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Sleep – The missing health and fitness link

Sleep allows our bodies to recover, helps combat stress, build energy levels, balance emotional well-being and cortisol levels. Even with a healthy diet and regular training regime, without decent sleep you will struggle to achieve the health and fitness goals that you seek.

Poor sleep mainly affects testosterone production.  Men build less muscle, burn less fat and face longer recovery from exercise whilst for women it affects energy production and hormone levels. This can have numerous consequences, including adversely affecting the production of lean muscle and regeneration of cell walls (which is the natural way we combat ageing).

We all need quality recovery, whether it be to cope with daily stressors, recover from exercise or to simply be at our best. We can all cope for a couple of dodgy nights, but beyond that it will physically affect us.

Sleep Pattern Diagnostics

For many people going to bed and falling asleep is not that easy. But the pattern of sleep can give us an indicator of what is affecting it.

  1. If you wake between 12-1am.

If you find you wake only a couple of hours after going to bed it could be that your blood glucose is dropping and this overly quick energy change has been shown to disturb sleep. One answer here is to try and add more long release carbohydrates to your evening meal, like plentiful crunchy vegetables

  1. If you wake between 2-3am.

If you wake between these hours it is often linked to detoxification problems and addressing liver detoxification is quite often the answer.

  1. If waking between 3-5am.

Waking at this time is often linked to stress and the adrenal system. There are many ‘stress resolvers’ worth exploring from meditation to adrenal support nutrients that will help sleep through this period.

Circadian Rhythms

Assisting your natural sleep patterns is vitally important to achieve a quality sleep.  Simple things like sleeping in a very dark room, and or allowing natural light (or a close alternative) to wake you up can naturally help to get the hormone response required to establish a healthy daily rhythm. Using alarm clocks that gradually light the room up are proving a popular and effective way of doing this.

Sleep is best achieved when the body is cold and there is a need to slow down.  So cool your room down a couple of hours before bed.  Contrary to popular belief a warm bath is not conducive to a good night’s sleep because it raises your core temperature and slows down your need to sleep.

Good sleep patterns are vital for good health, the ability to manage stress and to feel energised. If you suffer from poor sleep, try some of the above tips to help you towards an improvement, as doing so will help you reap benefits in everything you do.

 

First published in ‘Knightsbridge Village’, October 2014

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The answer? Getting the questions right.

At this time of year more than any other, we in the Health and Fitness industry are inundated with requests, new goals and fresh resolutions aimed towards achieving healthier, fitter and often slimmer bodies.

We are often asked our opinion on a range of new diet systems, the latest big thing in exercise, or what new superfood/supplementation will really make all the difference in topping up our modern processed diets.

In order to avoid being one of the large number (probably the majority) of people who have a great start to the year but find the momentum of change slowing as we approach Springtime, it’s worth keeping these key questions in mind when deciding to change something for the better (and meaning it!):

  1. Can I maintain this?

All four questions apply to both nutrition as well as exercise, and this first one is crucial. If your diet plan is a ‘short, sharp, shock’, without at least twice as much effort going into what happens when the diet ends, then I’m afraid your weight loss will be as temporary as the month of January. All short-term diets are fundamentally flawed because when they end we naturally ‘revert-to-the-mean’ – that is, we gently go back to whatever eating habits got us into where we are in the first place. Success lies in being honest and making a few changes to your daily nutritional intake and physical movement that you can maintain. Am I boring you? Is this unsexy advice? I don’t mind that accusation, as this actually works.

  1. Do I enjoy this?

Again, if you have hated broccoli since you were eight, or can’t bear the thought of an exercise class then why on earth would you subject yourself to it now? There are countless ways to increase the amount that you move throughout the day, and with a little advice and creativity we can change your plates so that there are more nutrients and fewer calories per meal.

  1. Is this going to harm me?

“No Pain, No Gain”. This is ludicrous. Pain (as opposed to a little muscular soreness) is your body telling you to stop punishing it before it gets injured… Start your new movement plan or training regime slowly, with good instruction and build up the intensity gradually. Likewise, if your new smoothie means that you have to ensure that you’re 10 seconds from the WC, or your new supplement causes wind issues that are not forecast on BBC weather…. perhaps rethink their long-term benefits.

  1. Will this be effective?

By effective I mean that “will we have an overall positive benefit from your changes in 16 weeks time?” 32 weeks? How about this time next year? Let us all stop seeking quick-fix answers and start asking the right questions, so that we can experience sustained, positive benefits and ensure that our 2015 resolutions aren’t the same as this year’s.

First published in ‘Knightsbridge Village’, February 2014 

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Shedding those extra pounds after your break – 3 quick tips

For many of us, a change to our regular routine often results in weight gain. Holidays, the kids being around more or perhaps even just a few extra glasses of ‘what you fancy’ during the warmer (or winter) months all contribute to those extra pounds. These become noticeable as we get back into our regular routine. Over the years that I have been training people, I have found that there are a few highly effective measures that you can apply immediately, to get you back to your pre-holiday best.

Nothing facilitates lasting fat-loss better than an honest combination of extra physical movement coupled with a gentle reduction of a few of those calories…. and there is no better motivator than a visual cue. So firstly, record the parameter that you’d like to change over the next four weeks. This could be your waist measurement, weight, body fat percentage, or a photo of how you look in a certain pair of jeans.

Secondly, on a piece of paper list all of the positive things that you can do, which done daily WILL get you to that goal. This list will be personal to you and your lifestyle, but can include things like, ‘have planned, perfect breakfast in the morning’, ‘do a workout today’, ‘just 2 cups of coffee today’, ‘stay on feet for more than 3 hours in total’, ‘just the one glass with dinner tonight’, ‘aim for a starter and main or main and dessert; but not all three’, ‘fill half my lunch and dinner plate with crunchy vegetables today’. This list needs to have at least 10 things on it – all of them achievable and realistic!

Thirdly, and vitally… this list needs to go up on a wall or fridge, next to a calendar. If you can honestly achieve FIVE ticks per day (one tick per achievement…) you WILL shed those pounds. A bonus to this is that you can look back with pride at how well you are doing. Try it. It works!

 

First published in ‘Knightsbridge Village’, August 2013