in order of importance. Second, these rules of thumb are just designed to be used as quick pointers; this is not all-encompassing, and I would strongly encourage everyone to read this series in its entirety.
- Use caffeine appropriately
Caffeine is not some magic drug that you can use whenever and however you want. I will not pretend to understand the specifics of its mechanisms in the body, but, suffice it to say, it does much more than just give you a jolt of energy.
A vast amount of processes in the body are “turned on” upon ingestion of caffeine, which means you are getting a lot more than you bargained for. Anxiety, insomnia, stomach irritation, and nausea are just a few examples of common side effects.
There is already enough anxiety in the average college student’s life; excessive caffeine intake will not work in your favor. For those of us with average stimulant sensitivity, consider anything over 400mg a day (roughly four cups of coffee) excessive. Moreover, although the specifics are debatable, long-term usage can set in motion an actual intolerance.
Right off the bat, there is never an excuse to pull all-nighters and use energy drinks to stay up through the night. In fact, there is never an excuse to pull all-nighters, period, and there is never an excuse to use energy drinks to study, either. I will touch on this briefly in the sleep section.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a cup of coffee each morning. That said, I personally find that limiting caffeine usage to prior to workouts is a great way to do it. You will develop a marginal increase in sensitivity when usage is reduced, such that you do not need that extra-large energy drink to get a “kick”, and if you are getting a good night’s rest, you should not really need a morning coffee anyway. Again, this really boils down to personal preference, but I think it is worth noting caffeine is not at all something to be abused.
The concept of getting “enough” sleep seems ridiculous to most college students, but, as I mentioned earlier, these terms are relative. Getting enough sleep means one thing to a retired senior citizen and another thing entirely to the average 18 to 21-year old.
Establish a set bed time that is realistic. This does not mean being in bed by midnight every single night, but by instituting some set time to be in bed, you are already significantly better off than you would have been regularly staying up until 3am to get work done or watch TV. Even if you are not able to strictly follow this (you would probably be in the majority here), you still have a rough idea of when you will get to bed, so there is some level of uniformity.
This semester, for the first time, I do not have any classes before 10am, and my Tuesdays and Thursdays do not even begin until 1pm. Enough cannot be said about how much more energy I have, how much my study habits have improved, and how great my training has gone. I do not think it is too far-fetched to go ahead and say the majority of this is due to the increased sleep. It is astounding how much a simple thing like getting a couple more hours of sleep a night can add up.
It is also worth mentioning that all sleep is not created equal. Have the room pitch black a half hour before you are asleep, or consider investing in a sleep mask. Try keeping noises in the room to a minimum, unless you need white noise or something similar to fall asleep.
In the next two segments, we will go over rules 3-4 and 5-6. After that, I will dedicate one final section to choosing a meal plan and making healthy choices at the dining halls here. Then we can dive into the meat of the article, where we talk about compartmentalizing nutrition, turning this daunting task into a manageable and comprehensive system.
Sources 1. Dworzański, Wojciech, Grzegorz Opielak, and Franciszek Burdan. “[Side effects of caffeine].” Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski: Organ Polskiego Towarzystwa Lekarskiego 27, no. 161 (November 2009): 357–61. 2. Ammon, H. P. “Biochemical Mechanism of Caffeine Tolerance.” Archiv Der Pharmazie 324, no. 5 (May 1991): 261–67. 3. Nawrot, P., S. Jordan, J. Eastwood, J. Rotstein, A. Hugenholtz, and M. Feeley. “Effects of Caffeine on Human Health.” Food Additives & Contaminants 20, no. 1 (January 1, 2003): 1–30. doi:10.1080/0265203021000007840.