Own your morning with these early-start hacks to have the healthiest day possible.

Your alarm blares at you as you struggle to open your eyes, half-consciously slapping the snooze button to get 10 more minutes of shut-eye. But then 10 minutes turns into 20, maybe 30… and now you’re going to be late! You gulp down your coffee, skip breakfast and head out into rush-hour traffic feeling frazzled and stressed.

You don’t have to be a health expert to know that this sort of morning routine, done day in and day out, will have a detriment effect on your overall well-being. In her book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, time-management expert Laura Vanderkam explains that a healthy morning sets you up for a healthy day – and life. Citing renowned social psychologist Roy Baumeister, whose studies on human behaviour found that willpower is like a muscle that fatigues throughout  the day, Laura outlines how your efforts to eat well and hit the gym become much harder as the day wears on.

Anything worth doing, should be done first, the expert suggest. Here’s how you can make the most of your morning to have the healthiest day possible.

Remember that willpower you’re in short supply of? Don’t waste it on negotiating with your alarm clock. You have to get up,! A few extra minutes of broken sleep is not going to make you feel worse. Dr Rafael Pelayo, a sleep specialist at Stanford University, explains that your brain considers the snooze button a false alarm, delaying the body’s natural process of waking up. When your alarm goes off again, ‘your body and brain are taken by surprise, resulting in that groggy, fuzzy-headed feeling, called “sleep inertia”,’ he says.

BONUS! – Go To Bed & Wake Up At The Same Time

When it comes to sleep – and reaping all the health benefits of quality Zs, such as longevity, aiding the management of depression and warding off disease – consistency is key. Personal trainer Michael (24) sees clients at 6am three times a week, which means he’s up at 4. ‘I’ve found the only way to make getting up early easier is to wake up at the same time everyday, even if I don’t have a 6am appointment. Waking up at 4 one day and 9 the next throws my body out of whack.’

Your body is about 60% water and your blood 90%, so your bodily processes just don’t work properly if you’re dehydrated. And after eight hours of sleep, your body hasn’t been hydrated, so it’s vital to top up your fluids when you rise. Before your morning coffee, have a glass of water. It will get your metabolism revving, flush out toxins to help your skin glow, aid digestion and help lubricate your joints.

BONUS! – Don’t Skip That Coffee

Not only is caffeine a potent antioxidant that helps your body fight cell damage, your morning cuppa also contributes to your daily hydration levels and jump-starts your brain, boosting productivity.

After lying still all night, your muscles are begging to be stretched out. Limbering up aids circulation, relieves tension and pain, improves flexibility and decreases the risk of injury. These stretches will boost energy to help get you going in the morning:

BONUS! – Breathe Deeply

Take a pause for the cause – having even five minutes to yourself to clear your mind and breathe deeply – in through your nose, out through your mouth, for a count of five – will revitalize you and help you refocus for the day ahead.

The truth is, all meals are the most important of the day – but studies have found that people who eat a nutritious breakfast are more likely to also eat healthier throughout the day and burn more calories. Having a well-balanced meal in the morning, which includes a good serving of protein (from eggs, yoghurt, nuts, wholegrains or lean meat) will keep you fuller for longer, help you power through your workout and prevent those mid-morning biscuit cravings.

BONUS! – Exercise

Working out in the am versus the pm is a matter of personal choice, and depends a lot on work/family schedules. But those who do fit in a session before birds start chirping have been shown to exercise more regularly and they swear by its energy and positivity-boosting benefits: ‘I get such a high from working out in the morning – I don’t get as stressed out in traffic, my mind feels sharper and I get to varsity ready to go!’ says 21-year-old accounting student Jabu.

PREPARATION IS KEY

Refilwe, 32, has a high-pressure job with frequent, tight deadlines. Combined with an hour’s commute each way, it leaves her with little time to exercise . ‘My only option is to go to gym  from 5-6am, which means I have to be super organized so that I can just get up and go without having to think too much,’ she explains. The night before, she packs her work clothes, lays out her gym gear, and makes lunch for the next day, Her coffee machine is set to start brewing for 10 minutes before she wakes up, and she prepares a small, healthy breakfast such as oats or a smoothie, ready to go for the morning. ‘It’s a lot of effort to prepare everything the night before, but I know if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it. Getting a workout in first thing in the morning makes me feel energized and ready to take on the day.’

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