It seems as though human beings are the only mammals who are no longer honoring the biological necessities of life such as daily movement, sunshine, hydration, proper food sources, and adequate sleep. While the industrial revolution and the advancement of technology brought about a more comfortable way of life, it sometimes seems that we are slowly decreasing our quality of life in order to live a life of convenience. Long hours at the office staring out a computer and long hours in the car, not to mention sleep deprivation and poor food quality, among other factors, have made perpetual illness and fatigue the new norm.
When we ignore our biological necessities we interfere with the complex intricacies of the internal processes of our bodies such as circadian rhythms, hormone production, immune resilience and more. This makes it difficult to improve body composition, increase performance, and maintain energy levels, a steady mood, and mental acuity throughout the day. It also causes difficulty sleeping and the inability to wake up refreshed in the morning.
At Central Athlete we implement what we call the Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (“BLGs”). When individuals follow these pillars of health, not only do they become more in tune with their bodies and see results faster than those who do not, but they become happier and healthier too! The following seven lifestyle guidelines can be seen as the foundation for any proper nutrition and training protocol (not to mention a life well-lived.)
To say that sleep is the backbone of every other basic lifestyle guideline would be an understatement but sadly the majority of individuals are sleep-deprived and completely unaware of the damaging effects. Adequate sleep is imperative for every bodily function, from immunity to blood sugar regulation, hormone production, mental acuity, memory and learning, and so much more.
“In 1942 less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours of sleep or less a night; in 2017, almost one in two people are getting less than six hours of sleep and two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organization.”
“An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60’s without any medical interventions.” - Matthew Walker PhD
It’s obvious that sleep is essential if you are trying to improve health but it is also an important factor for fat loss. Just one night of poor sleep puts the body into an insulin-resistant state making it more difficult to regulate blood glucose.
Check out a few of our previous articles on sleep for more details on how to improve your sleep, and the many important roles sleep has on building muscle mass, improving the immune system, emotional stability and more!
We recommend a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night in a cool (68 degrees), dark room. To ensure you are getting the quantity of sleep required, it can be extremely beneficial to create a consistent routine that involves the same wake and sleep times each day. If you have trouble falling asleep, try avoiding caffeinated drinks past noon and avoid blue-light past sunset. Blue light is emitted from electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, and televisions. Setting your iPhone to night shift and downloading F.lux on your computer are a few ways to block blue light as well as purchasing a pair of blue-blockers.
Adequate Daily Sun Exposure
Did you know our body has its own 24-hour internal clock that regulates important physiological processes? Although this so-called clock, known as your circadian rhythm, is regulated endogenously (internally) it can be greatly affected by external cues such as sunlight and temperature.
“Insufficient sun exposure has become a major public health problem, demanding an immediate change in the current sun-avoidance public health advice. The degree of change needed is small but critically important.” -Hoel et al. 2016
A lack of sun exposure affects many processes of the body, including vitamin D production. Adequate vitamin D levels (above 50mg/dl) is important to support a healthy immune system, brain, and nervous system, lung and cardiovascular function and is even crucial to managing insulin levels and decreasing the risk of various cancers.
Adequate daily sun exposure (preferably between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm) also helps regulate a normal circadian rhythm which is essential for supporting sleep quality and waking up refreshed in the morning.
We recommend at least 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day. Similar to any recommendation, the amount of sun exposure needed depends on previous exposure and the melanin in your skin.
Low-intensity movement such as walking has been understated in almost all training programs. This is unfortunate because it is essential for overall health and supports both fat loss and performance goals, which is why most individuals join gyms in the first place.
Daily movement makes up the highest amount of non-resting energy expended throughout the day. Simply put, the more you move, the more energy you burn. If you are not moving enough throughout the day, you are missing a huge opportunity for calorie burning! No, this doesn't mean you need to sign up for your local gym membership and hit it hard 7 days a week; you just need to find a few ways to add more walking into your routine.
Low-level movement also enhances the transportation of oxygen to working muscles which is essential in supporting any performance goals such as getting stronger or improving your aerobic abilities. And that's not all! Moving more also regulates body fat distribution by liberating free fatty acids for fuel and even helps support the body's natural detoxification processes through improved blood flow and lymph movement.
We recommend anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 steps or more per day. Like any personalized prescription, it is important to titrate this number up slowly in order to enhance the rate of adherence and success. If someone is only logging 1,000 steps per day, it doesn’t make sense for them to immediately try and get 7,000 steps per day. This is a habit change that is so drastic it will not stick. Always remember, less is more! Therefore, making small incremental increases each week will provide better long-term success and a new habit that lasts!
Check out our article on the power of walking which goes into more detail on the many benefits of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, also known as NEAT, as well as tips and tricks on how to increase your activity levels throughout the day!
Water is the most important and miraculous nutrient available today yet it is extremely under-consumed by most individuals. Water intake is so essential because our bodies do not have the capacity to produce the necessary quantity.
Not only are humans composed of 70% water, but our brain is made up of 80% water and our bones contain 30-40% water. Water fills every space inside our cells and between them, and the amount of water we consume has a direct impact on our daily energy. Adequate water intake is also essential in the removal of toxins within the body and is important for both kidney and liver function.
Dehydration of as little as a 2% loss of body weight results in impaired physiological and performance responses.
Feeling sluggish or unable to focus at the office? Try increasing your water consumption!
Feeling weak or slow at the gym? Try increasing your water consumption!
“New research indicates that water consumption can have an effect on the risk of urinary stone disease, cancers of the breast, colon, and urinary tract; childhood and adolescent obesity; mitral valve prolapse; salivary gland function; and overall health in the elderly.” -Kleiner et al. 1999
It seems simple, but just by increasing the amount of water you consume can make huge strides towards optimal health, less sick days and better energy balance!
We recommended consuming half your body weight in ounces of water per day as a starting point. For example, a woman weighing 130lbs should aim for at least 65oz of water each day. An easy way to track this is to get a reusable water bottle and keep track of how many you drink throughout the day.
The stress hormone cortisol is certainly essential to life, but too much cortisol can be detrimental by affecting blood pressure, digestion, immunity, and more. Although understanding how to manage stress is important, the perception of stress plays an even more important role in the effects that cortisol has on the body. A study conducted in the United States tracked 30,000 adults for 8 years and found that those who believed stress was a bad thing had a 43% increased risk of death, whereas those who believed that stress was not bad, but essential for growth and productivity, had no increased risk of death.
Given those numbers, it is not only important to manage stress, but it is also important to change your perception around the impact stress has on your life.
We recommend doing something you love every day, even for just a few minutes. Additionally, try taking 100 conscious breaths each day. Check out the four benefits of conscious breathing for even more information on why managing stress is one of our seven pillars to improved health!
Proper nutrition is extremely important in regulating the body's natural internal processes from hormonal production to essential vitamin and micronutrient intake. Specifically, proper protein intake is essential for building muscle mass, synthesizing hormones, repairing tissues, enhancing fat loss, increasing energy, and even living longer!
Want to get stronger? Increase your protein intake!
Want to lose fat? Increase your protein intake!
Want to improve daily energy levels? Increase your protein intake!
We have noticed that when individuals chronically undereat protein, an essential macronutrient, they are typically over-consuming carbohydrates, have poor blood sugar regulation, low energy levels, and are typically overfat.
When those same individuals focus on adding protein to each meal, we naturally see a better balance of macronutrient consumption which leads to improved energy, increased muscle mass (when accompanied by an adequate strength training plan), loss of fat mass, and even more resilience when it comes to injury prevention and pain management.
We recommend building to 1g per lb of bodyweight, which equates to about 1 fist-sized portion of animal protein per meal for females and 2 fist-sized portions of animal protein per meal for males.
Check out our video on the power of protein for more detailed information on why adequate protein consumption is imperative to support improved body composition.
Blood Sugar (Glucose) Management
An easy way to lose fat, improve energy levels throughout the day and optimize health is by regulating your blood glucose levels. Processed carbohydrates such as bagels, pasta, cereals, cupcakes, candy, etc. are known for spiking blood glucose levels very quickly resulting in a high rise of energy (and insulin) and eventually a crash in energy. This combination is not ideal for someone trying to lose fat mass and/or staying alert during an important board meeting.
When glucose gets into the bloodstream, which occurs after eating carbohydrates, insulin is released from the pancreas. This hormone is important for communicating with cells to “open their doors” in order to let glucose in to be used for energy. Unfortunately, when blood glucose levels are chronically high, the body eventually becomes insulin resistant. When this occurs, insulin is still secreted from the pancreas, but the ability to communicate with the cells becomes increasingly weak which results in maintaining high glucose levels and the secretion of even more insulin into the body.
Understanding the interplay between glucose and insulin is important. Because insulin is the most anabolic (growth-promoting) hormone in the body, too much becomes problematic and can result in the increase of fat mass. No wonder insulin’s nickname has become the “fat hormone.” By managing blood sugar, we can manage insulin levels and thus improve body composition and even stabilize energy levels throughout the day.
There are several recommendations that Central Athlete uses to help with managing blood sugar. The first is limiting the amount of processed carbohydrates consumed. Replace these processed sources with whole foods and always eat them with protein and healthy fats. Staying active and proper sleep quantity is another important way to manage blood glucose levels.
Understanding your specific goals and how your body responds to various carbohydrates is important in determining your ideal carbohydrate intake. Check out our video on how to customize your carbohydrate intake to support you and your goals!
These seven basic lifestyle guidelines come together beautifully to create a more fulfilling life by strengthening the immune system against illness, increasing energy levels, improving sleep quality and so much more! Adopting these seven pillars of health will also support the ability to decrease fat mass, and improve performance inside the gym!
Implementing all of these practices can seem overwhelming at first, so it is important to focus first on the one change that will create the biggest benefit in your life with the least psychological resistance. Unsure where to start? Click the link below to schedule a free strategy session with a Central Athlete coach to learn more!
Risks and benefits of sun exposure - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/