What should I eat? How much can I eat? And when can I eat it?
These are 3 questions that always seem to pop up in a world where we all want a physical and mental edge in performance and having the perfect diet is a key component of that. Let’s explore some of the popular diets in the fitness world right now.
1. The Ketogenic Diet aka “Keto”
Your body relies on glucose for fuel. If there’s no glucose easily available your body needs to find a new way to fuel itself. This happens through the breakdown of fats and proteins. Originally discovered back in the 1920’s as a treatment for epilepsy, the ketogenic diet has become widely popular as it can help practitioners lose weight quickly and provides mental clarity.
There are a lot of great high fat foods that can still be consumed (did somebody say bacon?!)
Limiting carb and protein intake requires some specific portioning of food. Measuring ketone levels through blood, breath, or urine is not the highlight of anyone’s day.
2. “Whole 30”
This diet is completed as a 30 day challenge that allows only whole foods (meats, vegetables, some fruits, and some healthy fats). This diet focuses on the “What” you should eat but is less concerned with “How much” and “When” making it a popular option for novice dieters.
By eliminating processed foods from your diet you give your digestive tract a much needed break. Most folks report higher energy levels. No measuring of portions saves time.
You have to accept that you’re going to be a boring dinner date for the month.
3. “Macro Diet”
Ignore the “What” you eat in all but the broadest sense. That is, you only account for the macronutrient makeup of food in terms of fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Focus in on the ratio or total number of calories taken in to hit a total daily macronutrient intake based on your training goals and calories required.
Eating donuts after a workout without feeling guilty can be a huge relief
Poor dietary choices could lead to micronutrient deficiencies. Frequent consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates could lead to insulin resistance.
4. “Intermittent Fasting”
This diet focuses specifically on the “When” component of eating. Generally practiced by consuming all meals in a maximum 8 hour time window. This might look like skipping breakfast and consuming all calories between 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm followed by 16 hours of fasting. Many individuals pair this methodology with foods that would be considered “keto” or “whole 30” approved.
A smaller window of time to eat during means fewer calories consumed by most people. The long fasting period can lead to increased fat burning.
Some people have a difficult time adhering to the strict time windows that provide the alleged benefits.
5. Vertical Diet
This diet focuses on the “What” you can eat with foods broken down into daily micronutrient required foods and daily macronutrient foods where steak and white rice help you hit your required caloric intake. Caloric consumption is increased based on training volume and goals. Additionally this diet eliminates some unique foods like legumes, onion, and garlic that are considered high FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharide and polyol) foods.
This diet can be a great starting point for someone who has difficulty meeting macronutrient requirements or is new to dieting.
The extreme lack of variability in food choices make this diet a bit boring to follow. It’s very possible that micronutrient deficiencies could occur by following the same simple foods long term.
The Hero WODs were created to commemorate fallen heroes who served in the line of duty. Soldiers, law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders were some of the original inspiration for CrossFit workouts. CrossFit workouts grew out of the extreme physical demands of these heroes jobs. They also require grit, guts, and heart and we honor the memory of these brave men and women every time we participate. If you haven’t yet, here are 5 hero workouts that you absolutely must try!
- 100 Thrusters (135/95 lb)
- 5 Burpees at the top of every minute (Start with 5 burpees. Then complete as many thrusters as possible until the minute is up. Repeat until 100 total thrusters are completed. If athlete does not finish score is number of rounds and reps completed.
This WOD is a huge mental grind. Go out too fast and you’ll pay for it but trying to pace out the rounds means more reps cleaning the bar. Try to find the sweet spot of 5 reps of thrusters per round and keep a steady pace as you work.
Kalsu was an NFL player with an extremely promising career ahead of him. After starting the entire 1968 season with the Buffalo Bills as a guard, he was named Team Rookie of the Year. Despite the promise of a legendary career, Kalsu put that aside to enlist in the Army in 1969 and was soon shipped out to Vietnam, where he lost his life less than a year later. Kalsu left behind a wife and two young children.
7 Rounds For Time:
- 7 Deadlifts (315/205 lb)
- 200 meter Sprint
- 15 Pull-Ups
- 45 seconds Rest
This workout is designed to be fast and heavy and truly embodies the spirit of Pat Tillman. Try to go unbroken on the deadlifts and remember to relax your grip during the run. Break up the pullups as needed to ensure that you don’t hit a failure point too early in the workout, 45 seconds of rest won’t be enough time to fully recover between these brutal rounds.
Patrick Daniel Tillman (11/6/76–4/22/04) was a professional football player who left the National Football League and enlisted in the United States Army in May 2002. He joined the Army Rangers and served multiple tours in combat before he was killed in the mountains of Afghanistan. He was a recipient of the Silver Star, the third highest honor in the military, and a Purple Heart. Pat is survived by his wife Marie. He is also remembered through the foundation named in his honor.
- 50 Pull-Ups
- 400 meter Run
- 21 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
- 800 meter Run
- 21 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
- 400 meter Run
- 50 Pull-Ups
Daniel has one of those dangerous rep schemes that keeps you right at the threshold of being able to continue working without realizing the cumulative effect of the workload. Ease into the first 50 pull ups, push yourself on the run, and go for broke on the sets of thrusters!
Dedicated to Army Sgt 1st Class Daniel Crabtree who was killed in Al Kut, Iraq on Thursday, June 8th, 2006. Crabtree is survived by his wife, Kathy, and his daughter, Mallory.. He is also survived by his father, Ronald Crabtree and his mother, Judy Ann Crabtree.
5 rounds for time:
- 7 Muscle-ups
- 21 Burpees (Each burpee terminates with a jump one foot above max standing reach.)
Ryan is a classic CrossFit couplet that will rely heavily on your proficiency with the muscle-up. Take advantage of a kip to lock out at the top of the rings, the cumulative effect of 35 muscle-ups and 105 burpees do a number to your triceps.
Maplewood, Missouri Firefighter, Ryan Hummert, 22, was killed by sniper fire July 21st 2008 when he stepped off his fire truck responding to a call. He is survived by his parents Andrew and Jackie Hummert.
5 rounds for time:
- 3 rope climbs (15ft)
- 10 toes to bars
- 21 overhead walking lunges (45/35 lb plate)
- 400 meter run
This workout is a true total body burner that will heavily tax your grip strength and shoulders. Focus on using your legs to drive you up the rope, break up the toes to bar early, and moving with purpose through the lunges. Take advantage of the 400m run as “active recovery” and make sure to shake out your arms while you go.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ashley White, 24, of Alliance, OH, assigned to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina National Guard, based in Goldsboro, NC. She died on October 22, 2011, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device.She is survived by her husband Captain Jason Stumpf, her parents Robert and Deborah, brother Josh, and sister Brittney.
Do you ever have days when you feel like all you could do is sleep no matter how much coffee you drink?
Or maybe you’ve been on a new strength program for the past 8 weeks and feel weaker than when you started?
Maybe you find yourself walking around the gym in a daze not wanting to get started?
If you said “Yes” to any of these you may have experienced a deficiency or imbalance of your neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter are chemical messengers that get released in our body. They allow our cells to communicate and work together. There are 4 primary neurotransmitters: Dopamine, Acetylcholine, Serotonin, and GABA. They are both excitatory (speed our cells up) and inhibitory (slow are cells down).
All the neurotransmitters are constantly in fluxuation and balance with one another. This can have a huge effect on our mood, energy, and ability to focus. Some activities like lifting a heavy weight or taking a challenging test use up the neurotransmitters we have on hand.
Strength coach Charles Poliquin is a huge proponent of specific program design built around the athlete. Knowing which of the neurotransmitter types you are dominant in can help you adjust loading parameters, frequency and intensity of training, and plan rest days. Even having a basic understanding of which neurotransmitter type you are dominant in will give you a framework for decision making around your training goals.
Now lets learn a little about each neurotransmitter type.
Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter making it a huge factor behind your motivation towards training and activity levels. Individuals who are dopamine dominant tend to be the ones who are always fired up to exercise. They handle high volume and intensity well but tend to adapt quickly to a stimulus which can cause them to overtrain quickly if their workouts are not constantly varied.
Dopamine synthesis can be promoted by eating foods such as almonds, peanuts, soybeans, avocados, bananas, watermelon, yogurt, beef, tuna, chicken, chocolate, eggs, coffee, and green tea.
Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter responsible for intercellular communication between the muscles in the nervous system. Acetylcholine levels can make a huge difference in our ability to recruit the maximal number of muscle fibers. On days where you might not “feel strong” could be because your cells are having a hard time communicating to coordinate on a lift.
Meats, dairy, poultry and fish contain high levels of choline, with the highest levels coming from liver. One 3-ounce serving of meat contains approximately 70 milligrams of choline. Chocolate, peanut butter, brussels sprouts and broccoli also contain significant levels of choline.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and is responsible for shutting the body down for rest and recovery. You may be experiencing low GABA levels if you find your mind racing or have trouble sleeping at night.
GABA levels can be promoted through probiotic rich foods like yogurt that improve gut health. Foods that increase GABA levels include berries, bananas, and Pu-erh tea.
Serotonin is another inhibitory neurotransmitter and really a jack of all trades. It helps regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to fatigue and depression.
Foods like chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, nut butter, eggs, and green peas all contain high levels of Tryptophan a precursor to serotonin production. One other way to boost serotonin production? You guessed it…exercise!
Strength training and weight loss are a match made in heaven. The benefits of applying a resistance training routine are complimentary to all the physical changes that help a person lose weight. You might want to feel more energy and confidence, be harder to kill, or simply look good naked. Regardless of your goals every person on planet earth can benefit from a strength training routine. That’s right, if you are a human you need this. So if you are ready for your hard work to translate into results it’s time to start pumping some iron!
Let’s explore why strength training works, how it needs to be approached, and how you can get started today.
Why it works
Strength training is so effective at helping individuals lose weight because it has a tremendous increase on your body’s metabolism. You can think of this as building a bigger engine. Just to keep a large truck running requires a lot more fuel than to drive a moped at top speed. Remember when Harry and Lloyd got 70 mpg on their way up to Aspen!
The reason you need to build a bigger engine boils down to some simple math surrounding your Resting Metabolic rate or “RMR”. RMR generally accounts for about 60% of daily energy expenditure. This means that you have way more opportunity to change your body by focusing on long term metabolic adaptations rather than burning yourself with activity in a short time frame. Many individuals try to put in endless hours of cardio to “burn fat”. The problem is that their routine lacks any sort of intensity that builds muscle. This leads to the dreaded “skinny fat” body. These individuals utilize long slow distance efforts and their results can disappear rapidly if they reduce their training volume.
Individuals who practice a regular strength training routine also develop confidence and discipline that they then apply to other areas of their life. An individual who is training hard will be more likely to make better dietary decisions or avoid alcohol. It will help you sort out your priorities and make decisions that align with your goals.
How to do it
When it comes to strength training there are a few major guidelines to be observed. The most important aspect to consider in a strength training routine is that compound functional movements are the foundation for growth, progress, and adaptation. Movements that recruit multiple muscle groups and replicate real world movements like squats, deadlifts, and overhead pressing provide the most “bang for your buck.”
Walk into most health clubs and you will see the general population performing isolation exercises that are simply less effective and have low transfer to their everyday life. By “majoring in the minors” they are missing out on a huge opportunity. The question is…why?
Learning the proper form associated with compound movements can be intimidating if you’re new to training. The benefit of hiring an experienced trainer or coach is essential. In fact it’s arguably one of the best investments in your health and in your life that you could ever make. A great coach will teach you proper form, common faults, and give you the proper progressions to make you better and better over time. They will also help you select a training program that has the right volume of work and intensity levels to safely achieve your goals.
Once you have learned the foundational movements needed to improve your fitness there is no shortage of exercises and routines you can apply to meet your goals.
1. I won’t “fit” in.
When you show up to a CrossFit gym, you’ll find a different scene than the one you saw on television. Guess what else? You might be farther along in your fitness journey than other people attending the class…
It’s surprising, but one of the biggest factors keeping people from the gym is not being as fit as they want to be. What a catch-22! So, before you rule yourself out from being able to complete the Workout of the Day (or “WOD” in CrossFit lingo) let’s try to view the situation with fresh eyes.
As CrossFit has grown in popularity you’ve seen the well-muscled men and women of the CrossFit Games. As you watch them run, jump, and hoist tremendous weights overhead you think to yourself “I could never do that.”
So, what do you need to do? Try to reach out to a local CrossFit gym and see what it’s like. Like in the popular romantic comedy, Hitch, when the date doctor played by Will Smith teaches his client to move in for a kiss. The man moves in 90% of the distance and lets the woman come in for the final 10%. That’s where CrossFit is going to meet you. By opening the door, you will have access to a supportive and accepting community.
Your coach will help you “scale” to give a similar workout as those athletes on TV. The difference will be with lighter weights, shorter duration, or fewer repetitions. Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, but they are always there for each other.
2. CrossFit will make me too big/bulky.
Getting too muscular is a common fear that many women have when they deliberate strength training programs. Developing bigger muscles is a process called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy will occur with a consistent resistance training routine. Training volume, caloric consumption, and hormones all play an important role in the growth of new muscle. Any person you see that appears to muscular may spend as much time training as you do at your full-time job. With that said, it’s one piece of the puzzle and most likely won’t happen on accident.
Most athletes find that lose inches in all the right places even with increased muscle. Clothes fit better, they have a healthy appetite, and even look better naked!
3. Don’t a lot of people who do CrossFit get injured?
Do people get injured participating in CrossFit. Yes.
They also get injured while jogging, moving furniture, walking their dogs, and shaving their legs in the shower. Injuries come from a lack of focus, preparation, or by not listening to our bodies. In fact, the injury incidence in CrossFit fits into a category with most other recreational training activities.
The functional movements used in CrossFit model the movements we complete in everyday life. Practicing fundamental movement patterns reduces the risk of injury and helps us become more confident and competent. A quick internet search will show you the tremendous success stories of individuals who have used CrossFit to overcome past injuries and debilitating diseases.
4. CrossFit will make me worse at my sport.
If you have concerns, talk to a CrossFit gym who has trainers with experience in your sport of choice; football, baseball, triathlon, golf, and snowboarding athletes all can use the CrossFit method. CrossFit can support their sport with workouts built around the various stages of their competitive season.
CrossFit is “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” It is a system of general physical preparedness (GPP). Being more prepared can benefit all athletes as they adapt to and overcome the rigors of their sport.
CrossFit is also designed to increase work capacity. Moving loads that are heavier, moving them faster, or moving them farther are all examples of increased work capacity. A football player who can perform more work will be stronger on each play he participates in. Increased work capacity will help an individual and team succeed in any sport!
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
You’ve probably heard of one of the most popular diets in the nutrition world right now, intermittent fasting (IF). Though this type of diet certainly isn’t new, the fad-ish uprising of it’s popularity have left a great deal of guru’s, buzz words, and misinformation floating around on the internet. However when celebrities like Beyonce, Terry Crews, and Hugh Jackman swear by a diet it is definitely worth giving a try. Today we’re going to break down some of the facts about intermittent fasting. You can decide if it’s right for you!
Before we get into the benefits of intermittent fasting it’s important to know how it works. There are many different protocols and standards that define the versions of this diet. The parameters that most people adjust include:
- Time, when to eat and when not to. Most protocols recommend a ratio of 16 hour fast to 8 hours of eating. This could look like skipping breakfast and eating your first meal of the day at 12pm. You then have until 8 pm to eat.
- What counts as fasting, if you’re in your fasting window are you allowed to consume anything? Most diets encourage water during the fast. Many also allow black coffee or tea (hold the cream and sugar) during the fast. Outside of these beverages, some people alse consume MCT or coconut oil, BCAA drinks, or ketone supplements. This will depend on your goals and the approach you take.
- What to eat during meals. This is dependent on the types and frequency of foods that work best for you. If you practice intermittent fasting you will benefit the most by adhering to a diet that eliminates inflammatory foods and refined carbohydrates.
Intermittent Fasting claims to have a great deal of benefits and many people have found it works great for them. There are also a great deal of myths or areas that still need to be verified by science. Most of the benefits of intermittent fasting seem to have more of a correlation with successful diets rather than to be the primary causal factor. As we work our way through the many claimed benefits of IF let’s address what benefits you can count on and which ones to put to the test.
Lower Insulin Resistance/Increase Insulin Sensitivity
If you hear insulin resistance I’m sure you’re thinking two things. One, I know that is important. Two, I don’t have diabetes so how does it apply to me?? Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating the amount of energy (glucose) in the blood stream. By lowering insulin resistance the body improves its ability to store extra glucose as glycogen (ready to use energy) in the muscle rather than as fat. Intermittent fasting reduces the bodies exposure to energy fluxuations making it more sensitive when you do eat a meal.
You can burn fat while gaining muscle
This is one of those difficult to navigate situations. The fact is that going 16 hours or more without eating will make your body more reliant on fat as a fuel source. The major factor to consider is that the biggest player in gaining or losing both fat and muscle is energy balance. Intermittent fasting combined with healthy food choices and consistent exercise will produce the desired results, but if you’re consuming more calories than your body needs the calories will contribute to both muscle and fat gain.
Better dietary adherence
Many people love to use intermittent fasting simply because it is a great fit for their lifestyle.
Reasons for this vary from one person to another, but one of the key reasons seems to be that it reduces decision fatigue. Most people find themselves making poor dietary choices when they are either in a hurry or tired. By eliminating decision making around food it becomes easier to plan for one or two healthy meals in a day. Food becomes less of a focal point. You start eating to live, not living to eat.
Improve mental clarity
This ties into the powerful effects of insulin on the body. After a meal our body secretes insulin to maintain blood sugar levels in the body. When we are constantly eating we are dependent on a steady supply of glucose to feel energized and awake. Too long without food or an imbalanced meal causes the dreaded brain fog you’ve probably felt an hour or so after lunch. Many people report being more alert and focused when when adapted to an intermittent fasting diet.
Give your gut a rest
A continuous diet of hard to digest foods can leave our digestive tract operating at less than optimal capacity. This leads to low energy levels, poor digestion, and a general inflammatory state. Intermittent fasting gives digestive enzymes and the healthy bacteria in our gut to build up stabilize.
This benefit of IF is about as straightforward as it gets. Eating fewer meals and/or at fewer times of the day will save you time. Not only that but you’d be surprised how much time gets wasted on meals when you’re trying to fit in 5-6 small meals per day. Without the interruption of food you’ll have more time for other activities.
This goes hand in hand with saving time. Fewer meals means more money saved. Even if you are eating bigger portions for lunch and dinner it means a smaller grocery bill and fewer days of the month you have to eat out.
As we’ve addressed some of the benefits of intermittent fasting we also need to play devil’s advocate to why it might now be the right choice for you. Let’s take a look at why you should not try intermittent fasting…
Some populations that may want to avoid IF would be individuals who have had issues with yo-yo dieting, overeating, binge eating, or make poor dietary choices. Some practitioners of intermittent fasting have reported an obsession with food or constant daydreaming about eating during their restricted hours. It is important to consult with your doctor before making any major change to your health including a significant shift in your diet.
Other individuals who may want to steer clear of IF would be individuals who are not consuming sufficient nutrients to address a specific health condition or goal. These could include specific micronutrients like vitamins or minerals. Children, teenagers or anyone who needs more total calories to gain weight may not be able to consume enough food during the limited time window associated with intermittent fasting. If you are a hardgainer, increasing your training volume for a sport, have a job that requires intense physical activity, or are in pregnancy this may not be the diet for you.
Hopefully highlighting some of the benefits of intermittent fasting has given you the information to see if you want to explore it further or shut it down like your high school prom date.
If you’re ready for results it’s time to ditch the health club…
There was a time when we got all the exercise we require from our daily activities. But as hunting and gathering lead to farming and eventually the industrialized world we live in today the need for human “labor” has been nearly eradicated. Now that we work desk jobs, eat our meals from the hot bar at Whole Foods, and enjoy a generally sedentary lifestyle we are required to reintroduce this missing physical activity. For some reason, the question of how to add physical activity, or work, back into our lives is one that has proven to be puzzling, controversial, and difficult terrain to navigate.
In response to the demands of the market the fitness industry has grown tremendously, particularly in North America where an estimated $28 billion was spent in 2015. Much of this industry is dominated by health clubs and large gym franchises that offer a sampling of strength equipment, cardio machines, TV’s, massage chairs and minimal staffing. Granted how many staff members do you need when your members don’t actually attend the club? In a study done by students at UC Berkeley found 67% of gym memberships are never used in the population they surveyed.
“If you are not going to the gym, you are actually the gym’s best customer.” -Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR
The savvy marketers at big box gyms know how to target their marketing towards individuals who won’t actually come to the facility. As humans we often get a rush of excitement by a new fitness undertaking. “This is it, the time I actually change, no looking back,” you say. The challenge is that the health club has made zero commitment to you. They don’t care if you show up or not. Luckily there is someone out there who does.
Boutique fitness is the alternative to the traditional health club model. Boutique gyms offer specialized classes based on the expertise of the owners, teachers, or coaches. CrossFit boxes, Barre studios, Bikram yoga, parkour facilities, spin classes are all great examples of the boutique fitness model.
These communities succeed when the all parts are working together; the owner, staff, and clientele all succeed when they each meet their goals. This synergistic effect leads to faster results and more satisfaction from all parties. As a client you have a team of coaches and fellow members who are all rooting for you, teaching you, and most importantly holding you accountable. Becoming fit doesn’t have to be a chore, a challenge, or a pain point. In fact, it can even be fun 😉
Boutique gyms have been seen rapid growth in the past decade as clients recognize that when it comes to fitness, not all gyms are created equal. Some of the most common excuses sound like:
- “I have a hard time sticking to a routine”
- “I’m just too busy to exercise”
- “I get bored with going to the gym, it always feels like work”
- “I don’t know how to lift weights/choose a routine/eat the right food”
These are great excuses, but since you’re ready to make a change it’s time to ditch the excuses and focus on RESULTS. By implementing a system that counters your excuses you’ll be left with the only option, the results that you want to achieve.
If you struggle with sticking to a routine you will benefit from the coaches, friends, and community members that you’ll meet at each class. A group of people that will ask you about your day, learn about your goals and life, and most importantly encourage you to show up consistently to your workouts.
If you claim to be too busy then you should sign up for classes ahead of time. The wide variety of classes that are available each day at time frames that are consistent with your schedule make it easy to squeeze in an hour long workout.
If boredom is your challenge then a workout that changes every day is exactly what you need. Not only that but the different coaching styles and friends you’ll make at different times of the day make each class a totally unique experience.
If information is the enemy then relax, because that’s already been taken care of for you. Your coach has put a lot of thought into a training program that will improve your fitness and will be by your side to instruct you on form, breathing, and what weights to use. Keep an eye out for group nutrition challenges to boot!
To get the results you want sometimes you need to try a new approach. If that trip to the gym feels more daunting than Frodo walking the ring to Mordor then it’s time to see what a boutique gym has in store for you!
How Focusing On Your Breathing Can Improve Your Fitness
Breathing is a unique process in the human body. It can occur voluntarily or involuntarily, be a conscious or unconscious decision, and is constantly responding to feedback from sensors in your body. Oftentimes are breathe is being stifled by our emotional state, body position, or
Posture and breath
When you inhale your diaphragm contracts and moves downward expanding the chest cavity and giving the lungs space to expand. This simultaneously lifts the ribs and sternum. When you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and expands into the chest cavity as the ribs and sternum lower.
The key muscles or primary movers in this process are the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, and abdominal muscles. Secondary mover muscles include upper trapezius, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and pectoralis minor.
Poor posture categorized by rounded shoulders and a forward head position can cause these secondary movers to become tight and overworked. This leads to a decline in respiratory function which can further exacerbate the breathing muscles and contribute to even worse posture.
To jump start your muscles involved in breathing try out this stretching and breath practice from Jill Miller at Yoga Tune Up: The Abdominal Vacuum.
So you might be wondering why you should worry about your breath when it’s so easy you can literally do it in your sleep?
Let’s start with the the one we all care about
1. Improved performance.
A study at the University of Portsmouth showed that runners who performed inspiratory muscle warm-ups and training experienced a whopping 15% increase in performance after just 6 weeks.
Bringing a mindful focus to breath can also help improve energy. Individuals who practice deep breathing exercises report more energy, improved mental acuity, and getting a better night’s sleep.
An improvement in breath capacity will lead to a healthier digestive tract. The body has more energy to allocate towards digestion and is more efficient at eliminating toxins.
4. Decrease Stress
Breathing techniques that are designed to bring increased awareness the breath can carry over to other areas of life. It trains the mind to be less emotionally reactive while simultaneously reducing cortisol levels.
5. Heart Rate
Breathing practice has been shown to lower resting heart rate and blood pressure. Try deep belly breaths where the stomach fully expands and holding in at the full exhalation and inhalation points.
Many breathing techniques are geared towards unwinding, shutting down, and moving away from the flight or fight response we are used to feeling. Breath work also has many powerful applications to get us fired up and improve our focus.
When lifting heavy weights, a full belly breath can be held inside the abdomen throughout the lift. This Valsalva Maneuver provides internal pressure that supports the spine and braces the skeletal muscle throughout the lift. Limit this maneuver for maximal exertion efforts (eg. greater than 80% of your 1rm and 5 reps or less in your working set).
Breathing can also be used to prime your body into a peak state. Using rapid forced inhales and exhales through the nostrils will stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and leave you feeling alive, alert, and awake.
Now that you know a little about how breathing affects your daily life and the systems of your body what areas do you want to incorporate a breathing practice into? Whether its for our health, relaxation purposes, or to improve our athletic performance we could all benefit from taking a deep breath now and then!
We all lead busy lives. If we are not careful, our fitness is sometimes the first thing to go and before you know it, we are feeling left with less energy. Here are five ways you can add fitness to your day:
- Increase Physical “Work”
Technology has caused a major shift in the way humans live and made physical activity an optional daily occurrence. Luckily with a creative mindset we can still take advantage of many events in our days that are ripe for the picking with good old fashioned labor. Try some of these challenges to increase your work capacity throughout the day:
- At the grocery store steer clear of the shopping cart. Try to only use a basket (or two) to carry your food. As you navigate the aisles you’ll be improving your grip and building core strength with a bonus deadlift thrown in any time you set your basket down. By choosing to carry the items you will also develop awareness around what you’re purchasing. The bottom line, you get more fit and only the essentials make it home. Your inner hunter-gatherer will be proud!
- Park far away in the parking lot. It’s just as fast as driving up and down the lanes to get as close as possible.
- Take the Stairs. Every step counts and if you’re really motivated try throwing in some lunges.
- Leave the car in the garage.Take a new approach to your daily travel and try to walk or bike to work.
2. Stretch It Out (Every Chance You Get)
A terrific habit to build is to practice full range of motion and proper biomechanics in the daily activities you already do. How many times a day do you catch yourself hunched over, chin to chest with your neck craning to look into a screen. Ouch! Focus on good posture with shoulders back and eyes gazing straight ahead. See how it affects your mood, confidence and energy levels!
- While grabbing items off of a bottom shelf or cabinet, hold the bottom position of a squat and drive your knees out to the sides. Spending 10 minutes a day in the bottom of a squat can be life changing for your spine, hips, and knees!
- If you’re talking on the phone or typing at your computer incorporate ankle rolls at the same time. Rotate your foot at the ankle as if you were at the beach writing your name in the sand with your toes. Make sure to practice each letter of the alphabet.
- Driving to and from work? This is a great time to work on externally rotating your shoulders while sitting up tall with a proud chest.
3. Equalize The Sedentary Activities
Take advantage of time that doesn’t require movement to work postural muscles or build in fitness breaks. Alternating work and rest periods will increase metabolism and improve circulation. This can even be a great opportunity to develop your strength. By practicing strength daily you can make remarkable improvements in a short amount of time. Strength is a skill and the majority of initial gains in strength are due to neuromuscular adaptations to training.
- For office work or writing try a standing desk or treadmill desk.
- If you’re at home watching television try to practice push-ups, squats, or core exercises during the commercial breaks. One popular method technique is called “grease the groove. The premise is simple, pick a movement you want to improve at and perform a set of the exercise with half of your maximal reps (eg. if your max number of pullups is 10, you will want to perform sets of 5). Rest at least 15 minutes between sets. Repeat as often as possible throughout your day.
4. Get Outside Every Day
Getting outdoors is the perfect chance to reset and reconnect with your body. Whether it’s a park you swing by on the way home from your work or stepping out on the back porch with your morning coffee making time for the outdoors is an essential. Moving outside requires us to apply our bodies to move in new and challenging ways. Some recommendations:
- Climb a tree, seriously when was the last time you did? Go now, you can thank me later…
- Walk or run barefoot. Connecting your feet with the dirt, grass, or sand feels great, allows full range of motion, and strengthens the feet.
- Find a rock, log, or another odd object to be your new “pet rock”. Take your new found pet on a walk and enjoy this new test of fitness.
5. Find A Community
One of the best ways to add fitness to your day is to surround yourself with people who care about their health. Positive social support has been proven to improve adherence to exercise and dietary habits. If you feel like you need help in achieving your health and fitness goals maybe joining a tribe of people on the same journey is the best way to add fitness to your day!
Hey there motivated individual! We have a new challenge for you. Guess what? It’s harder than any whole-food-eating, gallon-of-water-drinking, couch-to-5k challenge you’ve ever tried.
Not only that, but if you complete it successfully we promise you’ll never want to stop.
That’s why I’m challenging you to 1 month of restful nights sleep!
So why is that so hard? Because for some reason our culture idolizes the overworked, overtired, puffy eyed stories of grinding day in and day out with insufficient sleep. We seem to overvalue sacrifice and undervalue our bodies. Not only that, but we think we all forget what it feels like to operate as our 100% rested and ready to go selves. We promise that if you invest in your rest you’ll never want to go without it again.
Let’s dig in to some techniques to help us prepare for an awesome night’s sleep!
1. Optimize Your Environment
Do more of this:
- Make it dark
Our bodies sleep cycle is regulated by a hormone called Melatonin, produced in the Pineal gland. Melatonin is released as the day grows dark and tells our bodies to begin shutting down. Any exposure of our bodies to light will reduce the release of Melatonin and could potentially disrupt the sleep cycle. Try blackout curtains, removing any sources of light in the bedroom, or even a sleep mask to really turn out the lights!
- Turn down the thermostat
As drowsy as it makes us to sit by the fire, it actually isn’t ideal to be in a hot environment for a good night’s rest. According to Dr. Peter Attia, “the lowering of our body temperature at night is a cue for our brains that it’s time to go to sleep and increases the proportion of time we’re in delta-wave (translation: deep) sleep.” So what’s the ideal temperature? Most studies show that 68 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleep.
Don’t do that!:
- Checking email before bed
Technology and sleep appear to be mortal enemies. A very “neither can live while the other survives,” Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort type of scenario. Staring at a screen make our bodies think we still need to be alert, active, and ready for action. AKA not drowsy, calm, or relaxed. Best practice: No screens in the bedroom. Turn off phones, computers, and television 30-60 minutes before bedtime to let your body know it’s time to shut down.
2. Smart Consumption
Do more of this:
- Eat protein before bed.
To ensure a restful night of sleep it is important to be aware of how we’re fueling our bodies throughout the day.Some studies have shown that eating a high protein snack before bed
resulted in significantly fewer wake episodes compared to carbohydrate based snacks or a placebo. Try a protein shake, a late night omelette, or some greek yogurt and peanut butter to fuel your slumber.
Don’t do that!:
- Drink coffee after 12pm.
Caffeine can have seriously disrupting effects on your sleep.Try to avoid alcohol, tea, and any beverages that alter your state, dehydrate, or have you running to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
3. Develop a Routine:
Do more of this:
- Set a bedtime alarm.
We are creatures of habit and our routines have a profound effect on how our bodies behave. By scheduling out a bedtime routine each night our bodies will be primed for a great night of sleep. Try setting a bedtime alarm 8 or 9 hours before you wish to wake up. This is the cue to start your bedtime routine. Put your cellphone away, take care of your bathroom business, and settle down in bed with a fictional book or a journal to reflect on your day.
Pro tip: If you have pet get them in a routine that helps you stay on track!
Don’t do that!:
- Wait until you’re tired.
Consistency is king when it comes to a good night’s sleep. If you want to wake up rested you have to exercise the discipline to shut down at a reasonable hour each night. Whether it’s turning off the TV or signing out of work emails, it has to be an active choice. If you continue to stimulate your mind, it won’t be able to recognize that it has to shut down for the night.
4. Use your physiology to unwind
Do more of this:
- Stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system
Our bodies respond to the environment and are always in one of two modes.
- Sympathetic aka “Fight or Flight”
- Parasympathetic aka “Rest and Digest”
We can hack our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the healing benefits of our rest and digest state. Try taking a hot bath before bed, gently massaging or foam rolling your muscles, or practicing long slow deep breathing.
Don’t do that!:
- Strenuous Exercise
Exercise is incredible and will often help promote a deeper sleep. However don’t try to squeeze your workout in too close to bedtime. Training will ramp up your bodies Fight or Flight response and it may take some time to wind down after the fact. Try to wrap up your workout 2 hours before bed and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.