Bemovelive.com Blog features the latest fitness and clean eating advice from John Holley, MS, CSCS. Blogs focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and getting the most out of your workouts.
It is inevitable. Your magic number might be 15 or 20 or 37. Others reach 42 or even 55 before it happens. Then, despite the fact you can rattle off eight different ways to cook chicken breasts and you feel naked without your Fitbit, you can’t lose another pound. Desperate to carve off the next 10 pounds, you eat less or you throw your hands up and eat more while cursing your mom’s genetics and your thighs. What can you do to break on through your weight loss wall?
One of the most important things you can do is to begin your day with breakfast.Everyday. No exceptions. Ever. After 8 or more hours (read: a good night’s sleep) without food your body is ready to go into so-called starvation mode, if you don’t eat. This means your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and you burn fewer calories. Of course, a pop tart in your car doesn’t really count. You need the quality calories found in such breakfast staples as eggs, oatmeal, whole grain cereals and low-fat milk. The fiber and protein will keep you feeling full longer and provide your body with a metabolic jump start.
To keep your body burning calories consistently, have a snack mid-morning. Once your body processes the morning’s meal, you’ll start to feel hungry. Usually this happens about 3 hours after eating. This is the perfect time for a calcium-rich snack such as yogurt (watch the sugar!), low fat cheese or soy milk, if you don’t eat dairy. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat more efficiently and the calcium found in food, not supplements, works best.
You can add another fat burner at lunch by topping your salad, chicken or baked potato with salsa. A delicious and low-fat alternative to dressings and condiments, the chilies in medium and hot salsa aid in a temporary metabolism spike. Another benefit is the calorie savings you achieve with this simple substitution.
Another great substitute, for the mid-afternoon blahs in this case, is a 15-minute exercise break. You were going to take a break anyway to walk to the vending machine for a sugary pick-me-up, but keep walking this time. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day keep your metabolism up and will give you a no-crash energy boost no amount of sugar can match. If you’re really motivated, try dips or knee ups at your desk, or shut the door and go through a quick series of yoga poses.
If you’re not going straight to the gym after work, you may be tempted to have a drink or three to relax. If you are serious about losing weight, you may want to stop at one drink. Everyone has heard about the heart benefits from moderate drinking, but the key word is moderate. A glass of merlot may be good for your heart, but another one is not good for your waistline. This is because the moment you put alcohol into your body, your liver converts it into fuel for the body, instead of using your fat stores or whatever you may be noshing on.
Finally, get some sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, you don’t give your body enough time to repair itself from your workouts, which means you do not receive the full benefit. Specifically, you need a full night’s sleep to allow the growth hormone and appetite regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin, to be released. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will experience more cravings and your body will more readily store the food you eat as fat. Your body interprets lack of sleep as stressful and stress slows your metabolism. Besides, you have another appointment at the gym tomorrow and you want to be well rested.
The following is an excerpt from my book 5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS (available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1CaG9om)
Stability is the ability to remain at homeostasis under forces which are trying to promote a change.
What does that have to do with your workouts?
The first phase of any effective training program will include stabilization work. Static holds and slow, controlled movements build awareness of how your body moves when it is aligned and stable. The goal is to ingrain in your movement the optimal engagement patterns so as to eliminate muscle imbalances, which may lead to injury. In other words, when you deadlift, run or bend over to pick up a piece of paper (sometimes a dangerous, unconscious act) you are safe.
Stability begins with a strong core - but don’t roll your eyes because you’ve heard that before…The core is much more than the 8-pack, which is nice, but only useful at the beach. The core consists of muscles surrounding the spine and abdomen, including the glutes, paraspinals and hip girdle. True core stability is essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis and kinetic chain.
Why is stability important?
You might think of the core as everything from just above your knees up to your shoulders. When working properly, these muscles fire before your limbs move in order to support proper posture, balance and stability. This means your spine is held in its natural, curved position (neutral), your scapulas are rotated back and down (think chest up, shoulders back) and your pelvis is neutral, which gives you a slight curve in your lower back.
This correct, stable position enables the optimal transmission of force through your body because the core is your center of gravity and the area where all movement begins. It also allows for better weight distribution, which reduces wear on your joints and bones even during dynamic movement. So, your body will move in a more efficient manner while producing more power whether you are going for a rebound in basketball or tossing a suitcase in the trunk of your car. In short, an exercise program which promotes stability may help prevent injury and it will make you stronger.
Try these plank variations for a more interesting and effective core workout.
When you awaken in the morning, you have not eaten for eight hours or more and your body is in need of energy. Skipping breakfast leaves you famished and your body responds by burning fewer calories in order to save energy. So if you are trying to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, you must eat breakfast. You’ll burn more calories and will be less likely to overeat later in the day.Then again, I know how hard it is for some of you to eat breakfast and that means you have a decision to make. What do you really want? Smaller pants, more energy and an omelete, or an elastic waistband, the third cup of coffee and ravenous urges at 9pm? At least give breakfast a chance. Here are a few healthy and easy-to-make options.Read More
In case you need a good stretch to help you wind down, loosen up or just get jiggy.
You know what stress can do to your health. Stress raises your blood pressure, lowers your immunity and decreases your performance in every day tasks. Over time, chronic stress makes everything less enjoyable. Now don’t get stressed out, but stress can also make you fat.
When you are under stress, your body produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline “burns” quick and works with the sugar in your blood so you can fight or flee. Cortisol fuels the fire longer and tells your body to pump more sugar into your blood, so you have the energy needed to pull the deer back to camp or run away from the mountain lion. (Remember, our bodies are the same as they were thousands of years ago, when we did hunt and run to survive.) In contemporary terms, cortisol helps you click and drag the sales report before you run out of the office to take the kids to soccer practice. Of course, without the burst of physical activity, you don’t use the extra blood sugar. Guess what happens next.
A recent Yale University study found the more stress study participants experienced, the higher the levels of cortisol were in their body. Higher levels of cortisol correlated with higher body fat levels. To make matters worse, the fat was primarily stored in their bellies.
So, you’re stressed about work, you are playing chauffer to the kids, trying to find quality time with your spouse, and on top of that is your belly fat! Then you turn to rocky road or cheese fries to try to feel better. This is the natural response, according to a University of California, San Francisco study, which found a connection in rats between stress levels and pleasure seeking. In other words, you don’t want to feel bad, so you hit the drive thru.
Not so fast…Before you say, “supersize me,” in an attempt to temper the day’s angst, consider what happens when you gulp down another meal in a box. Fast food (really, restaurant food in general) increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and heart disease and the list goes on…This is because these foods are loaded with fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates and mysterious additives you can’t pronounce with a doctorate in chemistry. Also, even a “normal” portion in a restaurant meal will be several servings, most of which goes straight to your belly.
In short, you’re exchanging short-term pleasure for long-term weight gain and the stress remains. The only real answer is to reduce the stress in your life. I’m not saying you need to quit your job, join an ashram and chant all day, but here are a few ideas you may incorporate in your life to improve your sense of peace and well-being:
1. A good night’s sleep will not only change your outlook, but will give you the energy to face your challenges in a positive manner. As it pertains to fat loss, hormones released during deep sleep keep your metabolism higher.
2. Deep breathing as part of a meditation or, maybe, during exercise provides your body with oxygen for your cells and has a calming effect. Simply sitting still for five minutes and focusing on your breath does the trick.
3. Daily exercise provides a variety of benefits which are detailed in this article by Mark Williams, Fat Burning Workouts for Women: The Best Way to Lose Belly Fat.
4. A spiritual practice of your choosing has been shown to significantly lower stress levels. The simple understanding there is something greater than yourself gives perspective to your challenges.
5. Talking to a friend, counselor or advisor gives you the chance to see things from another perspective. Even if they do not say a word, sharing your burden with another can lighten your load. Maybe you can return the favor sometime.
In the end, your response to any situation is a choice. You can choose to engage in old ways of being, but that is what brought you to this point, isn’t it? Why not try something different this time and reduce the stress in your life.
I remember how the last day of school felt. My body was buzzing with excitement and I could barely stay in my desk as the teacher droned on and on. My eyes darted between the clock over her head and the window, as I waited for the final bell of the school year to ring. Then…freedom! Two whole months of bike riding, building tree houses and exploring the woods seemed like an endless paradise. A few years later ;), I know how short summer is and how overscheduled even our kids’ summers are, so if you share my happy summer memories, read on.
Here are a few suggestions to go old school this summer:
1. Turn off the TV! I guarantee you that House of Cards and Game of Thrones will be there waiting for you after the summer. Take advantage of the long, warm days and spend more time outside working in your yard, running around with your kids or spending time with your friends. Maybe join a running or cycling group and work on your social and physical fitness. I bet you can’t recall one significant memory you’ve made on your couch.
2. Play! Unstructured play is an important component of a child’s development and I’d assert that adults need it just as much for stress relief, creativity and happiness. There are certain things you cannot quantify and I’d say some of the most successful businesses in the world agree. If you’re familiar with the corporate campuses of companies like Google and Nike, you know that “play rooms” are in the buildings. These companies know that productivity is enhanced by time away from work. So, get out there and ride your bike, play tag and chase fireflies until your mom makes you come inside.
3. Grow your own garden. It’s not as hard as you might think. In fact, most nurseries offer kits, which include seeds and soil ready to go – just add water. You don’t have to spend days digging in the dirt, but who knows, once you’ve eaten your first fresh-picked tomato or once you sprinkle fresh cilantro from your garden on your fish taco, you might want to do more.
4. Meet your neighbors. Isn’t it ironic that we are more “connected” than ever to the world, but don’t know our next-door neighbor’s name? Spend a little time outside and say hello to the good people around you. If they seemed locked in their air-conditioned boxes, knock on their door with a gift of vegetables from your garden and a hello. (I love the corny stuff J)
5. Leave your phone at home. Technology is a wonderful servant, but a horrible master. Until the robot overlords compel us to serve them, step out of your comfort zone and walk around the block, hike in the woods or have dinner on the patio without your phone by your side. Your social media accounts are not going anywhere and you may find some of the joy and peace you remember from summers past.
If you want to eat better, but think you don't have the time to select and prep the recipes, try my new book, CLEAN AND SIMPLE: Healthy Recipes for Your Busy Life. Inside you'll find delicious, easy-to-make recipes with a nutritional punch. Try the smoothies, soups, meat, fish and salad recipes and you'll discover how easy clean, nutritious eating can be! Here's a taste:
CLEAN RECIPES WITH FIVE OR FEWER INGREDIENTS
SALSA LIME CHICKEN
Combine 1 lb of chicken with a jar of your favorite salsa and cook on low in a slow cooker for 4 hours. Squeeze fresh, lime juice on the chicken when your serve it.
Per 4 oz serving: 190 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat
Marinate 4 chicken breasts in the juice of one cored pineapple for one hour. Cut 8 pineapple slices and place on the chicken as you grill or bake it until done. Serve with the remainder of the fresh pineapple.
Per 4 oz serving: 270 calories / 2 g fiber / 33 g protein / 4 g fat
Place 1 lb of chicken and 1 cup of BBQ sauce in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Serve with baked sweet potatoes for even more nutrition.
Per 4 oz serving: 250 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat
LEMON PEPPER CHICKEN
Marinate 1 lb of chicken in a ¼ cup of lemon juice for one hour. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and grill or bake until done. Serve the chicken over a bed of romaine lettuce.
Per 4 oz serving: 190 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat
GRILLED TILAPIA WITH LIME
Squeeze the juice of one lime over a 4-6 oz piece of tilapia. Grill or bake for 20 minutes and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Per 4 oz serving: 110 calories / 0 g fiber / 23 g protein / 2 g fat
Use these 4 exercises and 4 stretches to keep your shoulders feeling their best!
Summer vacation time is here, but being away from home is not a reason to miss your workouts. So, pack an exercise band or a couple of dumbbells with your bathing suit and sunscreen.
Mountain climbers (30 seconds)
Lunge with hands behind head
Squat with calf raises
Place one end of the band in a door jam to hold it in place and do the following in 3 sets of 12 repetitions:
Chest press or pushups
One-arm row or band pull aparts
Core rotations or wood choppers
BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES
Plank (30 sec)
Lunge (3 sets of 12 reps)
Upper pushup position hold (30 sec)
Hip bridge (lie on your back, heels by your hips and raise your hips, hold for 30 sec)
DUMBBELLS OR EXERCISE BANDS
I want to sing with all my might a lifelong song,
Even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong,
‘Cause I can’t take none of that through the door,
I’m living for more than just a funeral,
I want to burn brighter than the dawn
“Live It Well” by Switchfoot
I was driving home from taking my mom to a doctor’s office visit when the Switchfoot song quoted above started playing. Maybe it was the disappointing health news we received from her doctor, or the fact that my sister and I are in the process of moving her to an assisted living facility, but the spirit of the song really struck me. As you can tell from the verse above, it is about living your life to the fullest. As I listened to it over and over one fact impressed itself upon me:
There is no time to waste.
Whether you look at it from a mystical, quantam physics or anecdotal perspective, you have no time to waste. The days may feel long, but the years are short and tomorrow and the day after are coming faster than you think. What do you want them to look like? Are you content to float along hoping for the magic lottery ticket, the perfect partner or the ideal time to learn to how to cook, or are you ready to decide right now what tomorrow will look like?
Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Am I willing to decide, is a question you need to ask yourself. What is a decision you have been avoiding in the hope it will be made for you? Are you waiting to commit to daily exercise because work is too busy right now? Or will you start eating healthier when you spouse stops ordering pizza? Maybe you can’t decide because you’re afraid. If that’s the case, you’re on the right track. When you truly decide to move forward the stakes will be higher, you will feel a rush of energy (call it fear, call it excitement, call it whatever you want) and you will put action behind the decision.
It's clear we need to make conscious decisions. Start with one decision you have been putting off and write it out. Writing it out will make it tangible and will help you decide to do it, or not to do it. Just get the cursed indecision off your shoulders! This is not about adding an item to your to-do list, but it is about deciding what you desire in your life.
Got your decision? Next, feel the emotions, which emerge and take action anyway.
Don’t die with your music still in you.
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Your commitment to lifelong health and wellness means you have a compelling why behind your plan to be eat better and exercise more often. However, practicing gratitude may be the best thing you can do in order to stick to your exercise plan, eat healthier, sleep better, improve your immune system and live longer.
Scientists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky and Robert Emmons have found a direct relationship between the active expression of gratitude and health. Techniques like journaling, letter writing, keeping a gratitude jar and telling other people why you are thankful for them offer a variety of health benefits, not the least of which is that it feels good.
Here are the top, research-based reasons for practicing gratitude:
1. Gratitude brings happiness and greater satisfaction with life.
2. Gratitude reduces anxiety and depression.
3. Gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure and reduces symptoms of illness.
4. Gratitude improves the quality of sleep.
5. Gratitude makes you more resilient to the challenges of life.
The best part is you can increase your wellness right now by answering this simple question: what are you grateful for?
How are all those resolutions going? If your plans to become a gluten-free vegan, workout 6 days a week and quit soda aren't working out so well, maybe it's time to take a new approach to change...such as making one change.
Making one change at a time may be new to you. If you’re like most of us, you have tried and failed to cement new habits in the past because you were too ambitious, you felt overwhelmed with everything you thought you needed to do, and you lacked consistency.
Creating lifelong wellness is your objective, so you need to find a way to incorporate simple and healthy actions into your day. For instance, making the choice to add 10 minutes of movement into your day, and then doing that consistently for a week or longer, will show you that you can.
It’s simple, people who make the goal to exercise twice a week are much more likely to achieve their goal than those who seek the “perfect” record of working out every day. This is not to suggest you can’t exercise every day, but if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, maybe you should be honest with yourself.
Life is complex and staying consistent with a new behavior will be a challenge. Start smart with one new activity, make it part of your life and build your lifetime of wellness.
If you know why you will accomplish your big, health goals, then it's time to train for the marathon, become a vegan and learn Spanish for your volunteer trip to Guatemala. The only problem is you haven’t run since high school, you don’t know an artichoke from an aardvark and you can’t even find Univision on your cable package. You have a lot to do and want to do it right now!
The truth is, change takes time and only happens one step at a time.
Research confirms our brains can only handle one task at a time. Multitask all you want, in reality you are only focused on one of the myriad of things in front of you.
The same is true for changes in your health habits. Your mental energy is finite and every decision you make depletes it. This is especially true if you are exerting “willpower” toward a new endeavor or one in which you’ve failed in the past. The key to successful change is giving yourself permission to master one change at a time, even if it takes weeks, months or a lifetime.
Once you have a compelling reason (your why) to lose weight or eat better or exercise more consistently, you have the fuel you need to succeed. The next step is to make a plan to reach your goals, but I can hear you saying, “been there, done that and I have a closet full of those dirty t-shirts. What else ya got?” Have you ever tried to begin from the place you want to be rather than from where you are?
The brilliance of beginning with your ultimate vision in mind is that your success (or setbacks) along the way won’t feel like a reason to quit. When your goal is a lifetime of physical movement so you can hike Machu Picchu, outrun your grandkids or live without meds, losing 10 pounds is simply a happy part of the process.
So, envision a healthy future and work your way backwards to the present with short-term goals. Taking the long-view means every step you take, every class and every healthy meal is a positive step forward.
You’re not quite as young as you used to be. A sleepless night used to be nothing after a double expresso, but now you need to skip Fallon the next night. Pepperoni pizza still looks good on the menu, but you better have the grilled chicken. And the shoulder pain, tight IT band and knee pain which won’t go away? Well, with a little planning you can address these issues and feel (almost) as good as you did at 18…here’s how:
GET WARM. This isn’t middle school PE. So, donning a pair of coach’s shorts, a couple of toe touches and a few windmills aren’t enough to get ready for a workout. The problem is static stretching doesn’t increase blood flow to the muscles you are preparing to work. Additionally, the old way of stretching has been shown to decrease strength when it is done prior to exercise. You’ll get better results if you get warm with dynamic moves involving a full range-of-motion in your major muscle groups.
Pick four or five of these exercises and do each of them for 30 to 60 seconds. Begin with easy leg swings both front to back and side to side. Then move into a wide-stance squat and touch by positioning your feet wider than hips-distance apart and sinking your hips until you can touch the ground with your hands. Next, raise your heart rate with side shuffles, jumping jacks, running in place or body-weight lunges. Finish with arm circles, mountain climbers, sun salutations or inch worms to target the upper body and core.
FIND YOUR BALANCE. Muscle imbalances, joint dysfunction, neuromuscular deficits and bad postural habits develop over time and are often felt where you are weakest. For instance, sitting at a desk all day can lead to a forward stooped posture. This allows the muscles in the front of the shoulders and across the chest to shorten and tighten, while the muscles of the back are lengthened and weakened. This muscular imbalance predisposes you to pain in the rotator cuff muscles. These four small muscles stabilize the top of the arm (the humeral head) in the shoulder socket during movement and dysfunction here can lead to chronic pain if it is not corrected.
In this example, your best defense against developing shoulder pain may be to balance the muscles of the anterior and posterior sides of the body. Try stretching the chest and shoulders, strengthening the back and rotator cuff musculature and working to maintain a good posture throughout the work day. My disclaimer is (as always): I am not a doctor and you should address pain issues with a board-certified physician.
Of course, most doctors would agree an important component of good posture and injury prevention is…(you guessed it) a strong, balanced core. Planks, side planks andbridges are a good place to begin because they engage the muscles around the entire core. Add single-leg balance reaches and supine marches to improve your balance and proprioception (your muscles communicating and working together).
BE STRONG. Getting older isn’t for the weak, but you can make it a little easier by getting strong. Strength training can improve balance, your kinesthetic awareness (bodily sense of space and movement) and will improve your muscle mass and bone density. This makes your everyday activities easier and a week at the beach less frightening. Compliment your cardiovascular exercise with a three-day-a-week strength training regimen focusing on the major muscle groups. Vary your routines and lift heavy on the first day with few repetitions, light on the second day and go for 10-12 reps of your sets on the third strength training day. Remember to wait a minimum of 48 hours before training a specific muscle group (even abs!) in order for proper recovery to occur.
ROLL WITH IT. Finding peace and rolling with the changes in your life is crucial for good health, but I’m referring to stretching and foam rolling after your workout. Time spent stretching after your workout will pay off with reduced soreness, faster recovery and greater mobility. Stretching is most effective post-workout because your muscles are warm and more pliable. Target your major muscle groups and spend a little longer than 30 seconds on your tightest areas.
Add a few minutes on a foam roller for even more benefit as you release the adhesions, which can cover the myofascial tissue around your muscle. Injury, overexertion, even extended inactivity can cause “tender spots” to appear. Regular foam rolling provides many of the benefits of a good massage. Light a candle if you need the massage room atmosphere.
REST. That’s right. Run a little slower. Do some easy yoga. Take a stroll. Respect your body by listening to the warning signs, which tell you it is time to slow down. Time spent in recovery is as important to your health as consistent exercise and a proper diet. Workouts breakdown your body and many injuries occur because of overuse and repetitive motion. Aching joints, persistent pain, unusual muscular soreness and an elevated heart rate upon rising from bed all indicate you need rest. While I encourage an active life and exercise most days of the week, alternating intense or long workouts with easy recovery days is more beneficial. The payoff is you’ll perform even better in your next workout.
I closed on a new house about a month ago and have been moving in ever since. A week of painting and hanging blinds has been followed by three weeks of unpacking, organizing and trying to remember where I left my tape measure. Today I hoped to spend my first, full day enjoying the new digs - after I hung a screen door. Easy enough, I thought, you put the top of the door in the track and align the wheels on the bottom and you’re done. Yeah…
As with too many DIY projects, the 5 minutes I expected to spend on the job became 45 minutes of searching for instructions in English and making height adjustments before I realized the door was too narrow. Tomorrow, I’ll return it for the one the giant lumberyard employee told me was too wide. Frustrating? Sure, for a moment I burned when I thought about how I had “wasted” my time, but will it matter in a week or a month?
The annoyance I experienced with the screen door project will be forgotten, but will I remember how pointless my reaction was? Probably not, but it did make me think of how we place unreasonable expectations on ourselves and lose the enjoyment of the present moment. Here are 4 stress-inducing demands I hope to remember to forget:
1. It should be perfect. This is a personal favorite. I expected the screen door to be the perfect size and to install in a flash. The reality is, the job still isn’t done and I wasted time and emotional energy being upset that my project did not go as expected. I could have had a peaceful morning. How do you do the same thing?
2. I need to know exactly what I’m doing. This is another bugaboo. Have you put off trying something new because you’re not sure what to do? Is there a person you’d like to approach about partnering in business with, but you don’t know how to do it? Would you like to write a screenplay or landscape your yard or get in shape, but you don’t begin because you don’t know how? You’re not alone, but the only what to find out how is to begin. Now.
3. I need to get it all done now. Slow and steady wins the race is a cliché, which seems outdated, but don’t be deceived. I just watched a documentary about the rock band, Rush, and their mainstream success story took over 10 years. Even something as simple as my cookbook, Clean and Simple, took almost 2 years to get to market. It will get done if you keep moving forward.
4. I will be happy when... As we age, there are fewer tomorrows upon which to place our hope and dreams. Time begins to feel more constrained and each day more important. What are you waiting for? Are you watching the clock every day until 5pm? Is this next lottery ticket going to be the one, which will free you to open your yoga studio? Will you finally talk to her tomorrow? I call B.S. on tomorrow and tell you the secret to happiness is living this moment to the fullest instead of hoping some distant time will be better.
Screen door update: Once I bought the right size, it did take 5 minutes to install J.
When was the last time you felt truly rested? Was it after a week of vacation last summer? Or, maybe when a snow day gave you the chance to sleep until you awoke without the alarm. Perhaps it was last Saturday when your spouse took the kids to a movie and you stole a long, afternoon nap…Wait, that’s not you. You checked email and caught up on laundry instead.
If you’re like too many of us, you may not be able to remember the last time you weren’t tired.
Of course, the fatigue you probably feel right now (hopefully not because of this article) is a result of ignoring your need for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Four hours most nights and a drowsy weekend on the couch don’t cut it. Sleep is one of the most basic needs for all animals and those of us with opposable thumbs are no exception. A lack of sleep, just like a lack of water and food, will kill you (or make you want to die).
The sleep cycle consists of five stages, which culminate in REM (rapid eye movement). Once you reach REM sleep you drift up and down the stages of sleep throughout the night. During REM you dream about flying, Halle Berry or playing on stage with Bruce Springsteen. Fun, yes, but it is during the third and fourth stages that human growth hormone (keeps you young), melatonin (may protect against cancer) and other hormones essential to bodily repair and function are released. However, if your sleep is frequently interrupted or too brief, you may not experience these stages enough to reap the benefits.
Obviously, the main benefit of getting enough sleep is fewer visits to your favorite caffeine pusher, er…barista. You will also reduce your risk factors for heart disease, stroke and overeating. While in sleep stages three and four, leptin and gherlin, which regulate appetite are balanced. Consequently, there’s less chance of you mistaking your need for 40 winks with a desire for chocolate.
When you eat better you are healthier, and this works in concert with a reduction in your stress levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, which drastically reduces your risk for disease of all sorts, even cancer. A good night’s sleep will also raise your serotonin levels, reducing your chances of becoming depressed.
In short, a good night's sleep is as important to your health and fitness as clean eating and regular workouts. Now, get some sleep.