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Meal prep is your best defense against a packed schedule.

Q: “I’m staffed to a huge project at work right now that has me working 60 hours a week for the next four months. It’s so busy we’re all working through lunch and dinner and eating takeout at our desks. I’ve been through these projects before and they’re exhausting. I pass out immediately every night when I get home and don’t wake up until the alarm sends me to work the next day. I usually skip the gym altogether or get there once a week. What’s a contingency plan I can use to keep my energy and health up during a really hard time like this? I really don’t want to go backward, health-wise.

— Jeff. K, via the web

Answer by Sara Jane McShane, fitness author and trainer:

With an intense work schedule such as yours, the best thing you can do for your body and mind is to fuel it properly. Diet plays a huge role in how we think and feel. The saying goes “Eat like crap, feel like crap.” That statement is especially true if your body is already being taxed by long work hours and not enough rest. If you swap the daily takeout for clean meals that you can prep at home, that alone will make a huge difference in energy both mental and physical. Another bonus to bringing your own food to work is you will also be saving money instead of spending it on fast food. Another major key is hydration. Hydrating with water will help your body operate better and feel more alive; you’ll also help keep cravings at bay. Each cell in our body needs it and it will naturally cleanse your body while helping you feel less tired.

After you have fueled and hydrated your body better, you can get outside for a quick walk or jog in before your work day. Being outside and working out is great for the mind and actually gives the body more energy throughout the day. If you can’t get outside, you can always do a body weight workout for about 10 minutes that consists of jumping rope, pushups, squats and crunches. Perform these moves for 15 reps each as many times as you can in 10 minutes. Ten minutes may not seem like a lot, but it’s a great way to start the day!

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