4 Hacks to a better night’s sleep


Hey there motivated individual! I have a new challenge for you. Guess what? It’s harder than any whole-food-eating, gallon-of-water-drinking, couch-to-5k challenge you’ve ever tried.

Not only that, but if you complete it successfully I promise you’ll never want to stop.

That’s why I’m challenging you to 1 month of restful nights sleep!

So why is that so hard? Because for some reason our culture idolizes the overworked, overtired, puffy eyed stories of grinding day in and day out with insufficient sleep. We seem to overvalue sacrifice and undervalue our bodies. Not only that, but I think we all forget what it feels like to operate as our 100% rested and ready to go selves. I promise that if you invest in your rest you’ll never want to go without it again.

Let’s dig in to some techniques to help us prepare for an awesome night’s sleep!

 

Optimize Your Environment

Do more of this:

 

Make it dark

Our bodies sleep cycle is regulated by a hormone called Melatonin, produced in the Pineal gland. Melatonin is released as the day grows dark and tells our bodies to begin shutting down. Any exposure of our bodies to light will reduce the release of Melatonin and could potentially disrupt the sleep cycle. Try blackout curtains, removing any sources of light in the bedroom, or even a sleep mask to really turn out the lights!

 

Turn down the thermostat

As drowsy as it makes us to sit by the fire, it actually isn’t ideal to be in a hot environment for a good night’s rest. According to Dr. Peter Attia, “the lowering of our body temperature at night is a cue for our brains that it’s time to go to sleep and increases the proportion of time we’re in delta-wave (translation: deep) sleep.” So what’s the ideal temperature? Most studies show that 68 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleep.

Don’t do that!:

 

Checking email before bed

Technology and sleep appear to be mortal enemies. A very “neither can live while the other survives,” Harry Potter/Lord Voldemort type of scenario. Staring at a screen make our bodies think we still need to be alert, active, and ready for action. AKA not drowsy, calm, or relaxed. Best practice: No screens in the bedroom. Turn off phones, computers, and television 30-60 minutes before bedtime to let your body know it’s time to shut down.

 

Smart Consumption

Do more of this:

 

Eat protein before bed.

To ensure a restful night of sleep it is important to be aware of how we’re fueling our bodies throughout the day.Some studies have shown that eating a high protein snack before bed

resulted in significantly fewer wake episodes compared to carbohydrate based snacks or a placebo. Try a protein shake, a late night omelette, or some greek yogurt and peanut butter to fuel your slumber.

 

Don’t do that!:

Drink coffee after 12pm.

Caffeine can have seriously disrupting effects on your sleep.Try to avoid alcohol, tea, and any beverages that alter your state, dehydrate, or have you running to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

 

Develop a Routine:

Do more of this:

 

Set a bedtime alarm.

We are creatures of habit and our routines have a profound effect on how our bodies behave. By scheduling out a bedtime routine each night our bodies will be primed for a great night of sleep. Try setting a bedtime alarm 8 or 9 hours before you wish to wake up. This is the cue to start your bedtime routine. Put your cellphone away, take care of your bathroom business, and settle down in bed with a fictional book or a journal to reflect on your day.

 

Don’t do that!:

Wait until you’re tired.

Consistency is king when it comes to a good night’s sleep. If you want to wake up rested you have to exercise the discipline to shut down at a reasonable hour each night. Whether it’s turning off the TV or signing out of work emails, it has to be an active choice. If you continue to stimulate your mind, it won’t be able to recognize that it has to shut down for the night.

 

Use your physiology to unwind

Do more of this:

 

Stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system

Our bodies respond to the environment and are always in one of two modes.

Sympathetic aka “Fight or Flight”

Parasympathetic aka “Rest and Digest”

We can hack our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the healing benefits of our rest and digest state. Try taking a hot bath before bed, gently massaging or foam rolling your muscles, or practicing long slow deep breathing.

 

Don’t do that!:

Strenuous Exercise

Exercise is incredible and will often help promote a deeper sleep. However don’t try to squeeze your workout in too close to bedtime. Training will ramp up your bodies Fight or Flight response and it may take some time to wind down after the fact. Try to wrap up your workout 2 hours before bed and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.

 

How Eating Better Makes You Feel Better



Nutrition is an individual journey. We owe it to ourselves to determine which foods and what style of eating works best for our bodies. Just like learning any new skill, nutrition takes practice.

The goal should be to develop an approach to eating that makes you feel great, maintain a healthy body, and achieve your goals. We all run into moments of weakness around food, but if your current diet makes you feel angry or sad on a daily basis it’s time for a change.

Let’s take a look at some different ways that eating better can make you feel better:

 

Improved mental function


Our brain is the control center of the body and just like our muscles and organs it requires fuel to keep it going. In fact, some studies have shown that the brain uses up to 20% of our body’s daily energy.

Focusing on eating to improve our brains function is a great way to feel better. 
The brain loves wild fish like salmon and mackerel. That’s because these fish contain omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. DHA helps our brain send signals to our body and improves our memories. Try adding 1-2 servings of wild caught fish each week to get an optimal dose.


The foods we eat determine the way our body and mind perform. Next time you reach for that donut try to picture how your brain will run using the donut as fuel. Instead look for some fresh veggies and hummus, a handful of nuts, or a stick of turkey jerky to give your brain some jet fuel to run on.

 

Add Muscle, Burn Fat

The battle to fit back in those jeans from college starts and ends in the kitchen. No amount of exercise can overcome an unhealthy diet. Figuring out the right foods in your diet is the key to unlocking your ideal body composition. Imagine how good it would feel to go out on your anniversary wearing the suit from your wedding rehearsal! Protein is known for building muscle but it can do more for your body than help you recover after a workout.

Set the bar at breakfast. A high protein breakfast is one of the best ways to improve body composition. Studies have shown that consuming 30g of protein at breakfast helps with satiety and improves glycemic control. This means less desire to snack on high carbohydrate or sugary snacks later in the day. One study showed that participants who ate a high protein breakfast on average consumed 441 calories fewer each day!

 

Foods that light you up

Eating is often thought of for fueling performance, but food plays another important role as the building block of our cells. Certain foods help build healthy hair, skin, and nails.

If you’re looking for a youthful glow and to get carded until you’re 50 try these 3 superfoods:

  • Avocado. Rich in vitamins A, D , E, and many phytonutrients; avocado promote supple skin, help prevent environmental damage and prevent signs of aging.
  • Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for forming collagen which holds hair particles together.
  • Lentils contain Folate, a B vitamin needed to repair cells in your fingernails and skin.  

 

Get Creative


Preparing meals from whole foods can be a fun and relaxing part of the day. Learn how to season dishes using herbs, spices, and complementary pairings. This eliminates “empty calories” from your diet that show up in sugary sauces and dressings.

One thing that may help with meal prep is already have the meals that you want to eat planned out before you go to the grocery store, so that way you know exactly what you need instead of wondering and finding yourself in the cookie aisle.

Eating is a time for bonding and camaraderie, get together with family and friends to create a new dish. Focus on great conversation, chewing your food, and turning off the TV and electronics. By giving new meaning and tradition to your meals, eating can be a source of enjoyment beyond just the food.

 

“It’s Gotta Be The Shoes”


Our feet are an essential part of daily life, let alone working out. Having the right footwear to protect your feet is the key. Most athletes go-to is running shoes. Which, if you’re running late because of traffic or just life in general and that’s all you have in the car, it’s perfectly fine, but if you’re really serious about getting fit and staying injury-free, you probably want something a little more specific. Let’s dig in to see what shoes are best recommend for working out depending on your particular gym needs.

 

Best Shoes For Running

Running shoes are built for heel-to-toe movement and the higher heel drop in running shoes comes from added support and cushioning. For the people with flat feet, shoe companies make specially tailored motion-control shoes that are heavy, stiff, and less flexible. These shoes offer a greater support to the inner part of the feet. Some athletes with flat feet might have a pronation problem. Pronation is the way your feet roll when you run or walk. It is basically the inward rolling motion of the joint located below the ankle. For higher arched feet, there are neutral shoes that are very flexible and have extra cushioning. For the feet with a normal arch, there are shoes with moderate arch support and midsole cushioning.

Best Shoes For CrossFit

CrossFit shoes are designed to have your foot feel like it’s on the ground, not on a cloud or a marshmallow, stability is key. Muscle gain does not just means biceps and quads, you want your foot to get stronger as well, and wearing shoes that have your feet closer to the ground will allow your feet to do so. You always hear a coach yelling stay on your heels, when it’s hard to do when your running shoes are designed to put you on your toes. Shoes that are designed specifically CrossFit keep that drop to a minimum, preventing you from pitching forward onto your toes during your lifts. A firmer sole allows better transfer of energy and stability when squatting, cleaning, deadlifting, and snatching, a soft, squishy soles in running shoes will mute your power and create an unstable surface especially on the days you want to hit a PR.

Best Shoes For Weightlifting

Some of us like to throw around a barbell, but when it gets heavy often times mobility becomes the problem. Weightlifting shoes is a great investment for weightlifting. The most recognizable shoes are designed for Olympic lifts. Example’s are the snatch and the clean and jerk, which have thick soles and high, solid heels. The shoe’s are designed with a raised heel which allows for a deeper squat while still staying upright through the torso also increases balance and ankle and shin mobility.That does not mean totally abandon your normal workout shoes to gain flexibility. Yes, weightlifting shoes are great but you do not want to depend on them just to get in a good squat position. On the other end of the spectrum are flat-soled shoes, which are ideal for deadlifts because they will maximize a your contact with the ground and can really drive through your heels.

With that being said, there is a time and a place for each of the shoes, it all depends on the work out.  If you’re doing the hero wod Murph, you are running 2 miles in the workout, running shoes are great. Another popular workout is Fran, 45 thrusters and pull ups in total, weightlifting shoes would be a benefit in the squat position. Finally, Diane, a total of 45 deadlifts and handstand push ups, perfect time to pull out the CrossFit shoes. Having all three will allow you to maximize your fullest potential.

 

Debunking Dietary Supplements


The world of dietary supplement can be overwhelming at the very least and downright misleading at some times. Here are a few supplements that have been put to the test through numerous studies to prove their safety and efficacy. After reading this you’ll have a better idea of the sports supplements that work, how to take the right dosage for your needs, and the populations that would benefit the most.

Whey protein

Whey protein concentrate is possibly the world’s most popular sports supplement today. Whey protein concentrate is micro-filtered and not heat treated to produce ultra pure protein. This process ensures that the protein stays intact and as pure as it can be. It also means the powder to mix easily and achieve a smooth texture, giving you the perfect protein shake. Whey protein concentrate is rich in both BCAA‘s and Glutamine. This makes it the ideal protein to help build muscle size, definition and aid recovery.

Whey Protein Isolate

While whey protein concentrate has a protein content of around 80%, the protein content of whey protein isolate is more like 90%. This is because whey protein isolate undergoes a process called Cross-Flow Micro-Filtration. This separates the protein from fat, cholesterol and lactose meaning a purer protein as the end product.Whey protein isolate is believed to have less fat, cholesterol, lactose, carbohydrates and calories than most other proteins on the market. It is therefore a common choice for those looking to maintain low levels of body fat but who still require the protein to help their muscles repair and recover.

Whey Concentrate Vs Whey Isolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is this debate on which one is better, whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate. The truth is there is no outright winner and it largely depends on your personal fitness goals. Whey protein isolate has a higher protein content and is lower in carbohydrates, lactose and fat.

Dosage: A commonly recommended intake is 1–2 scoops (around 25–50 grams) per day, usually after workouts.

Creatine Monohydrate

Overview: Creatine is perhaps the most commonly consumed supplement in the sports performance world and for good reason. It is has been proven to increase muscle mass, improve exercise performance, and even offers cognitive benefits.

Dosage: The benefits of creatine monohydrate can be obtained by orally consuming 3-5 grams per day. This amount has proven to be safe for long term consumption with no adverse effects.

Who can benefit: The wide ranging benefits of creatine make it an attractive supplement for a wide variety of individuals including athletes, vegans, and elderly populations. This could be a good choice for you if you’re interested in improving strength, gaining muscle, increasing energy, or improving brain functions.

Beta Alanine

Overview: Beta alanine is a non essential amino acid that is popular for improving athletic performance. It has been shown to improve time to exhaustion (TTE) and improved sports performance in tested cyclists and rowers. Beta Alanine acts by increasing Carnosine levels in the muscle. Carnosine helps buffer the acid that builds up in muscle during exercise allowing the muscle to perform at a higher capacity for longer.

Dosage: Subjects have shown benefits when consuming between 2-5 grams daily.

Who can benefit: Individuals who participate in high intensity exercise could experience performance benefits by supplementing with beta alanine.

Beta Vulgaris aka Beet Extract

Overview: Beet supplements have gained popularity recently as studies have shown them to be at the root of some major athletic achievements. Beets are a highly concentrated source of nitrates (NO3) that the body converts to nitric dioxide (NO2) a vasodilator. Vasodilators can improve athletic performance by increasing blood flow  and allowing more oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Athletes who supplemented with Beet Juice showed significant improve when compared to athletes who consumed a placebo. These athletes showed an increase in time to exhaustion (TTE) tests.

Dosage: 400mg-500mg consumed 2-3 hours before the time of competition is recommended to ensure optimal effects of the beet juice. Some studies have shown that daily supplementation of beet juice starting 6 days before the competition could provide greater benefit than same day consumption only.

Who can benefit: Athletes who are looking to improve their performance in an event that tests their aerobic capacity may want to give this safe food supplement a try!

*Note: The effects of beet juice seem to have a negative correlation with caffeine so don’t mix your beets with coffee.

Fish Oil

Overview: Most of us are no stranger to fish oil and may have taken it for one reason or another. Fish oil has been studied extensively and the benefits range from improved cognitive health, to reduced inflammation, heart health, upregulating anabolic pathways, and even boosting mood. The key desired ingredients are the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Top of the line supplements will have high levels of these fats and represent the quality of the product.

Dosage: Consumption levels of 1-5 grams daily are popular, speak with your doctor and discuss if a fish oil supplement is a good fit for your needs.

Who can benefit: Athletes, the elderly population, expecting mothers and children all can benefit from a fish oil supplement.

If you have any questions on supplements feel free to reach out. A couple of supplements that we offer inside of the gym are pre workout, BCAA, and whey protein made by Core Extreme.

 

Coffee, Wine, Bacon, and Fitness


The truth about some of your favorite indulgences!

When you’ve gotten into a consistent fitness routine and finally started to feel good about the healthy choices you are making you tend to adopt a few new favorite foods along the way. At the top of the list for many folks are coffee, wine, and bacon. These foods are dietary staples in the fitness community and seem to fall somewhere in the category of “not bad enough to worry about and maybe even good for you.” Obviously with this kind of grey area it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the health benefits and potential pitfalls that can occur when eating these favorite foods.

Coffee

More than 450 million cups of coffee are consumed everyday in the United States alone. Coffee also happens to be the world’s number one source of antioxidants due to widespread consumption and high levels of polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Despite its amazing capacity to fight free radicals in our body most people reach for a “cup of joe” each morning for one reason only. That energizing boost of energy from it’s high caffeine content.

Caffeine has become a huge catalyst for many of us to have a productive start to our day. For some of us taking one day without it and WHOA, watch out! Caffeine is also a popular beverage choice before a workout due to the increase in focus, energy, and alertness that make us feel ready to perform. Caffeine has even been shown to reduce pain associated with exercise making it a truly powerful training partner. Caffeine may also create a more favorable environment in the cells of muscle tissue that facilitate force production.

It also turns out that a cup of coffee can be beneficial post workout as well. When we exercise our bodies utilize glycogen, a form of glucose stored in our muscles, as a fuel source. In one study it was observed that athletes who consumed caffeine with carbohydrates after exercise had 66% more glycogen in their muscles 4 hours later. This significant boost in glycogen storage means you have set the tone for success in your next workout in terms of available energy.

Challenges arise when the quantity and timing of caffeine consumption begin to interfere with rest and recovery. Caffeine has been shown to interrupt sleep even when consumed 6 hours before bed time. Individual caffeine sensitivity can vary from person to person so you need to really listen to your body.

Wine

Red wine has long been touted as “heart healthy” and the best choice if you do wish to drink. However if you are a competitive athlete, trying to build muscle, or on a mission to lose fat there really isn’t much of a place for alcohol in your diet. After all, alcohol is merely empty calories (it will only contribute to fat gain, not lean muscle growth) and interferes with sleep, testosterone production, and puts extra wear and tear on your already busy liver. If you do find yourself in a situation where a drink is fitting, red wine tends to be a better than cocktails and heavy beers when it comes to calories and sugar.

What about the heart health benefits and antioxidants in red wine, don’t those make a glass worth it a few times a week?

Yes and No. And mostly no…

The link between red wine and heart health is still unclear and a positive correlation between the two has not been found. Red wine also doesn’t seem to perform better than other alcohols in its effect on cholesterol and heart health. Some of the hype around red wine comes from its resveratrol content. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skins of grapes. It is possible that resveratrol reduces LDL levels and prevents blood clots. Unfortunately to consume high levels of this nutrient means drinking more alcohol and creating other potential health problems. Resveratrol supplements may not be absorbed that well so look for other good sources in foods like blueberries, peanuts, and plain old unfermented grapes!

Bacon

Bacon. Crispy. Crunchy. Delicious.
Is there any dish that can’t be improved by its presence?
Bacon may be the most controversial and beloved food in existence. In the wake of the paleo dietary movement and a shift in the way our country views dietary fat intake bacon has become the “little cheat food that could” for folks in the fitness community.

Bacon is made from pork belly and contains high levels of both monounsaturated and saturated fats. Bacon contains the monounsaturated fat oleic acid which is found in other healthy fats like olive oil. Saturated fat, long considered a culprit of heart disease actually plays an important role in our body’s signaling mechanisms. The ratio of different fats in the diet, genetics, and lifestyle choices all contribute to how much saturated fat we can consume for our optimal health.

So it turns out that bacon may not be so bad for you after all, but you have to be choosy. You have to consider the quality of the pork and the processing it undergoes during the curing that transforms bacon into the product we all know and love. The process generally involves curing the cuts of pork belly with salt and sugar and then the application of heat through a smoking process. There is also generally the application of some form of nitrates or nitrites to help preserve quality and appearance of the bacon.

For starters when you select your bacon product focus on where the pork came from and how it was raised. The tops brands will be pasture raised or humanely raised and organic is definitely an appropriate choice for this food. Next you will want the ingredients list to be short and not too sweet. That means pork, water, sea salt, and a small amount of sugar in the form of brown sugar or maple syrup. If you see a long list of preservatives and words you don’t recognize steer clear.

Finally some brands will use different sources of nitrates, even if the brand claims to be nitrate free it will often contain an ingredient like celery powder which has naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates can convert to a carcinogenic compound known as “nitrosamines” under high temperatures. If you like your bacon crispy and brittle then you increase the chance of consuming these compounds. No fear, our body blocks the effects of these carcinogens in the presence of Vitamin C so grab a slice of orange or grapefruit with your bacon to play it safe!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to enjoy your “healthy” vices in the most appropriate ways possible. If you have questions about nutrition and how other dietary and lifestyle choices are affecting your training it can help to discuss them with a qualified coach who is experienced with nutrition as well.

The Sweet CrossFit


WORKOUT

12 minutes of:

5 push-ups

5 sit-ups

5 squats

Try to get as many rounds as possible in the 12 minutes.

STANDARDS

Push-up: Come all the way down to where your chest and thighs are both touching the ground. Fully lock out your arms at the top. *Tip: keep your hands right under your shoulders.

Sit-up: Lower yourself backwards until your shoulder blades touch the ground at the bottom. Using only your abdominal muscles bring yourself all the way up to where your back is flat and vertical at the top (perpendicular to the ground). *Tip: Aim to touch your shoes or sit in front of a wall and aim for the wall.

Squats: Keeping your shins as vertical as possible, push your knees outward and sit back as if you were sitting down into a chair. Move downward until your hip crease is below the top of your knee (below parallel). Fully stand up at the top with the hips completely open.

MODIFICATIONS

Push-up:

Level 1 – Place your knees on the ground.

Level 2 – Use a couch, box, or chair to elevate your hands.

Level 3 – Establish a distance 2-3 feet (your feet) away from a wall and place your hands on the wall to complete the push-up against the wall.

Sit-up:

Level 1 – Anchor your feet under something stable.

Level 2 – Use your fingertips on the back of your thighs to help raise yourself.

Level 3 – While in an upright position on your knees, tighten your abs/stomach and bend at the waist bringing your chin as close as possible to your belly button.

Squat:

Level 1 – Stop your squat above parallel.

Level 2 – Place a box or chair behind you and lightly tap the bottom of your butt to it on each squat.

Level 3 – From a seated position (on a hard surface), push through the heels and stand without rocking forward.

Relax And … Stronger


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