Free stock photo of cold, healthy, sunset, man Do you know what the real cause of weight gain is? Well, it’s not just about what you eat. What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain. Also being sedentary and sleep-deprived pack on the extra kilos. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at varsity. Sleep well A good rest is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it’ll help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, and going to bed and getting up at the same time. Exercise frequently It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You also sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it’s important to be active in order to stay healthy. Get yourself that new exercise bra that you've heard is the best or gym shorts you’ve always wanted and get active. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule. Or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that’ll fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can master the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga or tennis are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximise your level of activity. You can walk to class, take the stairs and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library. Watch your beverages There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks and water. Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects. Soft drinks, sodas and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugar fix with a refreshing cup of tea. You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water. Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels. It also helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal. Everything in moderation Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that weight gain. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli and beans among others. Add avocado, lettuce and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look at food blogs or approach your gym instructor. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus to tide you over until lunch time. Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at 2am or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with friends. Eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you’re bored or worried about something. Don’t skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.