3 Tips For Optimal Health 

     Search the AGPT blog for more posts like this: 

Public health is a huge concern of almost everyone in one way or another.  Everyone should try to optimise their own health. Nothing frustrates me more than seeing people struggle with their appearance, mood, mental clarity and energy to name but a few. At the same time their body fat levels show that they are borderline morbidly obese. Doesn’t it strike you as coincidental that more often than not it is fat, overweight people who rarely exercise and eat an inordinate amount of crappy unhealthy food are the one’s with appearance, mood, cognitive, energy and libido issues? More often than not it is these people who are chronically fatigued.  We are supposed to live until 100 years old not suffer from inordinate amounts of disease after just 20 years of life; we all need to work on creating an environment for optimal health.

I experienced parenthood for the last two days and I enjoyed it.  Of course I’m not trying to undermine how difficult it must be to rear kids but I will say that being highly active and eating a good, healthy diet played a big role in why my energy wasn’t zapped. Sleeping in is a luxury for parents with kids of school going age and I am under no illusion that the effects of being a real parent may accumulate over time but eating well and fitting in some exercise when you can will have a profound effect on your ability to stay healthy, energetic and keep in good shape.  Most parents health status is far below optimal I would imagine.

Do you wake up and feel groggy every morning?  Do you claim to need a coffee to get you going?  Do you dread the thought of getting out of bed?  If you answered yes to any of these then you need to make a change (Chek, 2009).

More often than not the reasons for these issues are so obvious it will make you sick. You could be eating foods that don’t work well with your body, not sleeping enough, not exercising, not exercising properly or under a lot of stress.  We are not all designed to eat the same types of food.  As an example; different cars take different types of fuel, right?  What makes you any different to a car?  Fill your body with the wrong type of fuel and it will tell you.  Just because you don’t break out in hives doesn’t mean all food is good for your body. Fatigue is the #1 example of how we react badly to different foods. Do you feel a little sluggish after a particular meal?  If so you will be best served to avoid it.  In my case pasta makes me extremely tired almost immediately after eating it.  Large amounts of low fibre carbohydrates in one sitting generally make me feel bloated and sluggish.  These are my body’s way of telling me it doesn’t want these foods (Chek, 2009).


 


Do You Get Enough Sleep?

Most people underestimate the value of adequate sleep and most people tend not to get enough sleep as it is. For optimal body function you need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.  You may be saying to yourself you get enough sleep but just because you spend 7-9 hours in bed doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting quality sleep.  Sleep quality is far more important than sleep quantity.  You should not feel groggy after 7-9 hours in bed (Wilson, 2006; Chek, 2009; Holford, 2012).  You should wake up without an alarm and want to get at the day.  Fatigue can induce impaired gluconeogenesis (your body’s ability to use fat and protein for energy), rapid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), sodium loss and potassium retention (Wilson, 2006). What’s interesting about this situation is due to the stress your body is under, despite having low blood sugar, there tends to be rather high levels of blood insulin meaning you are going to become progressively more overweight and at risk of type 2 diabetes. The net result of these is a miserable, tired feeling.  Small things can make an inordinate amount of difference in the quality of your sleep;

  1. Turn off all electronics.  Yes this includes your phone.  With the advancements in phones of late almost everybody has some sort of notification waiting for them every morning be it from email, twitter, instagram or your ‘hardcore’ friends posting annoying late night Facebook updates and photos.  If you leave your phone on at night your are more likely to be woken.  Turn it off, whatever it is can wait until the morning.  For those of you that use your phones as alarm clocks Invest in an alarm clock (preferably a battery-powered one) (Gooley et al. 2011;Chek, 2009).
  2. Have no lights shining.  That even means covering the red LED from your alarm clock. Get curtains that leave the room in complete darkness.  You may not think it but light from the night sky also affects your sleep quality.  I can never understand how people can sleep without drawing their curtains (I have a few people in mind) (Gooley et al. 2011; Chek, 2009).
  3. Stop playing video games or doing anything that gives your brain a lot of stimulation. You should be winding down an hour before bed.  Ever find that your brain won’t stop going when all you want to do is sleep?  Try and read before bed and dump all your work or college thoughts until the next day. Many people worry about what they have to do tomorrow.  A good technique I have starting doing lately is making a list of everything I have to do in order of priority in the evening.  It is often referred to as a ‘brain dump’, it helps you to forget about what has to be done until the morning (Chek, 2009).

     3 Tips For Optimal Health

    3 Tips For Optimal Health

  4. Have a cool room temperature.  This one might sound a bit ridiculous to some of you.  A cold room is far more conducive to high quality sleep than a warm room.  Your body temperature naturally drops through the night. The cooler your body is the better your sleep will be. Try taking a cold shower before bed. This is ideal for anybody that works out late at night.  And no you shouldn’t be wearing socks and a hoody to bed that’s just downright ridiculous.  Unless you live in a house with below freezing temperatures, then you should wear a hat to bed, I’m speaking from experience here from my poor student days.
  5. Eliminate caffeine after 3pm.  I am a culprit for this one myself.  You may think having a coffee after your dinner is not problem as you fall asleep just fine. Again, I come back to the sleep quality issue. You may fall asleep easily but caffeine is a stimulant and will in fact continue to stimulate your central nervous system throughout the night this upsetting your sleep quality (Chek, 2009).

  6. Eliminate high carbohydrate meals 3 hours before bedtime. Remember that carbohydrates cause a large spike in blood sugar which in turn gives you a boost in energy.  Try a moderate protein and fat meal is you want to eat close to bedtime (Richards, 2005).
  7. Go to bed earlier.  Midnight is not a good time to go to bed.  You should be sound asleep by 10.30 at night (Richards, 2005).

Exercise

Find me someone who exercises PROPERLY and eats relatively well that doesn’t feel good.  Unless they have some other underlying health issue then you won’t find one. Even if you do think you find someone you will never know unless they change their diet and exercise regime to see if it makes them feel better.With regard to exercise let me clarify from the beginning; walking is not exercise, it’s locomotion, meaning it’s something you have to do for life.  If you feel like crap, are tired don’t think walking will fix your problem. Granted it has it’s place for overall longevity but for health & fitness purposes you may as well just stay in bed if walking if your medicine. For those that are short on time, all you need is 10-15 minutes a few days each week. Everyone has this time; it;s just a matter of allocating it to exercise.  You may feel like you don’t want to exercise but you have to force yourself at the beginning.  Examples of the initial benefits for those with chronic fatigue and health complications include (Wilson, 2003; Harrower HR. 1922);

 

  1. Increased blood flow which helps prevent plaque accumulation in your arteries and stimulates your liver which enables it to perform its 3000+ daily functions more effectively
  2. Exercise will also help to normalise cortisol, insulin, blood glucose, growth hormone, thyroid hormones among others
  3. Drives oxygen to your brain.

Do some HIIT at home e.g. pick an exercise like burpees, mountain climbers, squat jumps etc, do it as fast as possible for 15-30 seconds, rest for the same time and repeat for 10-12 minutes. Try it out and tell me it was easy.

Diet

Your diet is the overall key.  Reduce or eliminate sugary foods e.g. biscuits, cakes, sweets, ice cream, pastries.  Also eliminate poor carbohydrate sources like pasta, white rice, almost all breakfast cereals and most breads (except spelt or rye for example) (Pollan, 2008). Base your meals around proteins such as; chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel to name but a few, include a large base of vegetables and highly fibrous, slow releasing carbohydrates such as; quinoa, oatmeal, beans, brown rice, basmati rice and cous cous (Taubes, 2009).  If your main meals are in check then you will see and feel amazing improvements. Make small changes at first and build on them over time rather than instantly changing your entire diet.  Remember that you must aim to eat REAL FOOD.  Things with wrappers and more than three ingredients aren’t food rather they are diseases disguised as food (Gussow, 2003).  Check out this recipe site, that shows you how to cook healthy versions of your favourite desserts.

 

Closing Thoughts

Make some of these changes to your life, you will reap the rewards.  Remember, nobody is asking you to be perfect.  Just make small changes and you will see the benefits.

  1. Sleep Better
  2. Exercise Smarter
  3. Eat Better
  4. Eliminate Needless Stressors in Your Life (This basically encompasses every one of the above four points)