Most people feel if they just exercise more, it will help them with health and fat loss. And it will. However, exercise, is the 5th item on the list of prioritise for maximum results. In order of priority, it is in fact:
- Stress management
These are not items to focus on independently; rather you need to focus little, in each of these areas for maximum results. Let’s explore each one individually.
If you are not sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours per night, you are contributing to bad health, increased stress and inflammation in the body and therefore hinder your fat loss goals. You could be doing everything else well, but this will hold you back regardless of how much you do in the other four areas. Here are a few ways to improve your sleep:
- Set a bedtime alarm at least 8 hours before you are due to get up in the morning. Go to bed when your alarm tells you it’s bedtime, without negotiating it.
- Sleep in a pitch-black room to maximize your sleep quality.
- Have the temperature in the room at around 15-19° Celsius so that it’s not too cold and not too hot.
- Avoid eating for at least an hour before bed. On the flip side, avoid going to bed hungry. Either of these will keep you awake or prevent you from falling into a deep sleep.
- Reduce your stimulant intake:
- Avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks after 12:00pm
- Limit alcohol to 1 to 2 serves per week, rather than some each day.
- Keep sugar intake to a minimum
- Avoid energy drinks.
- Turn electronics off at least half an hour to an hour before bed. The blue light that they omit interrupts your sleep receptors.
- Stay off social media and emails for at least half an hour to an hour before bed. So even if you have blue light glasses or blue light protection on your screen, social media posts or emails can stimulate your brain too much before bed. They can either cause anxiety or excitement; either will prevent you from falling asleep or prevent you from falling into a deep sleep.
- Do a mind dump at the end of the day before bed. Write down everything on your mind, and plan your ‘to do’ list for the next day. This will prevent you from staying awake thinking about things.
- End your day with a gratitude list. When you go to bed with gratitude in your heart it brings peace in your mind and helps you fall asleep easier.
Stress is when the body is in the ‘fight or flight’ state. This causes increased production of adrenaline and cortisol. When these two hormones are produced it suppresses the production of serotonin (your happy hormone) and melatonin (your sleepy hormone). This prevents you from being able to fall asleep, prevents you from staying asleep and reduces the quality of your sleep when you do manage to fall asleep. Stress also increases inflammation in the body which impacts your health and reduces your fat loss capacity.
If you are finding yourself waking from 2:00-3:00am during the night to go to the toilet, this is a good indicator that your brain is stressed, and you need to manage your stress better.
Causes of stress:
- Insufficient good quality sleep; therefore anything that impacts your sleep.
- Bad nutrition
- Insufficient hydration
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Work and/or school
- Day to day life stresses
- Eating food you are allergic or intolerant to
- Drugs and alcohol
- Not eating enough
- Skipping meals
How to help reduce your stress:
- Focus on improving your sleep, nutrition, activity levels and hydration
- Do things that will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. We have 2 nervous systems:
- Sympathetic nervous system – Which notifies your brain you are stressed. This is heightened most of the time.
- Parasympathetic nervous system – Which notifies your brain it is time to relax, unwind, repair and recover.
- Activities to trigger the Parasympathetic nervous system include:
- Warm bath
- Infrared sauna
- Get a massage
- Stretching exercises
- Breathing exercises
- Color in
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
- Any arts and crafts
- Spend time in the sun
- Walk bare foot on grass, sand or soil
- Basically, anything that helps you unwind
- Limit exposure to people or situations that wind you up or make you feel anxious.
- Learn to set boundaries so that you don’t overcommit yourself
- Take at least 10 minutes each day to do something you love, for yourself, by yourself.
- Focus on eating better rather than ‘perfect’. It helps avoid binge eating and self-sabotage.
- Avoid food you are allergic or intolerant to.
- Look at how many times a week you eat take out and reduce that by half. Keep reducing it by half until it comes down to only once or twice per week.
- Reduce your sugar intake.
- Eat protein with every meal. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer but also helps your body repair and recover.
- Consume plenty of vegetables as they help you go to the toilet. This helps eliminate toxins which improves digestion, improves health, and increases fat loss.
- Eat meals instead of snacks. This helps you feel fuller for longer, avoids overeating and poor food choices.
- Avoid skipping meals. This can lead to bingeing, overeating and increased stress.
- Avoid constant snacking as this prevents your digestive system from resting, increasing stress on your body.
Adequate hydration helps:
- Nutrient distribution so improves health.
- Increases blood flow which increases oxygen distribution.
- Improves detoxification process.
- Helps metabolize fat out of the fat cells.
- Helps increase muscle mass, which increases your metabolism and therefore improves fat loss.
- Improves digestion which improves health and ultimately fat loss.
Every body requires different levels of hydration. To determine your body’s needs:
- Take your body weight (kg) and multiply it by 37. This will give you the number of millilitres you need each day.
- For example:
- If you way 60kg x 37 = 2220ml or approximately 2.2 litres
- Add 500ml if you are exercising
- Add 500ml if the weather is warm and you are perspiring
Benefits of exercise:
- Reduces stress
- Produces serotonin (your happy hormone) and endorphins (your feel-good hormones) therefore improving your mood.
- Increases muscle mass, which speeds up metabolism and therefore increases fat loss.
- Improves your cardiovascular fitness, which improves your circulation, so improves nutrient and oxygen distribution. These improve your health and fat loss.
Getting in adequate activity:
- The Heart Foundation recommends at 10,000 steps per day for adequate heart health.
- Exercise, or being active, for at least half an hour each day does wonders for your health and fat loss. This includes anything that cause you to ‘huff and puff’, increasing your heart rate. From exercise, to gardening to house work, anything.
- Getting in at least 3-5 formal training sessions per week is ideal for a healthy body and improved fat loss results.
You will have greater improvement in your health and increased fat loss, if you focus on a little of each of the five areas (sleep, stress management, nutrition, hydration and exercise), rather than doing one of these perfectly, and neglecting the others.
- Coach Terri