By Craig “Deuce” Doussett MPH, RDN, Clark’s Nutrition
The vast majority of us want cut-and-dried answers. We want to know what the best supplements are, how much sleep to get, the right amount of water to drink, the best foods to consume in their proper ratios and times, and the most effective exercises and peak times to perform them. We desire to know the “best” (optimum) and “first in order” (prime) information to make our lives productive, rewarding, and free from distracting demands. In this spirit, here are a few answers that are steeped in science.
- Water is fairly easy, drink when thirsty and avoid darkly colored urine. While overhydration is not as common as dehydration, it can be just as dangerous, so drink plenty of water and always plan ahead. Stock up on water and have plenty of stainless steel or glass water containers on hand. As for food, Michael Pollan succinctly stated, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. It does not matter what food camp we align with if the above dictum is ignored. One caveat, protein should be at every meal, carbs early in the day or after training, and fats in the afternoon. Protein powders can be excellent additions to busy lifestyles seeking simplified and salubrious solutions.
- Sleep seven to nine hours a night! In most individuals, less or more than this amount may result in overeating (non-homeostatic appetite), a decrease in resting metabolic rate, and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar [glucose]). All of the aforementioned conditions lead to weight gain and compromised immune systems. Experiment with natural and safe sleep aids such as melatonin (inform your physician), magnesium (with added L-Threonine to access neural tissue more effectively), and herbal teas such as valerian, chamomile, or hops.
- Exercise? A combination of cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, biking etc.), resistance training (busting the weights), and high intensity interval training (HIIT), (start/stop movements cycled through power intervals) is best. Cardio is not only for heart health, it provides our brains with an influx of oxygen and nutrients, further increasing our odds of staving off forms of dementia and depression. Resistance training three time weekly (for skeletal and mitochondrial biogenesis) prepares the body for the demands of both daily and future life. Lastly, HIIT (flexibility, and lymphatic fluid movement) is an excellent way to challenge oneself and experience fat-burning and toning benefits simultaneously.
- When to work out? The short answer is whenever you enjoy it the most and will make it a lasting habit. The science shows, all things being equal, the afternoon is the best time. Firstly, in the afternoon our skeletal muscle is naturally less sensitive to insulin and exercise sensitizes our body to accept glucose and clear blood sugar before it moves to fat tissue to be repartitioned. Thus, afternoon exercise can help avoid a phenomenon known as “Afternoon diabetes”. Better sugar control means muscles perform better and longer. Secondly, while testosterone is higher in the morning, so is cortisol which is a hormone that can have delimitating effects on training adaptation. In the afternoon, the testosterone to cortisol ratio is improved (it is lower). Thirdly, we must consider our core temperature which is optimum in the afternoon for both genetic expression and mitochondrial output. Working out in the cold of morning means brains, muscles, cells, and bodily fluids are all at their slowest. Spoiler alert: there is a reason world records get broken in the afternoon.
Sometimes, it is best, in the face of undecided science, to follow the example of a certain brightly colored, anthropomorphized semi-truck and simply “Roll Out”! We do the best we can with the data we have until our choices are sufficiently challenged or our goals change. Ask a nutritional consultant to assist you in making your individualized approach to a healthy lifestyle.