We all know that to improve performance we need to follow a healthy lifestyle, including a consistently good nutrition plan and training programme. But what about the other ‘less obvious’ factors that can effect performance both in the gym AND in day to day life?
Do you pay as much attention to your sleep routine as you do your nutrition?
Maybe you should.
There are 750+ scientific studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep and human performance, many of which have studied elite athletes specifically. The results are compelling: Sleep improves speed, explosiveness and accuracy. It enhances our ability to process information and solve problems. It improves our judgment, composure and ability to assess and respond to situations. It accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.
In other words, sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent, and powerful—not to mention legal—performance enhancers that has competition-winning potential.
It is also one of the most under-utilised. Two-thirds of adults fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of sleep nightly. You’re probably not surprised by this, but you may be surprised by how it affects you as an athlete. Obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens:
Just like you can't out-train a bad diet, you can’t out-train poor sleep. In fact, the physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise.
Put another way: Unless you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, you're undermining all your hard work in the gym and on your nutrition.
We spend too much time improving our mental and physical abilities to leave anything as powerful as sleep on the table. If you’re looking to take your performance to the next level in 2018, you have to make sleep a priority.
Here are some ways to make sure you’re getting eight hours a night:
Maybe if you have some holiday time over Christmas this could be your first step towards a healthier happier and stronger 2018!?
How big is your spoon?
One of the reason why I advise using MyFitnessPal to track your daily nutrition is because even if you're eating good quality, real, whole foods its still very easy to gain weight. Actually its also possible to eat crap food and lose weight if I'm being honest (although I would strongly advise against this method if your health is important to you). Either way, what I'm saying here is that ultimately if youre looking to drop body fat ratio and/or lose weight - it comes down to calories. The calories you consume on a daily basis (food & drink) vs the calories need to survive (NEAT, sleep, live & your activity level). Im a big advocate of eating REAL whole foods but you also need to be calorie conscious if you don't want to get fat. Simple. I can't just eat what I want, unlike many people would like to think, I have to nail both what I eat to fuel my busy lifestyle AND how much I eat to maintain the physique I own. The good news is that it IS POSSIBLE to eat a decent amount of good food every day, feel full & satisfied, feel strong and healthy. But portion control is the key. Some might call this will power, either way, it matters and its the difference between seeing the results and not. Take the picture above for case in point. a level tsp (15g) of Nut Butter is 94 cals. I sometimes add it to my greek yoghurt and it nicely rounds up my fats for the day. 1 heaped tsp of Nut Butter (30g) is around 188 cals, and this will push me over my daily maintenance calories, to the point where if I do this consistently, over time I will gain weight. So while I encourage including healthy fats in your nutrition, you need to be mindful of the portion size you're eating especially when you're goal is to lose weight! Its these kinds of incremental changes that can make BIG differences and sabotage your results. Its the equivalent of adding in an small, extra snack every day that you don't account for a food. Nut butters are often referred to as health foods, but eating a whole jar in a week is going to fuck up your fat loss, if you don't make allowances for the additional calories, which you probably wont. The reason I advise eating real food over snacks in general, is because you can eat much more food for the same number of calories, which means you're more likely to be satisfied and less likely to be miserable or binge. The take home lesson here is, when it comes to high calories treats, even if deemed 'healthy', be mindful about how much you eat and how often - stay accountable and then you will reach your goals without having to sacrifice or cut out the odds you enjoy.
From Cardio Queen to LEAN Machine...
When it comes to fat loss its important to establish your goal at the outset. If you don't have a destination that you want to get to, how can you expect to go in the right direction?? Once you have a clear idea WHERE you want to get to, its important to know where you are now, i.e. your starting point. Only when you have the two clear in your head, can you begin to map out what you need to do to get there. Destination CHECK - Current location CHECK - Route Map CHECK.
Taking the time to understand where you are now will help you to workout HOW you bridge the gap to get to where you want to be. Its no different to planning any journey - and one size approach doesn't fit all.
My recommendation is to change one or a few of your current behaviour /habits at a time from your current lifestyle. Do enough to make a change but don't try and do too much or you'll be less likely to succeed or stick to it for the long term.
GOAL ONE 'I WANT TO LOSE FAT & WEIGHT'
If your goal is to lose weight AND drop body fat then achieving a calorie deficit is key. If you are over weight for your size/age and also carrying a higher ratio of fat to lean body mass, your priority must be NUTRITION as number one. The best nutrition plan for you to follow is simply the one that you can stick to over the long term. Your training should simply support this goal and is the second priority after your nutrition. Move more (NEAT - see previous BLOG post), such as daily walking or do something formal that you enjoy. In the gym RESISTANCE training (lifting weights) should be your priority - not necessarily to burn calories but also to maintain lean muscle mass, as ultimately the more lean muscle you have the faster your engine/metabolism is to drop weight and help you get leaner.
GOAL TWO 'I WANT TO LOSE FAT AND LOOK MORE TONED'
If you want to lose fat and look 'more toned' it is all about improving you overall body composition. its possible for slim people to carry too much overall body fat ratio - often referred to as 'skinny fat'. You might have a healthy weight for your size/height and to the normal eye not look overweight but when you're naked you might have areas of stubborn body fat, often around the belly, upper arms. Dieting hard isn't the goal here. And doing more cardio activity or classes isn't the solution! instead you should follow a smart RESISTANCE training programme that challenges you. Focus on getting quality protein in your daily neutron to support our lean muscle building, help recovery and remove junk from the diet that is contributing to the fat deposits. Calorie wise aim for maintenance calories or just very slight;y below, nothing drastic.
GOAL THREE "I WANT TO BE THE BEST I CAN BE'
If you are small and light, not overweight with a petite frame, you might simply want to improve your overall fitness and improve how you feel about your body. Or you might have succeeded in dropping weight and reducing your body fat percentage and now want to continue to maintain the results. The key for you in the gym is lifting weights and progressive/steady over load. Your nutrition should support your training as fuel rather than the other way around. Eating enough for improved performance and progress is key! Build the engine for a fitter, leader, stronger and happier healthier life!
Remember whatever your personal GOAL, change is a process not a destination. Your goals will change over time and how you look/feel /perfrom will also evolve over the process as you continue to learn about yourself and progress in your training.
LOSE FAT & WEIGHT = calorie deficit + NEAT + lift
LOOK LEANER = calorie maintenance or small deficit + meet preen needs + less cardio more lift
MAINTAIN FOR LIFE = Lift + eat to fuel + meet protein needs for recovery