Listening to Your Body

Listen To Your Body | Harmony Yoga Redondo Hermosa Manhattan Beach ...

Your body has a lot to say and is in constant communication with you.  Whether or not you are listening is the issue.  From waking up in the morning feeling tired to craving certain foods to feeling sore; your body is trying to tell you what it needs in order to be at its best.  I am going to try to cover these various messages your body is giving you in as succinct a way as possible, because each message could be a blog post in itself.

Let’s start with cravings.  Cravings can indicate anything from you aren’t taking in enough calories to support your expenditure, to some type of memory has been triggered that is making you want a certain food, to your hormones being at work, just to name a few reasons.  To avoid turning this into a psychology and physiology paper as I explain the interplay of memory and hormones on food cravings, I will just be talking about taking in calories to meet expenditure.  When you are undereating your body wants to get in energy as fast as possible in order to refuel.  This is why we tend to reach for the bag of chips or the cookies because our bodies have learned we can get a lot of calories in very quickly and often it is pretty tasty.  Learning to take in the proper number of calories to support your daily life is very important.  Your goals determine how you should be eating; when looking to lose weight and get leaner you will need to take in calories at a deficit, when you are looking to put on mass and get bigger you will need to take in calories at a surplus, and when just looking to stay where you are and support your daily life you should be eating at a balance.  This equation doesn’t look the same for everyone though, it isn’t as simple as just eat less than what you expend to lose weight and eat more than you expend to gain weight.  Each person is different and will respond to diets in a different way.

Waking up in the morning feeling tired can indicate that your quality of sleep during the night wasn’t that great or that you are not getting enough sleep.  Getting enough sleep is an easier correction to make than trying to figure out how to improve sleep quality.  Having a daily schedule and bed-time routine helps make getting the proper number of hours of sleep a little easier.  If you know you are going to wake up at say 6am every day, and that you want to get 8 hours of sleep then you should be in bed and asleep by 10pm every night. In order to make that happen you should develop a bed-time routine that allows you to be in bed and asleep at 10pm.  This can look something like finishing dinner by 8:30pm every night, turning off the television and putting away other screens (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) by 9pm, having a book to read before you go to sleep, and maybe you have a white noise machine to help you fall asleep as well.  We as humans like structure, and by creating a routine for falling asleep it will help signal to your body over time that once ‘x,y,z’ happen you should be asleep.  Now waking up feeling tired due to poor sleep quality can be signs of not eating enough as well, having high levels of stress which causes your body to release cortisol outside the natural circadian rhythm, or you could have some illness present causing you to not get in a good sleep.  Depending on what the reason is for sleep quality determines what step you need to take next to improve the quality of sleep. (That is post for another time though)

Now to address being sore.  It is good to be sore because it means you have challenged your muscles enough be in a state of re-synthesis.  You worked out hard and now your muscles are repairing themselves.  It is not good to be so sore you can’t move every single day of the week.  Being in a constant state of muscle repair means that you never give your muscles a chance to fully recover and this can lend itself to injury.  Click here to read a previous post of mine on the benefits of resting and taking a day off from your training.

So, if you are reading this sentence, I am going to assume you clicked that link and read (or re-read s/o my loyal following) my previous blog post.  Taking a day off from anything is important to both physical and mental health.  You need to step back from whatever it is you do during the week in order to come back to it refreshed and excited to work at it again.  My fitness fanatics are probably thinking in their heads right now, but what about an active recovery day?  Yes, those are good but what are you calling active recovery?  For me an active recovery day is a leisurely walk or a casual bike ride.  It isn’t me jumping into the pool and swimming laps (no matter how slow I am going, swimming is actually a very interesting exercise modality when it comes to energy expenditure), or going for a long run, or going to the gym and doing accessory lifts.  Active recovery should be incredibly low impact compared to your weekly training.  There is nothing wrong with moving on an off day, but this movement shouldn’t be intense or high impact.  Off days are intended to be for taking your foot off the gas and giving your body the chance to recover and refresh.

This turned out to be longer than I intended, but the thoughts just kept flowing.  The sad part is I could have written even more, the science behind all of this are textbook chapters in exercise physiology.  What I want to be the takeaway here is listen to your body, it knows what it is saying and wants to support you as best as it can.  Taking a day off is fine, taking multiple days off is fine, you need to listen to what your body needs when it comes to rest.  Eat well and eat to support your goals, you get one chance and one body when it comes to living life, so live life well and treat your body right.

Sleep!!

As promised, here is my post about the importance of sleep.  There are so many reasons why you need to get a sufficient amount of sleep every night.  Unfortunately there isn’t enough caffeine in the world to make up for lost sleep(trust me, I have tried to find that magic number of cups of coffee that would make me feel fully rested).

Sleep and your muscles.  While you enter deep sleep there is a gland in your brain, the pituitary gland, which releases growth hormone.  Growth hormone helps with tissue growth and repairs muscles.  If you don’t get the right amount of sleep, which has been said to be between 8-10 hours a night, you miss out on the benefits of growth hormone release.  It is very important for those of you who participate in strength and endurance trainings regularly to get closer to the 10 hours of sleep a night because your muscles are under a lot of strain very regularly.  When working to build muscle there is a tiny bit of muscle breakdown occurring, which is like a very small muscle tear, so extra sleep is very important to help those muscles recover and get healthy again.  If you are looking to improve performance getting the proper amount of sleep every night can be crucial to keeping your performance at levels at which you want to be performing.    

If you are looking to have a healthier life and you related more to my nutrition tracking post and the points about wanting to look and feel better, then getting the proper amount of sleep can play a big role in how you are looking and feeling.  Another hormone that sleep has a close relationship with is cortisol.  Cortisol is a stress related hormone that rises and falls as our stress levels rise and fall.  We want our cortisol levels to be highest as we wake up and during the beginning portions of our days when we are most active and doing the most stuff.  As we ready ourselves for sleep our cortisol levels should be lowering.  High cortisol levels make it hard for our body to relax, and if we are not sleeping properly our sleep-wake cycle will be thrown off, which will make it hard for our bodies to regulate our cortisol levels properly.  When our cortisol levels are out of balance there are many biological problems that can arise, in particular there are metabolic and digestive issues.  Our body will have issues regulating our metabolism and cortisol is a sign for our body to store fat.  If we aren’t sleeping we are putting our bodies under unnecessary stress, thus raising our cortisol levels and telling our bodies to store body fat. 

So if you are trying to look and feel better and you are eating right and exercising, but still not getting the results you want, I suggest you take a look at your sleep patterns.  Are there multiple days in a row where you are thinking you slept great because you got 6 hours of sleep?  Are you putting a lot of stress on yourself, whether it is work, school, relationships, or even exercising?  Are you trying to make up for a bad night(nights) of sleep with large coffees with   double shots of espresso?  If you relate to these questions I want you to try to work on getting 8 good hours of sleep every night and see if there are changes to how you look and feel.  Some things that may help you get to sleep would be investing in black out curtains, a white noise machine, not sitting on your phone until you fall asleep, and avoid doing things besides sleeping in your bed(like for me I really need to stop doing my homework and other things like that in my bed).  Maybe try to read a book before you fall asleep, turn on the white noise machine, and turn off lights and make your room as dark and cool as you can.  You want to get a good, uninterrupted, 8 hours of sleep, and you should because your body does so many amazing things for you everyday, all day long(even while you sleep), so the least you can do is give your body 8 hours every night to relax and unwind and reboot.  Not to mention sleep is important to your mental health(Mental health might be my next post, depending on what I get inspired by this upcoming week)

Thanks for reading everyone! You are all awesome.  This was another long one, so thank you for sticking with me on this and reading through what I had to say.  Please comment if you have any questions or comment if you have a topic you would like me to talk about.