The best time of your life to be in shape is in college. Unfortunately, being a college student presents many obstacles when it comes to fitness and staying in shape. Being out of shape has become an accepted way of life in this country, and you know what, it really makes me upset that we as a society encourage such a lifestyle.

I am going to identify the five most pressing fitness issues in college, tell you the TRUTH about them, and reveal how to combat them. Power through this article because it may seem harsh at times, but I assure you that anyone can achieve their fitness goals if they put their mind and body to it. 

DIET

If I could have a nickel for every time I heard, ‘I am starting a new diet tomorrow’, I would never have to work a day in my life. Your diet is without doubt the key to becoming fit. No matter how many hours, days or weeks you spend in the gym, you will not see a dramatic difference unless you address your diet. 

This is a harsh truth that many people can not come to face: a calorie DEFICIT is the most effective way to achieve healthy weight loss. A calorie deficit means that you burn more calories than you eat. It is a tremendously simple concept. This does not mean eat one less piece of pizza – calories are not created equal, kids. 

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As for the underclassmen out there, the ‘I only eat at dining halls, so I can’t diet’ excuse is unacceptable. Most universities have the nutritional info on all the food they are serving to students posted online, so do some digging and find out exactly what and how much you are eating.

There a many websites out there that calculate your ‘maintenance’ caloric intake and then can calculate a calorie deficit suitable for you based on your body type and fitness routine. Read forums, talk to others; the fitness community is large and expanding, and there are plenty of people willing to help you along the way.

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ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

For those of you that participate in multiple binge-drinking sessions a week, say goodbye to any fitness goals. In order to regulate your diet, you need to regulate your alcohol consumption. 

Alcohol is without doubt a staple of college culture. Unfortunately, alcohol has many nasty side effects. First, it is high in calories. No matter whether you drink ‘low calorie’ vodka or ‘light’ beer, the calories will add up. Secondly for you fellow men out there, alcohol reduces testosterone production, which is our key hormone for producing muscle mass. Lastly, alcohol is metabolized differently than other foods. In simple terms, your body burns the alcohol for energy instead of, oh let’s say, your love handle fat. 

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Here is my solution to alcohol: drink one night per week and limit yourself to less than four drinks. It will be hard. That is the truth. However, reducing your alcohol consumption will ultimately help you achieve your fitness goals quicker, and live a healthy lifestyle. 

GETTING YOUR BUTT TO THE GYM

Set a schedule. Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Saturday, I do not care. Just get to the gym at least two days a week. I am a mechanical engineering major in my third year and still manage to make it to the gym four days a week for 1.5 hour lifts. 

The hardest part is getting there. Do not allow yourself to make excuses. Making excuses subconsciously conditions your body to allow you to say no. 

I do not care if you just got dumped, your dog died, or you failed your last exam. No matter how bad your day is, it does not mean you cannot make time for the gym. This lifestyle will promote the gym as a place to relax and free your mind while getting in shape. 

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DISCIPLINE TRUMPS MOTIVATION

This directly affects the previous point. Motivation may get you to the gym for the first few weeks of college, but I promise you; motivation will fail you, she will not be there for you every day. She will not get you out of bed after a long night of drinking or get you to the gym before that 8am class. 

Discipline on the other hand will never fail you. You need to discipline yourself to stick to your diet, to say no to a drink, and to make it to the gym. Saying no to drinks, not going out during the week; the truth is that it will suck. This lifestyle I preach has negatives, but the rewards reaped from the discipline will pay off tenfold. 

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PATIENCE

It seems as though every aspect in life when transitioning into adulthood requires patience. A change in your fitness routine and diet is no exception. Give your body time. Miracles do not happen overnight. 

In fact, jumping into a rigorous workout routine often results in injury or overtraining, which will just set you back from your goals more. 

My solution to this last point is to write down your goals. For example, write down the target weight you want to achieve eight weeks from now. Write down that 225lb bench press you want to hit this upcoming January. Seeing these goals everyday will help you, I promise.

Fellow college students out there, I hope you took one thing away from this article: that you have to take control. Taking control of your life will positively affect your academics, diet, workouts, and countless other aspects. I challenge you to take control.
This journey will not be easy. And lastly, do not be afraid to let loose sometimes, have fun, have an extra beer or take a hike instead of hitting legs one day. 

Good luck and may the fitness Gods be with you. 

John Morrisson is a junior at Miami University, where he studies Mechanical Engineering.

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