The Fundamentals: Diet, Exercise & Sleep

Most professional athletes, if you ask them, will tell you about their strict regime of exercise, diet and sleep, and how each one can significantly affect their performance. Regarding nutrition, Connor McGregor, probably the most famous fighter on the planet says, “I try to be really cautious about everything I put in my body, even the foods I eat. And the primary source of nutrition is food.” Six-time Olympic medallist in swimming, Rebecca Soni, claims, “I focus on clean foods to help keep my recovery time quick, and keep me feeling good.” U.S. Open and British Open winner, Jordan Spieth, says, “I know that some golfers are really paying attention to nutrition now, hoping to find an edge or advantage… I went through a whole process and did a bunch of testing. I found out which types of foods my body doesn’t process super well, and what I should eliminate altogether.” 

Famous business-people, like Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg also understand the importance of the fundamentals in life. They include exercise as one of the secrets to their success. Richard Branson states, “I try to go for a run or work out, that’s a good way to start the day”. Oprah tells people, “I try to do something every day that allows me to feel active, like yoga or getting in 10,000 steps a day”. Mark  Zuckerberg says, “Staying in shape is very important. Doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you’re fit, I make sure I work out at least three times a week, usually first thing when I wake up. I also try to take my dog running whenever I can.”

It’s not just the positive aspects of a healthy lifestyle that are important, as a lack of sleep can not only affect your health and productivity, but also harm those around you as well. Researchers by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which involved in-depth investigations of a sample of 5,470 crashes, including interviews with the drivers involved, found that drivers who reported fewer than four hours of sleep had 15.1 higher chance of being responsible for a driving accident.

Nutrition

A healthy diet can protect us against many of the most common fatal diseases in the modern world today, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancer and a variety of skeletal conditions. However, of the conditions listed, obesity increases the risk of all the others combined and is easily preventable with a simple change of habits.

Being overweight can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Womb cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease

It can also affect your quality of life and lead to life challenging physical and psychological problems such as:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Breathlessness
  • Joint and back pain
  • Confidence issues
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction

The Benefits Of Good Nutrition

A level balanced mood

It’s no surprise that food affects our moods and there are plenty of examples of the close relationship between diet and mental illness, like anxiety and depression. If you can maintain stable blood sugar levels through good nutrition choices, it will help you feel better throughout the day and help avoid mood swings and sugar crashes.

Improved memory

Research shows a healthful diet, especially one rich in fatty fish and cruciferous vegetables, may help prevent dementia and cognitive decline as well as enhance memory.

Getting a good night’s sleep

Most people know not to drink coffee before bed time and it’s medically accepted now that alcohol doesn’t help us achieve a good quality sleep.

Increases longevity

When we eat healthy foods and take exercise, it can improve our lifespan. Eating fast foods and processed foods is shows to have a detrimental effect on our health and lifespan.

Boosts productivity

When we eat a balanced and clean diet, the body receives essential nutrients that help increase and maintain energy levels.

Reduced life insurance premiums

Some companies will refuse to insure you if you are overweight, or charge you a premium if they consider you unhealthy.

Reduces wrinkles

A nutritious diet is high in collagen which helps maintain younger-looking skin.

It reduces stress

A good diet high in protein-rich foods helps moderate the body’s level of cortisol, the stress hormone. If you suffer from stress this is one of the simplest and most effective methods for reducing it.

Better weight management

Simple healthy choices, like choosing water over fizzy drinks, can help you lose weight and control your appetite. Plus, it reduces cortisol and balances insulin levels, both of which can cause weight gain.

Sleep

On December 31, 1879, Thomas Edison flipped the switch on the first public display of an incandescent light bulb and our world changed, overnight. Before that event, the average person slept approximately 10 hours per night. Today, thanks to the light bulb, computers and TV, we only get a fraction of the sleep we used to, with most people living busy, full on, hectic lifestyles, it is quite acceptable to work 16 hour days, party all night and then use stimulants like caffeine and drugs to keep going the next day.

According to studies, the average person might only get 6 hours of sleep a day. In less than 150 years, we have reduced the average amount of time we sleep by 30-40%. That’s a drastic change. It’s not natural, nor is it healthy.

The most prevalent cause of sleep deprivation is our society’s persistent belief that sleep is a luxury rather than a necessity. When it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day, sleep is the first thing we cut, though ironically if we slept more, we’d be more efficient and productive.

In the modern world today, sleep is underrated. Dr. James B. Maas, a pioneer of sleep research at Cornell University states in his groundbreaking book on sleep says:

Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of:

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • And Alzheimer’s

Even minimal sleep loss can have profound detrimental effects on:

  • Mood
  • Cognition
  • Performance
  • Productivity
  • Communication skills
  • Accident rates
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Cardiovascular functioning
  • Immune system

And it’s getting worse by the decade.

The benefits of a good night’s sleep

  • Improved concentration and productivity
  • A better chance of achieving your weight-loss goal 
  • Improved problem-solving skills
  • Enhance memory performance
  • Better athletic performance
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Feeling more relaxed and emotional wellbeing
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved interpersonal relationships
  • Reduced and controlled blood pressure
  • Reduced chance of diabetes
  • Increased pain threshold

Sleep could be the most important discovery to better health, balanced moods, energy and cognitive function, and maybe it is time to top being one of those people who believe you can manage on just a few hours a night.

Exercise

70% of Brits waste £500 every year on unused gym memberships, fitness kit and sports clothes.

A research study measured participants’ creativity in four separate experiments in different settings: sitting, sitting outside, walking on a treadmill, and walking outside. Creative thinking was boosted during and immediately after walking, and with walking outside producing the most novel and highest quality analogies.

According to research by The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association, exercise plays a major role in the prevention and control of insulin resistance, prediabetes, GDM, type 2 diabetes, and other diabetes-related health complications.

And a study by professor Patrick O’Connor of the University of Georgia, found that just 20 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exercise, like walking, performed three times a week can increase energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent. According to one of the researchers, Tim Puetz, “A single step is not just a step closer to a healthier body, but also to a healthier mind.”

The Chronological Benefits Of Exercise

2012 study by Swedish researchers of healthy but inactive adults found the following chronological benefits for exercise:

Within minutes
  • Genetic material in your muscle cells begin alter to improve gene expression, strength and metabolism
  • Your heart rate, blood and oxygen levels to the brain increase and improve alertness and focus
  • Endorphins are released, blocking pain signals and increase your levels of happiness and for some people giving the sense of a runners high
  • Depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise, your body begins to use different energy systems, like ketones, and will burn extra fat cells
  • The lungs begin to convert oxygen more efficiently, breathing becomes deeper and the body transfers oxygen to the muscles more efficiently
Within one hour of exercise
  • Mood-enhancing chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, flood your brain, which can last for a couple of hours post-exercise
  • Exercise elevates your immune system fighting off colds, flu, and other ailments
  • For every 100 calories you burn during your workout, you continue to burn an additional 15 to 25 calories for a while after
Within 1 day
  • After a strength training exercise, your body starts to repair the microscopic tears in the muscle fibers and increase muscle density
  • After cardio exercise, your blood pressure will lower for up to 16 hours
  • According to research by Duke University, vigorous cardiovascular exercise, such as a fast walk run or a run, can lower LDL levels (bad cholesterol)
  • Every training session that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat boosts your immune system for up to 24 hours
Within 1 month
  • You increase your VO2 max (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise) by approximately 5%
  • Your muscular endurance is starts to increase and your ability to perform extra repetitions
  • Your body replaces fat for muscle
  • Your gain extra visible muscle mass and increased strength
  • The increased muscle mass means you burn more calories even when resting
After 2 to 3 months
  • Your endurance and aerobic fitness should improve by approximately 25 %
  • Your heart will work more efficiently, lowering your resting heart rate and your blood, which lowers the risk of heart attack
  • Your body is able to break down fat cells more efficiently and converts fat to energy rather than storing it
  • These are just some of the many health benefits to encourage you take regular exercise and stave off preventable illness and disease

A Daily Walk Can Add Seven Years To Your Life

Walking is a perfect exercise. It’s enjoyable, free, you get to sightsee and from a mental and physical health perspective you can’t beat it. It really is the perfect exercise. You can exercise with your children and become a role model for them to appreciate the benefits of exercise.

A study by Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals in London, explains:

Part of what makes a walk so beneficial is that whilst walking you aren’t sitting, and sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, along with an increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality (source – University of Toronto).

According to Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University, Obesity Solutions Initiative, not exercising is the equivalent of smoking a packet of cigarettes every day.