The Ultimate Snack

The Ultimate Snack

I get more questions about this topic than any other. “What can I snack on that is low in carbohydrates but high in protein?” The truth is, you can only eat so much cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and nuts. (Which are also great snacks) Variety is one of the biggest challenges for people adjusting to a healthy nutrition regimen. “What food can I eat in between meals and at night?” Since chips, crackers, candy, and anything processed should be out of the question, options can be limited. However, here is one great option to give you some variety.

Home-made Beef Jerky

The Benefits

  • High in protein
  • Unprocessed
  • Low in fat
  • Versatile flavor choices
  • Low in sodium
  • Zero Carbohydrates
Why not just buy beef jerky?
Pre-packaged beef jerky possesses a few problems. Sodium(salt), saturated fat, and preservatives are the 3 downsides of pre-packaged jerky. The American Heart Association suggests keeping daily sodium levels under 1500 mg’s. One serving of pre-packaged beef jerky can contain up to 750 mgs of sodium or half your recommended daily amount. Preservatives are added to jerky to extend shelf life. Like any processed meats, sodium nitrite and MSG are concerns that can be detrimental to your health, especially in jerky products. Saturated fat for any red meat can be high, but with the home-made version you can buy a leaner meat or cut out excess fat.

 

Cooking Instructions

1. Start by cutting a 1-pound trimmed, strip steak into thin slices no more than 1/8 inch thick, 1 inch wide, and 3 inches long. (To make the steak easier to slice put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before slicing.)

2. Refrigerate the marinated steak overnight (or during the day) in a seal-able bowl or bag.

Options for a personalized marinade per 1lb of meat. (mix and match your favorites)

  • 2 chopped garlic cloves or equivalent in minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp A-1 sauce
  • 1 tbsp Teriyaki
  • 1 tbsp whiskey
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Salt
  • Curry
  • Onion
  • Cilantro

3. Place the strips on a baking rack and bake in the oven until strips are dry and moisture is absorbed. Place a baking sheet underneath the rack to prevent dripping.  (Between 45 and 60 minutes at 180 to 220 degrees)

4. Remove from the oven and refrigerate in a seal-able bag or bowl for a healthy protein-filled snack!


Conclusion

The versatility of ingredients in the marinade make this an attractive snack for people looking for some variety. My advice would be to make a bulk serving on sunday night to last you throughout the week. As I have discussed in my previous blog posts, aim for healthy snacks in between meals to make up 5 or 6 smaller meals per day instead of 3 large meals. Snacking is not the enemy. Unhealthy snacking is the enemy.

My suggestion

A snack that is high in protein and has large amounts of fiber is ideal. Mix some home-made jerky with a handful of walnuts for a healthy dose of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and useful calories. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From Naples,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com

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The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

The 5 Exercise Mistakes You Could Be Making

1.You are a victim of routine and habit:

Muscle memory is no myth. If you perform the same exercises and workouts every week, with no variation, your muscles will grow accustomed with them overtime and your fitness goals will severely plateau. Repitition of exercises allows the brain to become “hard-wired” with a simple, efficient circuitry that enables the activity. The brain and muscles no longer have to work hard to make that particular movement happen, so the activity “feels easy” to you, as if it were second nature.

My suggestion: Switch it up

  • I am all for getting in and sticking to a set routine, however, if you want to see progression in your fitness goals, whether it is bigger strength gains or more fat loss, vary your workouts/rep range/rest time.  You will see dramatic changes as your muscles will have to work harder to adapt to these new changes.

Great examples:

  1. Intervals vs. steady cardio. (see previous post for more specifics about this)
  2. Heavier weights with reps between 5 and 8 and allowing more rest in between rest.

2. You don’t get in a good warm-up:

The goal of any warm-up is to increase your heart rate, body temperature,. and blood flow to your muscles. The increase in these things will prepare you muscles and mind-set for the upcoming exercises. As a result, you will see better performance results and reduce chance of injury. Research over the last decade has shown static stretching cold muscles can actually inhibit performance and put you at greater risk of injury.

My suggestion: Perform movements that are specific to the exercises that will follow.

  • Activate the energy systems and muscles that are going to be required to complete your workout.
Great Examples:
  1. Jump Rope for 5 minutes- This gets both your legs and upper body involved at the same time.
  2. Dynamic stretch warm-up and not static stretching!-Do 5-10 minutes of dynamic movements that will get your blood flowing and major muscle groups activated. (bodyweight pushups, lunges, squats, or spider man crawls all work great)
3. You don’t do enough multi-joint movements:
Everyone wants more bang for their buck. So, why limit yourself to single joint movements or “isolated movements” when you can combine exercises and use multiple joints to build muscle, decrease fat, increase metabolic rate, and burn more calories, all at the same time.
My suggestion: Use multi-joint movements for the bulk or your exercises and supplement them with single joint movements.
  • Multi-joint movements will allow you to become a more functional and well conditioned athlete by using major muscle groups in conjunction with one another.
  • Supplementing multi joint movements with single joint movements will allow you to take care of the smaller and stabilizer muscles that can be overshadowed when doing multi-joint movements.
Great Examples:
  1. The old-fashioned back squat- Not only do squats activate all your lower body muscle group,  but it also activates your core muscles which are the foundation to your strength and posture. (utilizes knee,ankle, and hip joints)
  2. Dumbbell snatch- A great, functional exercise that utilizes major muscle groups such as your legs, core, and shoulders.

4. After all my suggestions you still do sit-ups:

Core is an essential component to a functional and strong body.Why is it that I continue to see people wasting time doing one of the most inefficient and outdated exercises today!

My suggestion: Trade in your old-fashioned sit ups for a core exercises that are more efficient

  • There still exists a common misconception that the key to a six-pack is by doing a bunch of sit-ups. False, the key to washboard abs is by losing stomach fat through a healthy(total body) exercise regimen and an all-natural diet.

Great Examples:

1. Plank on swiss ball- This exercise will force you to stabilize your core on an unbalanced surface.

2. Hanging leg raise- Targets your hipflexors and lower abs along with the rest of your core.

5. You don’t replenish your muscles after your workout:

“Approximately 30 minutes after intense exercise, the body optimizes its ability to replenish energy stores-particularly muscle and liver glycogen. This is also a critical time because the body instigates muscle protein synthesis for muscle tissue recovery and repair, replenishes fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat, and adapts to the stresses encountered in the workout.”

My Suggestion: Invest in a workout shaker and some tupperware.

  • Bringing a recovery powder to your workout will ensure you provide your muscles with adequate nutrition to fully recover immediately after finishing. Bringing some food in Tupperware is also a great way to ensure you are getting ample carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Depending on your sport and fitness goals, your post-workout shake should range from a 1:1 carb/protein ratio to 4:1 carb/protein  ratio if you are involved in more endurance activities and are trying to restore carbohydrate levels.

Great Example

1. 6oz of coconut water
6oz of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c yogurt, 1 banana
1 c frozen strawberries/blueberries
1 scoop whey protein powder
3-5 grams glutamine

For all those interested in fat loss, check out my good friend’s website Kellie Kaufman at https://wrapmeskinnywithkellie.myitworks.com/home. This may help you gain the edge and break through plateaus.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From Naples,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com


The 10 Commandments of Good Nutrition

The 10 Commandments of Good Nutrition; According to Katrina Evans.

This week I had a guest blogger, Katrina Evans, write an article in order to provide readers with a different vantage point of certain health and nutrition points that are vital to a healthy lifestyle. This is important in understanding that not everyone is going to agree on every aspect of health, nutrition, and exercise. For example, Katrina lists “no red meat” as commandment #4. As an athlete, I would say 1-2 servings of red meat a week is actually beneficial because the combination of iron, zinc, and amino acid complex. While small details like this will surface in some research, the foundation and guidelines in the most effective programs are generally the same. Thanks again Katrina.

Good nutrition and activity are both key to maintaining a healthy life. Keeping a balanced diet is important in weight control and can provide energy to stay productive. Not only that, but it can also greatly affect emotional and mental health, providing a balance in most areas of life. Regular exercise can even prevent conditions and disabilities like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even certain types of lung cancer.

With all the facts about the links among nutrition, fitness, and good health, there is no excuse to have an unhealthy diet or inactive lifestyle. Whether it’s walking two miles a day or following work-out videos, a good diet will always make the difference in any workout plan. Keeping these key concepts about nutrition in mind while devising a custom diet plan is a great starting point towards a healthier lifestyle:

1. Eat vegetables: Nobody wants to listen to their mom, but dark greens, garlic and mushrooms are full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that not only boost your immune system, but have the right fire power that slows or even prevents the development of cancer.

Diet Tips

2. Eat fruits: Fruits are delicious, sweet and refreshing. By loading up on fruits instead of pastries or baked goods, dieters can feel better about themselves while enjoying a sweet treat. Fruits like blueberries and grapes are also linked to the prevention of cell damage caused by cancer.

 3. Switch to whole grains: Whole grains are full of antioxidants and fiber which is a dieter’s best friend normalizing bowel integrity and health while optimizing weight loss as well.

4. No red meats: Red meats, as delicious as they can be, are loaded with saturated fat and “bad” cholesterol offering no fiber.

5. Eat it raw: Raw foods offer more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber than they do when cooked, the same kinds of antioxidants found to prevent colon cancer.

6. Drink water: Drinking just eight cups of water is not as hard as it seems. Substituting other drinks with water will cleanse the body, replenish organs, and keep the immune system at its best. according to Discovery News, scientists found that obese dieters who drank two cups of water before each meal lost 5 pounds more than a group of dieters who didn’t increase their water intake.

7. Enjoy immune-boosting spices: Spices like garlic, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, basil, cilantro, curry powder and parsley are not only terrific ways to dress up healthy ingredients but are also full of anti-oxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties that boost the immune system.

 8. Don’t burn it: Recently, carcinogens in overcooked meat made it to the National Toxicology Program list of potential cancer causers from ScienceNews.com so, watch out!

 9. Stop overeating: By drinking more water and eating fiber-rich foods, it’ll be easier to control cravings and overeat. It doesn’t hurt to over-indulge in lots of water every now and then.

10. Quit the other habits: This one is huge. Bad habits like smoking and drinking too much will be counterproductive to good nutrition and exercise. We all know that they cause cancer and other diseases, so why even risk it?

 Pie chart [see text description below.]

Katrina Evans is a recent graduate from the  University of Central Florida writing to fully support health and wellness for all. She wants to be a difference in people’s lives seeing how devastating cancer can be for people and their families. Katrina also is a fruit junkie who reads all the time, works to stay fit, and listens to cool podcasts.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From Naples,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com

Active Recovery

Active Recovery

Being that it is a Sunday, and usually an “off day” from work and training, where people lounge on the couch, spend time with family, and passively rest, I wanted to take a little time to talk about active recovery or “active rest”.

Active Recovery is a term used to describe the days you don’t workout but still perform light exercise or some sort of activity. This light exercise enables you to continue burning calories without putting too much strain on your body and muscles, which should be recovering from workouts and training, (long winded definition) With the amount of athletes in today’s society trying to “gain the edge”, trainers and coaches are starting to understand the impact of over-training. Often times the importance of complete rest is undervalued and injuries linked to fatigue and overuse have become more prevalent. With that being said, I think there is an efficient way to stay active on your “off days” that may actually help your body recover better and allow you to burn calories at the same time.

Active Rest vs. Passive Rest

Simply put, passive rest is where you do nothing, and completely let your muscles recover by not training, staying inactive, and sometimes immobile. While the physical element of this is vital, the mental break that you actually receive from passive rest may be the greatest benefit. Some examples could consist of any of the following;

  1. Sleeping
  2. Watching TV
  3. Reading
  4. Studying
  5. Surfing the web
  6. Lounging in the sun
Active Recovery benefits
While there seems to be great debate and differences of opinion on the actual purpose and effectiveness of active recovery, here are some of the potential benefits;
  • Stimulates the metabolic pathways of recovery without contributing to fatigue. (I.E. gets your blood pumping and juices flowing without contributing to muscle fatigue or strain)
  • Allows you to get some light work in on those often neglected stabilizer muscles or small muscle groups you might miss in a workout without putting strain on the large muscle groups. (Some examples would be shoulder rotational exercises or hip mobility)

  • Using it as a way to burn calories while still letting your major muscle groups recover.
  • Recovery or regeneration training-Countering a high-intensity training day, where there may be a build up of lactic acid or acidosis, with a less-intense recovery session may actually help speed up recovery, reduce high intensity-induced damage, and restore your natural lactate levels. (Often seen in biking and swimming)
  • Light weight workouts might help speed up recovery by increasing blood flow to the stimulated areas and removing waste products. This method ,coupled with a solid carb/protein recovery meal, will aid in your muscle regeneration and restored energy levels
Active Recovery Activities
  • Light weight workout at 50-75% of your 1 rep max.
  • Low-intensity cardio at 40-60 % of your maximum heart rate (Jog, brisk walk, light bike, light swim,)
  • Yoga class
  • Play golf
  • Light sport specific activity (Intended so you don’t “lose the feel”. Some examples would be stick handling a puck, shooting free throws, and juggling a soccer ball.)
Cristiano Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United juggles with the ball during a training session held at the Carrington Training Complex on September 16, 2008 in Carrington, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Sports massage or foam roll.

Conclusion

I think there is something to be said about having 1 day completely off to passively rest. This day should be made up of a whole lot of R&R, where you physically do nothing as well as give yourself a mental break by just zoning out for a day. (For those who know me, I prefer my passive rest by the pool or on the beach as I am definitely not a part of the 75% of the U.S that is Vitamin D deficient) However I think 1-2 days of active recovery or rest where you may perform a less intense workout, easy yoga, or one of the active recovery activities listed above, is extremely beneficial and important to an overall healthy lifestyle. My recommendation would be for athletes to spend at least one active rest day doing something functional that is not involved in your sport. For example if you are a hockey player go for a light jog or if you are a marathon runner go for a light bike to involve different muscle groups and stay mentally fresh. For those who are trying to get in shape or lose fat, active recovery is a great way to burn some calories while giving your body some much-needed rest.

My suggestion

While I don’t advise anyone to workout 7 days in a row, cycling high-intensity training days with light recovery days can be beneficial to your body. As a generic recommendation, I would suggest 3 or 4 days of workouts with 2 active recovery days and 1 day of passive rest. An individual’s specific regimen may be able to tolerate much more of a work load or less of one. (Get to know your body’s needs and limits) Thanks for reading and let me know your comments and suggestions.

From South Bend,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com

Ten Foods You Should Add To Your Diet (Part 2)

Ten Foods You Should Add To Your Diet (Part 2)

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family that are low in fat and calories but high in protein. (accounting for more than a quarter of their calories) A great substitute for broccoli, 1/2 cup of brussels sprouts contains 80% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.

Health Benefits

  • High in fiber and beta-carotene.
  • Loaded with vitamin A & C, folate, potassium, and calcium.
  • Loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants that control inflammation and can help combat cancer.
  • Have cholesterol lowering benefits when steamed.
  • Brussels sprouts are an outstanding source of glucosinolates which can help detoxify the body.

Kale

Similar to brussels sprouts, kale is a power vegetable and member of the collared greens family that is unusually high in fiber (contains 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber) which helps to keep you feeling full. A great substitute for romaine or iceberg lettuce.

Health Benefits

  • Excellent source of nutrients such as vitamin A,C, B6, calcium, folate, manganese, and potassium.
  • One of the best sources of beta-carotene which help aid in the battle against cancer and heart disease.
  • Promotes regular digestion, prevents constipation, lowers blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
  • One cup of kale provides about 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Like other greens and cruciferous vegetables, kale is loaded with antioxidants that help regulate the body’s inflammatory process.

Walnuts

Considered the #1 nut for heart health, walnuts contain almost twice as many antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. Walnuts are antioxidant dense and can lower cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease unhealthy inflammation. Can make for a great snack, oatmeal addition, and salad topping.

Health Benefits

  • Contain plenty of high-quality proteins that can be used as a substitute for meat. Loaded with vitamins and minerals; dietary fiber; and they are dairy and gluten-free.
  • Walnuts have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
  • Rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin E.
  • Loaded with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to lower bad cholesterol(LDL).

Almond Butter

Much like walnuts, almond butter’s essential benefit comes from its heart-healthy properties. Considered a healthier version of peanut butter, almond butter is a great vegetable and fruit spread because of it is high quality fats, protein content, and rich taste.

Health Benefits

  • Rich in monounsaturated fats which reduce levels of cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart ailments, and lower blood pressure.
  • High in vitamin E and flavonoids(essential antioxidants) that combat inflammation and disease.
  • A great source of fiber and loaded with potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Almond butter is less commercially available than peanut butter. Because of this fact, some peanut butter manufacturers add unhealthy ingredients such as excessive salt, sugar, and saturated fats to the product whereas almond butter is generally more natural and less artificially manipulated.

Avocado

This green-skinned, pear-shaped fruit is most commonly used as the main ingredient in guacamole. While it tastes good, most people dont know that it provides nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. Avocados have become increasingly popular and make great additions as a sandwich spread or salad ingredient.

Health Benefits

  • High in healthy fats and antioxidants which help combat heart disease.
  • Avocado contains 30% more potassium than bananas which help regulate blood pressure and prevents circulatory diseases.
  • Avocados have numerous phytonutrients which help prevent cancer and also repair damaged cells.
  • It is a powerhouse of vitamin E which protects us from free radicals.
  • Avocados are very effective in reducing the risk of oral cancer and preventing bad breath.

Steel Cut Oats

Not all oatmeal is created equal. Generally, oatmeal is considered a healthy source of whole grains and complex carbohydrates. However, current products on the market have added sugars, artificial preservatives, and unnecessary ingredients that can cancel out the benefits produced by natural oats. Steel-cut oats are relatively unrefined and the most pure and healthy form of oats.

Health Benefits

  • Steel-cut oats take longer to digest than instant oatmeal or rolled oats, which in turn, helps to stabilize blood sugar.
  • A good source of complex carbohydrates, protein, and soluble fiber, which works to lower cholesterol.
  • Rich in B-vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber.
  • Steel-cut oats are low in sodium and unsaturated fat that are a great alternative to typical cereals for a breakfast option.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is a blend of hemp seeds and water with a creamy texture and a subtle, nutty taste, that is a great alternative to standard cow’s milk. People have started to look for alternatives to cows milk after unregulated hormone claims and support showing cow’s milk to be tough on your digestive system. Much like almond milk, hemp milk is a great alternative that is high in protein and low in sugar.

Health Benefits

  • Hemp milk is easy to digest and has an essential fatty acid balance that is ideal for the human body.
  • Hemp milk is rich in protein and contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, B-12 and folic acid, and is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and magnesium.
  • Hemp milk has anti-inflammatory agents that helps to improve circulation
  • Hemp milk can strengthen the immune system as well as promote a healthy heart and skin.

 

Goat

Table 1. Nutrient Composition of Goat and Other Types of Meat [1], [2]
 Nutrient  Goat  Chicken  Beef  Pork Lamb
 Calories 122 162 179 180 175
 Fat (g) 2.6 6.3 7.9 8.2 8.1
 Saturated Fat (g) 0.79 1.7 3.0 2.9 2.9
 Protein (g) 23 25 25 25 24
 Cholesterol (mg) 63.8 76.0 73.1 73.1 78.2
[1] Per 3 oz. of cooked meat
[2] USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 14 (2001)

As seen in the table above, goat meat is lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than traditional meats. It is a great source of high quality protein that provides greater health benefits in comparison to traditional meats.

Health Benefits

  • Lean protein,s such as goat meat, are good for weight control because protein is a hunger-suppressing nutrient.
  • Goat meat provides only 82 mg sodium per 100-g serving, which is relatively small compared to other proteins such as lunch meats and dairy.
  • Goat meat is a low-fat alternative to many meat-based sources of protein, such as fatty steaks, burgers, or dark-meat poultry with the skin, which are high in saturated fat.
  • High in essential nutrients such as iron, potassium, and vitamin B-12.

 

Dark Chocolate

Moderation is key here but, studies have shown that small amounts of dark chocolate can provide substantial benefits for the human body. The main benefits come from the abundance of antioxidants in cocoa beans which are filled with natural plant nutrients. Dark chocolate makes for an excellent post-meal dessert.

Health benefits

  • Loaded with antioxidants which help combat numerous diseases discussed in similar foods above.
  • Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and has mild anti-clotting effects that may help prevent plaque formation in arteries.
  • Unlike most sweets and desserts, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index and therefore doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
  • Dark chocolate helps the brain to release endorphins, which help in mood elevation and also remove headaches.

Sprouted Grain Bread

Sprouted grain bread or “flourless” bread is made with live grains and provides more protein, vitamins, and minerals than refined flours. Sprouted grain bread can be used as a substitute for typical white or wheat breads.

Health Benefits

  • Besides increasing their protein and vitamins, germinated sprouts contribute carbohydrates that are easier for you to digest because their starches have already been broken down by enzymes.
  • High in fiber which can help aid in your digestion and keep you feeling full.
  • The bread is very low in saturated fat and a much better alternative than typical wheat or white breads.
  • Sprouted grain bread is made with whole lentils and soybeans which means you’ll be getting a significant amount of protein and amino acids with each serving.

Thanks for reading. I am currently back in the USA trying to seek out further medical opinions for concussion rehab and treatment. Now that I am back I can be reached much easier for questions and comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

kdeeth21@gmail.com

Sleep-An Essential Part Of A Healthy Life

Sleep-An Essential Part Of A Healthy Life

Experts say one of the MOST alluring sleep distractions is the 24-hour accessibility of the internet! So I will try and keep this one a little shorter.

Sleep, and how it relates to the way we function as a species, is one of the biggest mysteries in the human body. There is no concrete definition for why humans sleep. Humans are among the few animals that take their sleep in one shot. The rest of the animal kingdom consists of polyphasic sleepers; they alternate sleep and wake cycles throughout a 24 hour period. However, one thing is for sure, sleep is an essential part of life. When we sleep, the body releases hormones which fix damaged tissues throughout the body and help restore us to a balanced state. Listed below are just some of the effects we get from sleep or lack of sleep.

  • Sleep reduces the body’s amount of stress hormones.
  • Sleep adjusts the hormones in our body that control appetite and boosts the immune system.
  • Being sleep deprived impairs daytime alertness and memory; it can lead to mood problems such as anxiety or sadness and promotes obesity and diabetes.
  • Sleep and weight gain; research shows how metabolic changes, that occur due to loss of productive sleep, may alter your sense of hunger, thus making you want to eat more. According to sleep expert Michael Breus PHD, people who stay up late and sleep late also tend to eat more fast food and consume more of their calories after 8pm as compared to normal sleepers. Most studies show the more you eat after 8pm the higher your body mass index and body fat levels will be.
  • Sleep helps boost testosterone levels in men. Research has shown that this nightly testosterone replenishment is most effective (and morning testosterone levels are highest) in men getting 8 or more hours of sleep.
  • Insufficient sleep increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. In fact, a study from 2008 demonstrated that those who slept longer, had a lower likelihood of coronary artery disease. (the risk reduction was 33% per hour of sleep, equivalent to the risk reduction of lowering your blood pressure by 16.5 mmHg!).

How much do we need?

The generic recommendation for the amount of sleep a night is generally 7-9 hours for adults. However, sleep requirements are based on a wide range of factors like age, sex, immune systems, will power, activity levels, and many others. This is an important issue because as a society we are chronically sleep-deprived. Some studies suggest the average US adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night and more than one-third of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work or social functioning for at least a few days each month.

Sleep recommendations

  • Try and stay away from the computer, phone, and TV before bed-The blue light emitted by these devices stimulate your brain making it harder to fall asleep. Most sleep experts recommend giving up screen time for at least 1-2 hours before bed.
  • Evaluate your sleep hygiene-Avoid watching TV, eating, or working in bed. Make the bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Keep the temperature a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house and hide bedroom clocks so you’re not constantly checking the time as you try to fall asleep.
  • Get active -Thirty minutes of exercise each day (at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime) will help you get more restful sleep at night.
  • Avoid triggers-Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and large meals before bedtime, can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and remain asleep throughout the night. Though many people use alcohol to get to sleep initially, alcohol actually compromises the quality of sleep you get overnight.
  • Get into a routine– This will help your body know when to sleep and is much more efficient to your overall daily schedule.

The science

When you sleep, your body rests and restores its energy levels. However, sleep is an active state that affects both your physical and mental well-being. A good night’s sleep is often the best way to help you cope with stress, solve problems, or recover from illness. Sleep is prompted by natural cycles of activity in the brain and consists of two basic states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep, which consists of 4 stages.

During sleep, the body cycles between non-REM and REM sleep. Typically, people begin the sleep cycle with a period of non-REM sleep followed by a very short period of REM sleep. Vivid dreams tend to occur during REM sleep. A normal person will spend approximately 25 percent of the night in REM sleep.

What not to do
Make up for all your lost time during the week on weekends-No, you can’t just pay off a sleep debt by sleeping late on the weekends. Why would you want to waste your off days by laying in bed and doing nothing anyways? Go out and celebrate the weekend and be active.
Bank on naps-Naps don’t make up for loss of restorative sleep time because they are usually shorter than the time you need to reach slow-wave or REM sleep(usually requires 60-90 minutes on uninterrupted sleep). You need both rapid-eye-movement sleep and slow-wave sleep to feel refreshed, and these two kinds of sleep require a period of continuous sleep before they start. However, naps can give you more short-term energy and a feeling of alertness. Depending on length, they have also been shown to help memory and decision making skills.
Researchers have determined that naps provide the best health benefits when they are:

  • About 30 minutes long
  • Taken at around 3:00 in the afternoon or 8 hours after you wake up
  • No more than once a day
Sleep Positions (recommended by health.com)

1. The Best: Back position

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, and minimizing wrinkles.

Bad for: Snoring

The scoop: Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position. You’re not forcing any extra curves into your back, says Steven Diamant, a chiropractor in New York City. It’s also ideal for fighting acid reflux, says Eric Olson, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota: “If the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can’t come back up.”

Back-sleeping also helps prevent wrinkles, because nothing is pushing against your face, notes Dee Anna Glaser, M.D., a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University. And the weight of your breasts is fully supported, reducing sagginess.

Consider this: “Snoring is usually most frequent and severe when sleeping on the back,” Olson says.

Perfect pillow: One puffy one. The goal is to keep your head and neck supported without propping your head up too much.

2. Next Best: Side position (pictured above)

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy

Bad for: Your skin and your breasts

The scoop: Side-sleeping is great for overall health — it reduces snoring and keeps your spine elongated. If you suffer from acid reflux, this is the next best thing to sleeping on your back.

Now for the downside: “Sleeping on your side can cause you to get wrinkles,” Glaser says. Blame all that smushing of one side of your face into the pillow.

Consider this: If you’re pregnant, sleep on your left side. It’s ideal for blood flow.

Perfect pillow: A thick one. “You need to fill the space above your shoulder so your head and neck are supported in a neutral position,” says Ken Shannon, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

3.The Worst: Stomach position

Good for: Easing snoring

Bad for: Avoiding neck and back pain and minimizing wrinkles.

The scoop: “Stomach-sleeping makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position with your spine,” Shannon explains. What’s more, the pose puts pressure on joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling.

“Think about the soreness you’d feel if you kept your neck turned to one side for 15 minutes during the day,” Diamant explains. In this position you have your head to one side for hours at a time. You won’t necessarily feel it the next day, but you may soon start to ache.

Consider this: Do you snore? “Stomach-sleeping may even be good for you,” Olson says. Facedown keeps your upper airways more open. So if you snore and aren’t suffering from neck or back pain, it’s fine to try sleeping on your belly.

Perfect pillow: Just one (and make it a thin one) or none at all.


Conclusion

This was a tough topic to cover because of the wide range of information and studies available coupled with the variance in opinions by top professionals. If there is one thing I have found it is there is no “right” or “wrong” way to sleep. If you are someone who feels perfectly rested and has no daytime consequences on 6 1/2 to 7 hours of sleep per night, and are unable to extend your sleep beyond this period, then you should not be striving to sleep 8 hours/night. Equally so, if you sleep 8 hours/night but are still sleepy during the day, you may not be fulfilling your nightly requirements or may need a daytime cat nap. The take home message is: You need what you need. Each individual is different. Experiment with some different sleep schedules and positions to see what works best for you and implement those practices in a sleep routine. Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.