How Sleep Effects Your Body and Performance

Sleep is really the unsung hero of health. If your health is a priority to you, then you’d better be prioritising sleep too.

You see, sleep directly impacts every element of your health.

For many people, it’s the difference between holding onto that spare tire, and losing it for good. For others it’s the difference between being able to make it through their workouts or not. For still others it’s the difference between coping with everyday life and having a meltdown.

When you sleep, your body has a chance to rest, repair and replenish itself.

As you might know, your body is made up of billions of cells, all of which are regularly replaced. They do this themselves, but we humans are good at making them hurry up the process.

Environmental toxins, bad food, cigarettes, alcohol, inactivity and hyperactivity all cause our cells to degrade faster, meaning they need to be replaced more often.

When you’re awake, your body is busy doing everything you need it to – eating, walking, talking, working – so it’s ability to repair itself is significantly slowed down. It’s not until you’re asleep that your body can really get to the hard work of replacing cells, repairing damaged ones, building new tissue and so on.

For most people, 8 hours a sleep is ideal.

Some people need a bit more, some people need a bit less. But regardless, you need to make sure you are getting about that much every night.

No matter what your health goal is, it will happen in your sleep.

You don’t lose weight while you’re running. You don’t build muscle while you’re lifting. Those things happen when you fall asleep and your body has time to catch up and implement all the changes you made during the day.

How To Eat Well

Many people come to me asking for the best ways to exercise in order to lose weight. They think that going into a gym or going for a few runs every week is what’s going to do it.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

You see, exercising does two things. It makes your body fitter, stronger, and more capable. And while it does play a role in shaping your body, it’s more in the sense that your body adapts its shape in order to best meet the demands of your style of training.

Exercising is not the best way to lose fat. Eating right is.

Now, for many folks, this is tedious and unwanted news. It seems easier to just run around for a few hours a week than to have to make a healthy choice every single time you sit down to eat.

But if you’re serious about getting rid of the jiggle, it’s your food that you need to focus on.

So let’s go over what you should be looking at on a daily basis.

1. Protein.

Protein is what your entire body is made of. Your cells are constantly replacing themselves, so you need to be eating enough protein that this renewal process doesn’t ever break down. If you are looking to build some muscle, you need to eat more than the amount needed for normal daily function.

Here are some good protein sources: all kinds of meat, fish and poultry. Dairy has a lot, as do nuts, legumes and peas. For women, aim to eat one serve of protein the size of your fist per meal. For men, two fist-sizes per meal. If you’re looking to add muscle too, add another fist whether you’re male or female.

2. Carbohydrates.

Heavily debated on the Internet, whether you like it or not, your body needs some carbs. They are your body’s preferred fuel source and they give you energy and focus. Healthy carb sources include bread, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, potato and pumpkin, and fruit.

Carbs can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess. Include one fist-sized serving at each meal as a safe rule of thumb.

3. Fats.

The myth that fat makes you fat is slowly starting to vanish from people’s thinking, and thank goodness for that. Fat is vital for healthy organ function, it provides you with energy and has a host of protective benefits.

You can get good fats from nuts and seeds, oily fish, grass-fed meat and dairy products, avocados, coconuts and virgin oils. You should include a serve of these fatty foods as every meal – the size of your palm is about enough if you’re a lady, twice that if you’re a man.

So what does that mean you should be eating on a daily basis? You’ll just have to wait for the next post to find out!

The Importance of Mobility and Massage

In recent years, mobility work has come into the spotlight in a big way.

With the boom in popularity of CrossFit and the INSANITY programs more and more people are doing extremely demanding workouts five to six times a week.

This means that their muscles become tight and strained, they lose range of motion, and they are more prone to injury.

Unfortunately, this is largely the fault of the programming – proper warm-ups, cool-downs and mobility work would largely prevent these issues from occurring in the first place.

Kelly Starrett owns one of the more famous CrossFit boxes in the USA, and he has made quite a name for himself with his book, ‘Becoming A Supple Leopard.’

The book is full of useful info on how to make yourself physically indestructible, and it’s encouraging to see that a large tenet of his work is that mobility is just as important – if not more so – than the workout itself.

He suggests that even 10 to 15 minutes of mobility work prior to a session can improve your results while also lending you serious protective benefits.

Now, of course, we can’t go back in time and add in this important work to all the times in the past when we’ve exercised. What we can do instead is to go for regular trigger point and deep tissue massage.

Massage can produce similar results to long-term mobility work, in that it loosens tight and strained muscles, releases knots and snags, and improves range of motion.

But I can practically hear you thinking, ‘I don’t have time to go for massages all the time!’, so luckily for you, you don’t need a lot of time.

Many massage therapists do in-home visits, and you can book them for as little as half an hour.

If you buy your own massage table (you can get them pretty cheap from Massage World), a therapist might even give you a discount since they won’t have to lug their table out to you.

You only get one body.

I know it’s tempting to just train hard, eat well and forget the rest, but you really do need to take care of it.

The decisions you make now are the ones you will live with in your old age, so taking care of your muscles, bones and joints now is really important.

Don’t sacrifice your future years just to skip a bit of stretching and dynamic movement now.


What Should I Eat Every Day?

Recently I posted about the three things you must make sure you’re including in your meals every day if you want to lose weight:

  1. Protein
  2. Carbs
  3. Fat

As you recall, each of these macronutrients play a vital role in making sure your body functions properly.

But it’s also important to eat them in the right amounts, and to make sure you’re also supplementing those three nutrients with a whole range of other nutritional goodies.

For example, you need to eat your vegetables. As many servings as you can bring yourself to each day. Aim to eat five to seven servings over the course of the day, varying the type of veggies if you can.

This way, you get a whole range of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – that also keep your body ticking along. Veggies are also high in fiber, which keeps your digestive health in line and can help with weight loss.

Fruit is also full of micronutrient goodness, but you do need to keep an eye on how much you’re eating. It’s very easy to overdose on grapes or cherries because they’re tiny and delicious – but they’re also high in energy from the natural sugars.

So what I’m getting at here is that it’s a question of both quality and quantity.

For most women who are reasonably active, you should be aiming for a daily intake of 1500 to 1800 calories. You should be getting these calories from a variety of healthy, natural foods.

So for example, maybe your daily meal plan looks like this:

  • Breakfast: 2 fried eggs with a couple strips of bacon, some avocado and asparagus.
  • Lunch: Beef and veggie stir-fry with a side of rice
  • Snack: small bowl of Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts and berries
  • Dinner: 1 salmon fillet with steamed greens, cauliflower mash and sweet potato.

For men who are reasonably active, 1800 to 2200 calories is usually enough. Again, make sure you’re getting your calories from a wide selection of natural foods.

Your meal would be just like the female one, but a bit bigger:

  • Breakfast: 3 fried eggs with a couple strips of bacon, some avocado and asparagus.
  • Lunch: Beef and veggie stir-fry with a side of rice and some fruit
  • Snack: Medium bowl of Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts and berries
  • Dinner: 1.5-2 salmon fillets with steamed greens, cauliflower mash and sweet potato.

That’s it. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. You just need to make sure you’re eating sensible portion sizes made up of foods that nourish you and don’t load you up with nasty sugars and trans fats.

Introduction to Fitness: The Fitness Basics

For most people, the decision to get in shape doesn’t happen overnight. It might seem like it does – one day something tiny tips you over the edge into action – but it’s usually an accumulation of small realisations over a long period of time.

Maybe you’ve been steadily gaining weight for a few years, ignoring the fact that your clothes don’t fit anymore, that you can’t climb the stairs easily. Then one day you can’t reach your shoelaces and something snaps in you.

Before you know it, you’re determined to get in shape.

And that’s fantastic. But before you decide that you’re going to run 5 miles every day, you need to start with the basics. Let’s go over them here, so that when you get started you don’t burn out or hurt yourself.

Most importantly? Start small.

It sounds boring and counterproductive, but when you are just getting into fitness, going large is generally going to crush you. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, the best thing to do is to start going for walk every day. You can walk briskly, for half an hour or an hour at a time, but the priority here is just to get your body used to moving again.

Once you’ve done this for about a month, it’s time to branch out.

Maybe you join a gym, a sports club, or get a personal trainer. Perhaps you’d prefer to swim, or cycle, or dance. There’s no one route to fitness that is better than any other, so pick the one you’re comfortable with and enjoy doing.

Now that you’ve decided on how you want to work out, get to it. Again, start with a level that doesn’t wreck you – small wins will add up over time to keep you motivated.At this point, building the habit is more important than being exhausted at the end of every workout.

Maybe you do three or four sessions a week, of 30 minutes or so. Work hard enough that you are challenged, but not so hard that you feel overwhelmed.

Once you’ve been doing this for a couple of months, you can increase the intensity if you feel the need. Make the workouts longer, or harder, or more frequent. By this time, your body will be used to the exertion and won’t give out on you as easily.

You’ll be more motivated by the challenge, and you’ll be less likely to give up if you’re sore for a couple of days afterwards.