Thursday, July 8, 2010

Health and Nutrition Part 3: Sleep

Health and Nutrition Part 3: Sleep (Hopefully last one--then I can get back to more interesting material)

Ok, first I'd like to express gratitude to my brother and sister for not only reading but commenting. Now that I've thanked you I'd like to discuss some of your comments because they raise some interesting issues.
Ez, in part one you brought up your experience that when you exercise you find yourself eating healthy foods. Although we are only 2 little points on a graph and our evidence is anecdotal I have to concur that there seems to be a positive feedback loop with exercise and healthy eating. I also think the opposite is true--poor exercise regime leads to poor eating habits. I would like to offer a crackpot theory on why this is true.
When you work out your body will need better nutrition to recover. Healthier foods generally offer better nutrition, so your body craved these healthier foods. There's probably a psychological reason too. After a good workout nobody wants to "waste" all that hard work by eating junk food. I think the psychological reason could apply to the negative feedback loop too. If you're sitting at home eating donuts and ice cream watching the tube after a certain point you think "ah, what's the point".
Of course you could argue that in some cases exercising can lead to eating unhealthy foods. For instance, after a long run you come home and you've been craving cheese cake. After your meal you eat it because you justify to yourself that you've "earned" it or can afford it calorically. It's your reward. I'd counter this argument with another argument! ah! ha! I acknowledge that this type of behaviour does actually happen (guilty!) but tends to represent episodic, not habitual behaviour.
Now, Ez, while I do agree with your/our positive feedback hypothesis, I respectfully disagree with some of your other comments. Regarding my rant that if you're not sweating you're not working out you dared to challenge me and advanced the idea that walking was the best exercise to build upper body strength. You might of accuse me of misrepresenting your argument but for those readers who didn't read the comments, you look like a fool.
Back to reality, you tendered the idea that sweating might not be the best indicator of good exercise. Let me clarify. When I say that, if you ain't got no sweat comin' outta youz, then you ain't axercising, what I'm really referring to is exercise intensity. Sweat output is a good measure of this but, I concede, is inaccurate because it does not take into account environmental temperature and individual propensity to sweat. So, I will grant you this.
The best measure of exercise intensity is heart rate. I do not believe in these BS low intensity "fat burn zone" exercise program. Show me one person that does low intensity exercise that is slim. Show me just one and I'll believe the hype.
I believe these programs are designed by the fitness industry to take over our minds and make us kill the Malaysian prime minister....oops, I mean get people of below average fitness levels to buy gym memberships. People are such babies that they'll cry and go home if you make them work too hard. They'll never come back when they wake up with, horror of horrors, every muscle sore the next day. Guess what crybaby nation? (My pro-wrestler alter ego is coming out!) That's what happens if you sit on your ass for 10 years or more, eating donuts and then finally get up to do something beyond walking to your car. The gyms know this. They know people are soft but they want as many people as possible to buy memberships, use personal trainers, and do the classes. So they design a program that's so easy and painless (and useless) that you will keep paying for more....and KILL THE MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER! That said, I will agree that some exercise is better than none at all, but people should seek to maximize their efficiency in the gym. This means higher intensity. If you're going to go for an hour get as much out of that hour as possible.
I have one more bone to pick with you Ez: You suggested that swimming was a strenuous activity in which one doesn't sweat. Actually you do sweat, ya just don't notice cuz you're already in the water. What's next? I don't breath when I'm in air!? Booya!
To address your question about how long to exercise, there is a short and long answer. The short answer is 45 min of med-high intensity not including warm up and cool down. The long answer is that it depends on your fitness goals. For the average Joe shmo 3x a week of 45min is fine. But if you want above average fitness you need to put in above average work. I find that if you want to take it to the HNL (hole nuva lev'l) you should work out 4x a week 45-60min a session. When you approach the 60min mark the law of decreasing marginal returns starts kicking in (unless you are an endurance athlete--I'm just talking about general health, fitness and "wellness"). But in truth, if you are working out with sufficient intensity, eating healthful foods (notice I didn't say "healthy". Bet ya didn't know that "healthful" is the correct adjective!) , and are mindful of your caloric intake, 3 days a week is fine.
Coonie, I offer my sincerest apologies for the mistakes with my possessives. I usually write at about 2am and finish at 3am. By then my proof reading skills aren't anything to write home about. Nevertheless, I will be more vigilant.

SLEEP

Done with the comments from the peanut gallery...last item to discuss in the triad of health: Sleep. I know! It sounds so simple! But as someone who suffered from insomnia for 5 years, I can tell you it isn't always. (I overcame my insomnia 2 years ago). Allz I'm gonna say is that if you aren't getting enough sleep regularly, the other 2 elements of health (exercise and nutrition) don't mean poop. In fact, without sleep, exercise can harm your health.
He's a couple of quick notes on sleep (mostly directed at those who have some degree of sleep disorder): 1) Try to keep a regular wake up schedule. 2) Only use sleeping pills for 1 or 2 nights in a row to get back on schedule, never use them regularly (you build tolerance--at one point I would take 4 and still be wide awake) 3) Be outside as much as you can to get direct sunlight--at least 30 min a day. 4) Invest in blackout curtains. 5) Avoid any stimulants (caffein, cocain) after noon. It takes at least 8 hours for caffein to completely leave your body. 6) Read academic books before bed (anecdotal...worked ok for me). Reading books that don't require much brain power and are plot driven won't tire you and will end up drawing you in making you stay up even later. 7) Find time for yourself during your day for your mind to unwind (no TV or internet!). Rushing around from the time you get up until the time you go to bed leaves your mind no time to reflect on your day and this need is what might be keeping you up.
Anywho, those are some things that worked for me. I hope that in writing this somebody can learn from my mistakes and hard earned knowledge. Most of my life I've made a living off my body, whether it be manual labour, sports, dancing, or prancing. To maintain my livelyhood I've done plenty of tinkering with different approaches to exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Through trial and error and research I've learned a lot and I've also been very fortunate to have met many people along the way that were willing to share their hard earned knowledge with me. Shout out to: Coach Buono, James Wilcox, Carlos, Shaun Thomas, my seester (coondawg), my ma, my pa, Anne, Auntie Katinka, Tiki, Clay Cannon, Lind Walter, Yohan, Chris Connel, quackcast.com (Mark Crislip), Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and many more I can't remember at this moment.

By the by here are some AP approved websites for health info:
quackwatch.org
saveyourself.ca (canadian website...woohoo!)
skepticblog.org
pubmed.gov (for research--u can access all published medical studies here, unfiltered by the "evil" media)

7 comments:

  1. I knew you'd get me on the swimming thing. I know you sweat when you swim, but I didn't want to let facts get in the way of a good argument. If Dubya can run a country on that premise, then I can post a comment on here using the same one.

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  2. I third the swimming correction! Glad Ezzie isn't too proud to admit he went a bit far with that one.
    Thanks for the tips for fighting insomnia. Your entry is timely as I seem to have entered a rough patch. I could probably improve on just about every category that you mentioned so will do a little tinkering across the board. Wish me luck!
    As a card carrying scientist I am glad to see that Pubmed is on your list of sites to go to for raw scientific reports :)

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  3. chana, agreed. any good researcher knows nothing beats a primary source...

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  4. psst. Slim (well, compare me to most other 57-year-olds). Low-intensity is about all I've done for more than a year. Not that I'm proud of that. But you need to go back to your calorie-in/calorie-out thesis, because that is the correct one. You can stay slim by not overeating (but you can't stay fit, I'll grant you). When I was in my 20s I thought it was the most ridiculous thing to go to a gym. I spent my life outdoors, WORKING. I chopped wood, hauled water, walked everywhere, and planted trees. I could have matched any gym-rat for fitness. Any kind of exercise-for-the-sake-of-exercise is only one way to be fit, and I would suggest it's the least natural.

    I have noticed that the fitness (or slimness) level here in Berlin is on average MUCH better than even in fitness-conscious Vancouver. I think it's because people don't own cars. They walk. They carry their groceries. They ride bikes, but not too hard.

    Your sleep suggestions are sound. The sleep clinic also suggests keeping a two-week sleep diary and assume that the average sleep you get over that period is what you need. I needed 6.5 hours a night when I did the program, but I think it's less now. Then go to bed at the same time every night, exactly the right number of hours before you have to wake up. Don't vary your times on weekends. Never nap. Don't do anything in bed (don't read, even) except sleep or have sex (whew). If you lie in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get up. Read till you're sleepy, then go back to bed to try again.

    It works, even after just a few days on the regime. After that, you can experiment with relaxing the rules. (I read in bed and even watch TV, and it seems to be okay.)

    (Hope Chana sees this.)

    Anyhow, irregarlessly and all that, thanks for the shout-out.

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  5. Just wrote a very long response, but Google rejected it, and I lost the whole thing, so I give up.

    Anyhow. Slim here. Low-intensity. Think again.
    Calories in / calories out. That's all

    Thanks for the shout-out.

    If Chana wants more sleep rules, she can contact me; I have the whole list.

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  6. Here is a variation on the sleep schedule: set a bedtime alarm. Instead of a regular waking time, set the going to bed time. If you are the kind of person who puts off going to bed, do that. If you are the kind who oversleeps then set a waking time. I started doing that a few years ago and it makes all the difference.

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  7. I like that idea. I'm always finding one more thing to do that keeps me up...

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