Exercising on a regular basis is one of the best forms of stress relief and hugely beneficial to our self esteem. It can also be very therapeutic and of course, really freaking challenging at times. The only thing harder than a challenging workout is not being able to workout! We’ve all had those days where we simply don’t feel well. Our bodies ache all over, we can barely squat down to our chairs at work, and the thought of exercising causes us to tense up further. Even worse, when we get injured and our ability to exercise is limited. While there are parts of training that are beneficial to push through in order to gain a certain adaptation, we have to pay close attention to our recovery in order to get there safely.
There are many factors that influence our recovery in positive ways. Nutritionally, we can support our bodies with an abundance of anti-inflammatory foods. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds and grass-fed beef will help keep inflammation at bay. Protein and amino acids are critical for muscle building and recovery. Fruits and vegetables are also a key component. Micronutrient rich foods replenish and restore essential vitamins and minerals that are depleted during exercise while also offering antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect us from illnesses.
Magnesium and calcium are used for muscle contraction and relaxation. Common symptoms of a lack or imbalance of these essential minerals are muscle cramps and twitching. While we can easily get enough calcium from foods, magnesium is not as abundant in our food or water supply. Magnesium is used for over 300 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. It is critical for energy metabolism and to maintain normal muscle function. Magnesium also enhances glucose availability in our brain, muscles and blood, which delays lactate accumulation in muscles. While there are many oral magnesium supplements in several different forms (citrate, glycinate, etc.), magnesium is best absorbed through our skin. Great options for magnesium supplementation include epsom salt baths and topical magnesium spray. If we’re feeling extra run-down, chilling for an hour in a magnesium-rich float spa will certainly help bring us back to life!
Sleep is also fundamental to recovery. Sleep is imperative to allow the body to repair and detoxify. The more stress we have on our bodies in terms of hours exercising, lifestyle factors and exposure to damaging foods, the more sleep we need in order to recover. If we are between the ages of 18 and 64 we need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Adding in strenuous exercise, and that number must increase in order to repair and grow tissues. If we are chronically under sleeping, we can expect up to 68% increase in potential to get injured. We can have the best diet on earth, but without enough sleep we won’t be able to achieve peak cognitive or athletic performance.
We can also use movement to help increase blood flow and boost recovery. Stretching helps us increase our range of motion and loosens up tight areas that could be subject to injury. Deep tissue work like massage, active release and foam rolling aid in preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness. Dynamic compression like the Normatec system or doing some light jumping causes an increase in lymphatic movement. Our lymphatic system is the highway for toxins and waste products, and the faster we move them out of our bodies, the faster we will recover. Cycling through different forms of these physical recovery methods is a great approach to cover all the bases and prevent injuries.
While the list of recovery methods may seem daunting, they can easily be sprinkled throughout our day. Choosing to nourish our bodies with nutrient dense foods, prioritize sleep for its vast benefits, and spend a few minutes treating our hard-working bodies to some physical relief, will be well-received on our journey to being fit for life.
Axe, Josh. “Do’s and Don’ts of Muscle Recovery.” Dr. Axe, 17 July 2015, draxe.com/muscle-recovery/.
Zhang, Yijia, et al. “Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance?” Nutrients, MDPI, 28 Aug. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622706/.
Pearcey, Gregory E P, et al. “Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures.” Journal of Athletic Training, National Athletic Trainers Association, Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/.
Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav V. “Sleep, Recovery, and Metaregulation: Explaining the Benefits of Sleep.” Nature and Science of Sleep, Dove Medical Press, 17 Dec. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689288/.
Effects of Alcohol
Enjoying an alcoholic beverage is a luxury we have likely all experienced at some point in our lives. In our culture, we consume alcohol for many reasons. Celebrations, social events, pain relief and calming nerves are a few common occurrences. For some of us, alcohol is a part of our daily routine, while for others, exposure can be far and few between. However we choose to incorporate this libation, being aware of the potential health and performance risks will help us think deeper about its role in our lives.
Alcohol affects our brain through the blood brain barrier. It stimulates a region in the brain that releases dopamine, giving us a feeling of pleasure. When this reward pathway is stimulated often, it becomes reinforced and ingrained, making this pattern particularly hard to break. Alcohol interferes with the part of our brain associated with decision making, impulse control, motivation and problem solving. This part of the brain receives less neural stimulation and can even shrink with regular consumption of alcohol. Additionally, alcohol can cause a decrease in new brain cells, leading to a deficit in areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. These (among other) effects on the brain lead to massive consequences on our body, including physical performance.
A decrease in neuronal density and blood flow to the brain causes a decrease in glucose metabolism. When we ingest a toxin, we must then breakdown and move those toxins through our liver and out of our bodies. This process utilizes a multitude of nutrients and energy and backs up our “metabolism organ”, our liver. One of the nutrients depleted in this process is thiamine, or vitamin B1. A chronic deficiency in thiamine can result in early onset dementia. Along with plummeting nutrient stores and energy, our muscles also take a hit. Alcohol will impair muscle growth, diminishing protein synthesis, cause an increase in dehydration and prevent muscle recovery by disrupting our sleep cycle. It doesn’t end there either. Working out with a hangover can decrease our aerobic capacity by as much as 11%. Therefore, to protect our bodies and begin to replenish them from the damage done by alcohol consumption, it may be best to take a day off from the gym after a night of indulgence.
Now you may be wondering, how can we possibly enjoy a healthy balance in life, ward off the nursing home and still see performance gains? Moderation and a few well thought out tactics can certainly help! Saving alcohol consumption for special events instead of making it a daily occurrence will ensure that an alcohol-dependency doesn’t develop. This will also support our bodies in absorbing and utilizing nutrients efficiently, sleeping deeply, and hitting our workouts will full intensity. While at social events that include alcohol, having a water between every libation will lessen dehydration and slow down the rate of alcohol consumption. Drinking on days where we plan to fully rest and recover is also helpful, as well as drinking earlier in the day to lessen the cortisol spikes at night that alter our sleep. Finally, making sure we eat nutrient dense foods often will boost our bodies ability to detoxify and recover as efficiently as possible.
In a culture that loves to entertain, being indulgent once in a while is certainly a part of maintaining a healthy, balanced life. When it comes to alcohol, our best protection is knowledge. When we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into, we can throughtfully decide when, where and how much to consume to compliment our lifestyle and support our goals. As summer approaches, we are often torn between achieving that beach body we’ve always dreamed of, and enjoying bottomless margaritas on a rooftop deck. While there is no right or wrong, supporting our bodies with nutrient dense foods, water, daily exercise and restorative sleep will set us up for a faster recovery time and lessened repercussions when we do decide that rooftop margaritas are the perfect way to spend the 4th of July.
- Keck, Rachel. “How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain? (It’s Not Pretty).” Dr. Axe, 3 Mar. 2018, draxe.com/how-does-alcohol-affect-the-brain/.
- Vella, Luke D, and David Cameron-Smith. “Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients, MDPI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257708/.
Sugar is a topic we love to hate. It’s delicious and comes in just about every processed food we can buy, which makes up for about 60% of all options at our grocery stores. We might think “if sugar is in so many things, then it must not be bad, right?”. That’s where the hard truths come into play. Refined sugar was introduced in the 1600’s and started off as a luxury item. As production of sugar became cheaper, it became more accessible to the rest of the population. Flash forward to now, where the average US citizen consumes about 57 pounds of sugar per year! Processed sugar isn’t “bad” because it doesn’t contain any nutrients, but its harmful effects to health, especially in large quantities, are why we should tread with caution.
As we’ve talked about previously, ingesting processed sugar greatly affects our blood sugar regulation. As our blood sugar continues to spike and fall above normal ranges, we start to become insulin resistant, making us prime candidates for type 2 diabetes. Research on sugar also shows that it wreaks havoc on our brain. In particular, causing mental health issues and cognitive decline to the extent of dementia. When our brain chemistry is altered, we see serious health consequences along with an increase in anxiety and depression. In the 1600’s, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease was thought to be linked to fat and cholesterol consumption, but the latest research confirms that sugar as the main culprit. To top it off with, once we consume refined sugar regularly we will start to crave it much more.
Sugar “addiction” has been researched extensively. Our brains have reward centers that are stimulated and reinforced with the presence of sugar, much like other addictive substances. The dopamine reward circuit, when activated, produces feelings of euphoria and pleasure similar to those we experience through other rewarding behaviors. Activating this circuit often conditions the body to seek out sugary foods. What classifies sugar as addictive isn’t only the cravings tit causes, but the challenge we face when trying to remove it.
Detoxing from sugar causes a plethora of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mood swings, migraines, cold and flu symptoms, to reduced energy and heightened sugar cravings. It takes about 21-60 days to create a new habit, or rewire those pathways that keep us wanting more sugar, but luckily the adverse symptoms of detoxing from sugar only last about 3-5 days if done correctly. Fueling our bodies with non-sweet nutrient dense foods is the best support to round the corner of sugar withdrawal symptoms and come out feeling great. Once we’ve de-activated those sugar-craving pathways, we can start to introduce naturally sweet items back into our diet.
Naturally sweet foods like fruits, vegetables, honey and maple syrup certainly contain sugar. The difference is the way in which our bodies process them. Our bodies are made to use sugar (glucose) as a quick source of fuel. When we ingest them as real foods in their natural form, we are also ingesting all of the beneficial nutrients that they come with. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, water, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. When ingested together, these elements slow the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream, keeping our blood sugar within normal ranges. Other natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup contain beneficial nutrients, probiotic and antibacterial properties that support our health. As they aren’t found in abundance in nature, they are made to be consumed in small amounts.
The food industry has done an incredible job in disguising sugar and adding it into everything they possibly can. If we think about it, what better way to keep the masses buying products if we are addicted to them! Sugar can be disguised as: maltodextrin, fructose, lactose, galactose, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, and much more. To make it even trickier, products that are labeled “sugar-free” can still contain some forms of these hidden sugars. If we choose to venture down the aisles in the center of the grocery store, be weary of these forms of sugar in the ingredient list. Let’s focus on stocking up on nutrient-dense, sweet and health promoting foods like fruits and vegetables. Our long and short term health, performance and waistline will thank us!
- Chris Kresser. “Here’s the Research on Sugar and Health.” Chris Kresser, Chriskresser.com, 7 Feb. 2019, chriskresser.com/heres-the-
- Barnes, Jill N, and Michael J Joyner. “Sugar Highs and Lows: the Impact of Diet on Cognitive Function.” The Journal of Physiology, Blackwell Science Inc, 15 June 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
- “This Is Your Brain on Sugar (Trust Us, It’s Not Pretty).” Bulletproof, 30 Aug. 2018, blog.bulletproof.com/too-much-
When: Monday, June 3rd – Friday, June 28th
Sign-up at the front desk!
InBody Scale Dates
Weigh-ins: Tuesday May 28th + Wednesday May 29th – SunLife
Thursday May 30th + Friday May 31 – Sudbury
Saturday June 1 to Monday June 3 – Waltham
Weigh-outs: Tuesday June 25th + Wednesday, June 26th – SunLife
Thursday June 27th + Friday June 28th – Sudbury
Saturday June 29 to Monday July 1 – Waltham
Baseline Workout: Monday, June 3rd during all classes
The Winners: Top Male + Female From Each Gym
– Body fat percentage / weight loss
– Benchmark workout
*There will be NO point system for this challenge
No Alcohol/No Sugar
This challenge will serve as a sugar and alcohol detox. In order to kick-start our metabolism and shred that extra body fat, we need to support our metabolism organ- our liver! Post challenge we will celebrate and enjoy some tasty adult beverages, but during the challenge let’s focus on giving our liver another job- create energy to burn fat!
As so many more fruits and vegetables are coming into season let’s take advantage of the local harvest! These nutrient-packed foods will help keep us full and support our bodies ability to create lean muscle mass and burn that fat! While you can choose which fruits and vegetables to have, we recommend sticking with ⅔ vegetables and ⅓ fruits over the course of the day if fat loss is your ultimate goal.
Weight Loss Emphasis – Recommend ⅔ Vegetables and ⅓ Fruit Ratio
Massing/ Muscle Gain Emphasis – Recommend ½ Fruit and ½ Vegetable Ratio
Recommended 3 plates per day for most moderately active individuals.
Option to add a 4th plate per day for extremely active* or larger individuals.
*extremely active = Strenuous exercise over 2 hours per day, or an individual who works a physically intensive job, on feet and lifting heavy objects for 6+ hours per day.
Here are 10 of the most common “healthy” foods that actually have lots of sugar hiding in them:
Cereals, including hot cereals like flavored oatmeal
Packaged breads, including “whole grain” kinds
Snack or granola bars
“Lower calorie” drinks, including coffee drinks, energy drinks, blended juices and teas
Protein bars and meal replacements
Sweetened yogurts and other dairy products (like flavored kefir, frozen yogurt, etc.)
Frozen waffles or pancakes
Bottled sauces, dressings, condiments and marinades (like tomato sauce, ketchup, relish or teriyaki, for example)
Dried fruit and other fruit snacks
Restaurant foods, where sugar is used in sauces, various desserts and dressings for extra flavor
Note on the InBody Machine: Please be sure to weigh in during your scheduled gym date. If you cannot make it to the gym on those dates, you may visit one of the other locations during their weigh in dates. If you are not partaking in the challenge but would still like to use the InBody, it is a $25 usage fee.
Eat The Rainbow
When we talk about nutrition there are two main areas we emphasize, quantity and quality. While quantity is important when it comes to make sure we get enough food and aren’t overeating, it’s also just as important to focus on eating a variety of foods. What happens when we make our foods as “constantly varied” as our workouts, is we get an abundance of different nutrients, all contributing to our overall health and wellness. Different colored foods, in particular, have a different chemical makeup, providing us with a number of essential nutrients. If we focus on eating all of the colors of the rainbow, we will be ingesting multiple vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can boost our overall health and protect against illnesses.
Phytonutrients are components in plants that are not essential for us to consume in order to survive, but they can certainly help prevent disease and support optimal functioning inside our bodies. Antioxidants are a type of phytonutrient that help slow and prevent damage to our cells from toxins and free radicals. Different colored plants provide different types of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, opting to explore outside our “20-or-so” go-to foods, can provide huge health gains.
Red plants like tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon are high in the antioxidant lycopene that helps protect the body against oxidative stress. Orange and yellow plants like carrots, mango, cantelope, pumpkin, pineapple, papaya, and nectarines contain carotenoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptothanxin which can be converted into vitamin A. These carotenoids support healthy immune function and vision. Yellow plants also contain bioflavonoids that work synergistically with vitamin C to support our skin and circulatory health. Green plants contain chlorophyll which is known for its detoxifying and healing properties as well as warding off cancer and carcinogens. Dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach and turnip greens are also high in calcium. Finally, the flavonoids anthocyanin and quercetin are found in red and purple plants such as apples, peppers, berries, red grapes and tart cherries. These powerful antioxidants help limit damage to cells from carcinogens and free radicals, and can help lower our risk for heart disease, cancer and more.
An easy way to start changing up our fruit and vegetable choices is to eat seasonally. Lucky for us, spring is here and that means it will be quite easy to stumble upon a vast variety of locally grown, nutrient dense, colorful plants! When grocery shopping, we can try swapping out white cauliflower for the orange or purple varieties. Or instead of the “conventional” varieties we can look for purple sweet potatoes, golden beets, watermelon radish or rainbow carrots! Many plants come in different varieties and the best way to get in more colors is by seeking them out. Local farmers markets are another way to discover new colorful and delicious plants, with great resources to tell you all about their flavor profiles, and some ways to enjoy them! However we obtain our plant foods, let’s explore new options and capitalize on the health benefits of eating an assortment of colorful plants!
Source: The Rainbow Diet by Dr. Deanna Minich, PHD.
Humans are made to move! Though we aren’t born able to stand and run within 5 minutes like other mammals, we are blessed with the ability to move through space in a tremendous amount of ways. From running and jumping to climbing, swimming and catapulting our bodies through the air, it’s really quite amazing how unlimited we are. Of course, the more we practice movement, the more accessible it is, and the more benefits we have to gain from it.
Being able to move our bodies regularly in a variety of ways was the separator between those that survived and those that didn’t, back in the day. Flash forward to the present, we can get through life just fine by sitting all day and with minimal trips to the kitchen and the bathroom. However, this certainly isn’t going to ward off the nursing home and contribute to our goal of being fit for life. Our bodies thrive off movement, adding in regular chunks of movement or exercise throughout the day and increasing our daily total will certainly tip the needle to benefit our short and long term health.
Movement provides a positive influence on our brain, hormones, inflammation levels, bones, joints, muscles, lymphatic and cardiovascular system, as well as our digestion, blood sugar, hydration, mineral balance and fatty acid needs. Not to mention, exercise is proven to boost our mood and self-confidence! Humans are designed to move for upwards of 16 hours per day. It’s important to intentionally break up that time we spend sedentary and get moving more often. Movement doesn’t just have to be the one hour we devote to the gym, in fact if we only move for one hour a day that’s less only 4% of the year, compared to the potential to move for 67% of the year.
Implementing more movement can be as simple as taking a moment to stretch before we start our day. We could add in mobility or flow-type movements during lunch breaks or a 10 minute walk outside to rejuvenate our body and mind. Parking further away from the entrance to work or the grocery store and using a basket instead of a shopping cart can easily add hundreds of steps per year, while also providing some core stability work and capping the amount of impulse-buy foods that land in our basket. Other choices that our body will thank us for are things like taking the stairs instead of an elevator or standing up every 30 minutes to do some air squats and desk push-ups.
Movement and exercise don’t have to be complex or time consuming. They just require a little extra thought. Just as we should practice being more mindful and present in our busy world, we should remember that our bodies were made to move. Moving is a chance to lower stress and tension, give us more energy and let us ride that endorphin wave that makes us feel like a million bucks, so let’s take more opportunities to use our bodies, and capitalize on the simple act of moving.
Mother’s Day Workout in support of Healthcare Without Walls’ Bridges to Moms Program
When: Sunday, May 12th @ 9am-945am
What: Calling all moms, kids, spouses, and friends for a fun team workout in support of Healthcare Without Walls’ Bridges to Moms Program.
*Suggestion donation of $5, $10, or $20 (Anything counts! There will be a donation box at the workout.)
Healthcare Without Walls’ is a local non-profit based out of Wellesley, MA that provides compassionate care for women and families in need. Specifically, their Bridges to Moms Program provides healthcare to homeless women. Come on out for a great cause and have some fun!
Find out more about Healthcare Without Walls HERE.
Find out more about their Bridges to Moms program HERE.
A stress response happens when our brain perceives a threat, sending a cascade of messages, via hormones and neurotransmitters, that result in our natural reaction to either fight, flight or freeze. The word stress normally carries a negative connotation, but from an evolutionary standpoint it’s the reason why we were able to survive and thrive from living in the wilderness to where we are today. There are many kinds of stress, from physiological and emotional to eustress, and distress, which we all experience on a regular basis.
Physiological stress can be anything from environmental toxins, to injuries, and poor sleep, which causes a need for more energy to repair and heal the body. Emotional stress usually presents itself as anger, anxiety, depression and loneliness, stemming from our mind and consequently affecting our bodies. Eustress is deemed “good stress” because it’s responsible for allowing us to step up in times of need. We use this kind of stress as we prepare to take bat in a sports competition, give a stellar presentation at work, or excel on an exam. Finally, distress is that extra “weight” we feel when we think about deadlines, the potential for failure, and the vast amount of responsibility we have in everyday life. While we will all encounter challenging times, there are ways in which we can help manage the toll that stress places our bodies.
When we allow stress to accumulate and snowball, we wind up increasing systemic inflammation, leading to an increased risk of disease. The more we repeat a certain task like driving to work, the more that task becomes ingrained in our minds. Eventually we can leave the house and end up at work, having completed the journey in “auto-polit” and recalling nothing more than the fact that we’ve reached our destination. The same patterns become ingrained in our stress response. If we continuously respond to stressors in a panicked state, our bodies will default to panic attacks every time we hit the train crossing and wind up late to work. The more panic attacks we have, the more energy and resources our body needs to recover, leaving us depleted of nutrients and liable to disease if we don’t replenish them. The good news is, just as we can create negative patterns and habits, we can also re-wire ourselves to change those responses for the better. Quite literally, we can lower our own stress, without quitting our jobs, leaving our families, or fleeing to a deserted island.
Our stress response can be altered when we are able to bring our minds back into the present moment, ensuring our bodies that we are safe, and letting go of things outside of our control. Practicing meditation, breathing techniques, tapping, moving and getting into nature are some physical tactics we can use to reframe our thoughts. We can also address our internal stress by increasing our digestion, regulating our blood sugar, getting in adequate amounts of water, and eating nutrient dense foods. While stress comes in forms that we can and cannot control, we can improve our stress response by taking care of our mind and body. If we notice one tactic doesn’t work, perhaps trying a new technique would suit us better. Improving this response will not only allow us to move through life with more confidence and ability, but it will also help ward off the nursing home and support us on our journey to being fit for life.
Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018). Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioral Sciences, 8(5): 49.
Selye, H. (1950). Stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome. BMJ, 1383-1392.
Gymnastics Clinic with Dan Melzar
When: Saturday, May 18th (9am and 11am Sessions)
Where: CrossFit TILT Waltham – 40 Jones Road, Waltham, MA
Who: Anyone looking to brush up on their gymnastics skills!
Click HERE to sign-up for a session!
Come learn from a former Division 1 collegiate gymnastics who competed at the 2017 CrossFit Games! We will go over how to properly warm up for these movements and associated mobility/flexibilty. We will cover how to get better, more efficient movement and also how to get stronger for WODs. All skill levels concerning these movements are welcome! Beginners all the way to someone looking to refine their movements are encouraged to sign up.
The focus of this clinic will be handstand positioning, pull ups. Are you looking to get your first pull up or progress to butterfly pull ups? Or more comfortable being upside down in a handstand?
Session 2 (11:00am-12:30pm)
The focus of this clinic will be handstand push ups and ring muscle ups. Looking to get more efficient at your current skills or get your first handstand push up or ring muscle up?!
Find out more about Dan Melzar..
– Division 1 gymnast at the College of William and Mary (2008-2012)
– 2017 CrossFit Games athlete as a member of Reebok CrossFit Back Bay’s team
– 38th in the CrossFit Open Northeast Region (2017)
– Gymnastics coach at the Power Monkey Camp (2013-current)
– Gymnastics Specialist on the Los Angeles Reign of the National Pro Grid League (2016- current)
– Current Gymnastics and CrossFit coach at Massachusetts Elite Gymnastics Academy (formerly New England Sports Academy) and CrossFit City Line.
We’re all guilty of using the term “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” at some point in our lives. It’s strange to think that from an evolutionary perspective, we were designed to be sleeping for approximately one third of our lives! Of course, if we didn’t have to sleep, we would have close to 3,000 more hours in a year to explore, learn, work, and much more. But if sleep was really unimportant, our need for sleep would have selectively decreased over time. So let’s dive into the reasons why we need sleep, and what happens when we don’t get enough.
Sleep is imperative for overall restoration of our brain and body. Throughout the day our brain is using energy in making connections, thinking and learning. These complex reactions create toxic by-products that must be eliminated or they are subject to cause memory issues, decreased neural communication and inflammation. Sleep is what allows our brain to detoxify and remove these harmful by-products.
During sleep the body prioritizes several functions. Research shows that different areas of the brain are stimulated, some that are responsible for memory formation and processing in particular, which is why studying before bed can be extra effective. Activity of immune cells are also higher at night, making sleep important for longevity. Our metabolism is slowed down at bedtime to help us conserve energy and produce more growth hormone, building us a better “house”. Finally, neural connections are made stronger at night, supporting the health of our cognitive function.
Good sleep is a game of both quantity and quality. While there are many levels of sleep, the most restorative level is called “deep sleep”. During this period our blood pressure drops along with our core body temperature. This cooling state shrinks the brain slightly and allows us to clear toxic metabolites and repair our brain with the help of growth hormone and cytokines released by white blood cells. If we fail to get into this deeply restorative state, we miss out on a vast opportunity to rejuvenate our mind and body.
Sleep helps to keep our body in homeostasis. Sleep deprivation can impact our diet, lifestyle, performance, cognitive function and ability to recover optimally. People who get less than 7 hours of sleep tend to have a higher caloric intake, diminished food variety and increased snacking. Optimal sleep not only keeps hunger in check, but also may result in weight loss due to a decrease in overall inflammation.
If we are staying up and night and sleeping at random hours of the day we can throw off our circadian rhythm which requires appropriate amounts of sleep-related hormones, neurotransmitters and chemicals for ideal function. Caffeine can also impact our internal clock, binding to receptors in the brain that would otherwise make us start to feel sleepy, and shutting them off. This is why it’s important to avoid caffeine consumption in the afternoon, especially if we are slow metabolizers of caffeine. Altering our natural cycles can become a vicious cycle as we notice an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep due to the dysregulation of our sleep regulating systems.
If we truly want to ward off the nursing home and become fit for life, we should realize the value in prioritizing sleep. It also may keep us out of the emergency room as more vehicle accidents are caused by sleep deprived drivers than any other type of impaired drivers. Sleep is a necessary component of overall wellness, and a key to being able to take on anything life throws at us. Let’s give ourselves the advantage of looking, feeling and performing better daily, by simply hitting the pillow sooner, and allowing our bodies to do the rest. (pun intended)
Ballantyne, S. (2017). Paleo Principles. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing.
Borbely, A. A., Daan, S., Wirz-Justice, A., & Deboer, T. (2016). The two-process model of sleep regulation: a reappraisal. Journal of Sleep Research, 131-143.
Colten, H., & Altevogt, B. e. (2006). Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. In H. Colten, & B. e. Altevogt, Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press (US).