Tag Archives: sleep

We Are Wrong About… Fat [1]

I believe our attitude, our approach to dealing with being fat, overweight, and with obesity is wrong.

I do not agree and I do not believe it’s a matter of calories in vs calories out.

It’s overly simplistic, mechanistic, and ingrains a mindset that we are merely machines.

I do not agree and I do not believe that it’s a matter of determination, drive, willpower.

Again, it’s overly simplistic, denying that beliefs, narratives, emotions play any part.

I believe that our model of how the human body functions is stuck in the steam engine period, while the world has evolved into an era of lithium battery powered remotely controlled drones.

Overeating, over-exercising or under-exercising are the result of individuals having excessive intensities of stress and/or excessive durations of stress in their lives and unable to effectively manage the stress levels that they have taken on. We incorrectly use eating and exercising (or lack thereof) as short term solutions when we fail to maintain healthy levels of stress in our lives, and/or fail to engage the stress we have in an healthy manner.

The root of the obesity epidemic is that we – collectively – are not handling appropriately the effects that advancements in technology are causing on our lives, on our work, our careers, our finances, our social structure, social interactions, on the nature of how we live each and every day. Our failure to integrate and ‘keep up’ with the accelerating rate of advancement is not only making us outright sick, it is driving us to addictions and in worst cases to an early grave (despite the hoopla that technology is a one way street to an ever improving quality of life).

What’s the difference between a dead body and an alive body? Both have organs, muscles, nerves, and both have a brain… so what is the difference? What is the aspect of being alive that makes us alive, that differentiates us from being dead?

You are pronounced dead when there is no longer detectable electrical activity in your heart and in your brain; when the electrical signals of these organs stops… you are pronounced dead.

What defines us as alive, is energy, the electrical signals constantly flowing between individual cells (e.g. within an organ), or between different groups of cells (e.g. between organs).

Like anything that conducts energy – as in electricity – there must be some sort of segregation of signals so that signals remain distinct, discrete, preventing short circuits.

In electronics, the part of the wire which surrounds, protects, and isolates the energy traveling in the wire from coming in contact with any other wire is the wire insulation.  The insulation is typically a rubber or plastic coating that surrounds the copper wire within.

In the electrical wiring of the body we too need to have an insulator that ensures that the signals – the electricity – along nerves, between groups of cells doesn’t come in contact with other signals, short circuiting the message or overloading the system.

What does our body use as insulation?  It uses FAT!

That’s right… FAT is the insulator. You need fat in your body, you need fat in your brain, you need fat everywhere in order that each and every electrical signal you generate remains distinct throughout its journey from start to finish. Fat is also needed to insulate to prevent an overload of signals.

Fat as an insulator is critical to the proper function of every single organ in our body, brain included.

Fat is not only needed in the wiring (i.e. our nervous system) but fat is needed wherever there is the risk or the potential risk that short circuits and system overloads can happen.

In healthy systems, where stress loads are appropriate and balanced by rest (e.g. cooling) periods, then the insulation required is minimal.

In systems where the stress load – or stated another way, in systems were the flow of electricity is excessive in intensity and/or duration – then the amount of insulation required increases.  If the stress load is so high that there is a risk that organs could be damaged, then in order to protect itself the body starts to insulate itself… it uses FAT to surround and protect the organs.

To visualize what happens when electrical devices are placed under excessive stress loads for which they were not designed, (as in there is insufficient insulation to prevent overflow of the stress), here are computer motherboards being overloaded with electricity:

The above are not situations that your body can allow to happen to you… that would be capital ‘B’ bad.  To protect and prevent total organ overload and organ failure, your body insulates organs using fat.

If you stop and think for a moment, that its not just your brain that handles stress, but every single organ in your body… your heart, your lungs, your liver, your pancreas, your stomach, every organ… then insulting to prevent a burn out ain’t such a bad strategy.

Your body is not stupid. Your body is not rebelling against you when it stuffs insulation between each organ. Your body is working to protect you, to keep you alive. Your body is simply responding to the fact that the stress load you are placing it under is more than it can handle.

Millions upon millions of years of evolution are not working against you, but for you, to keep you alive.  Your body is hoping that it can keep you alive long enough that the threats that you are under that are causing the excessive stress loads will decrease.  Until then, stuffing every crack and crevasse with fat is simply your body being smart about survival.

We need to reconsider the paradigm with which we think about fat, being overweight, and about obesity. It is not calories in vs out, its not willpower, its not laziness or lack of motivation; the issue is much much larger… its about stress.

In fact, its not about stress per se, its about our ability to engage stress in an healthy manner, its about our ability to eliminate, reduce and manage stress, its about our ability to train, preparing to live in a world that is only becoming more and more stressful.

We cannot eliminate stress.  The only people without stress are those in a cemetery 6ft under.

I believe that an electrical model, not a caloric model needs to be considered because at the root of our function, each and every cell in your body is a tiny little battery, a tiny little capacitor, which depends on proper electrical charges existing and flowing across its cell membrane to function properly.

A caloric model of obesity thinks of the human body only as a mechanical object.

The human body cannot be thought of in a steam engine manner… we need to upgrade our model from the steam engine era, to the era of the super computer. An era that is not fueled by calories, but by the flow of electrons.

How Much Do The Pros Sleep – HuffPost

2014 August 13
By: Jordan Schultz
Published at huffingtonpost.com


These Famous Athletes Rely On Sleep For Peak Performance

  • Kevin Durant (basketball) – 8 hrs of sleep per night
  • Larry Fitzgerald (football) – 9 hrs
  • Usain Bolt (athletics) – 8 to 10 hrs
  • Michelle Wie (golf) – 12 hrs on average, not less than 10 hrs but once slept 16 hrs
  • Russell Wilson (football) – 7 hrs
  • Rafael Nadal (tennis) – 8 to 9 hrs
  • LeBron James (basketball) – 12 hrs
  • Steve Nash (basketball) – 10 hrs + naps (1/2hr to 2hrs on game days)
  • Michael Phelps (swimming) – sleeps in a tent simulating 8,000-9,000 ft of altitude
  • Kurt Busch (Nascar) – 8 1/2 hrs
  • Derrick Rose (basketball) – takes a 3 hr naps before every night game
  • Andy Murray (tennis) – 12 hrs
  • Roger Federer (tennis) – 11 to 12 hrs
  • Amar’e Stoudemire (basketball) – 8 hrs
  • Earl Watson (basketball) – 8 hrs
  • Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) – 9 hrs
  • Maria Sharapova (tennis) – no special training ahead of Grand Slam, except extra sleep

Click here to link to the article at Huffington Post

Average sleep for these pros: 9.5 hours per night, naps not included

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [5]

This is our family dogvin.  He is a Vizsla – a Hungarian pointer – who typically spends about 20-22 hrs a day on the couch, on the floor, on our bed, out in the yard on the grass or on our daughters bed sleeping.  The remaining 2-4 hrs a day are spent eating, begging for something to eat, or looking to see if there is anything he missed to eat either in his bowl, in the kitchen, or around the dining room table.

He doesn’t head to the gym to do weights, on a rare occasion he does a few laps of the back yard to stretch out, he doesn’t do yoga or body weight resistance classes nor HIIT (hi intensity interval training), although he does stretch and yawn when switching between sides when sleeping but I wouldn’t count that as training.  He lacks goals, he never visualizes, never repeats any motivating mantras (as far as I’m aware), but when we head out for a walk, and let him off the leash, he goes gangbusters until the moment he is back on his leash.

Last weekend we were on the Bruce trail for a walk.  For over an hour, our dog ran back and forth on the trail, up and down the escarpment, chased chipmunks, explored a dry creek bed, and everything else that caught his attention.  For over an hour, our dog did an all in one training session – a fartlek, interval, hill repeat workout – and did it over varied terrain, a range of gradients, with variation in rest between efforts, with minimal loss of energy, no lack in the enthusiasm department, and not once requesting to slow down or stop.  How?

How many athletes train daily, sometimes twice a day in hopes of having speed and endurance which feel endless, and when training doesn’t yield the desired outcome, instead of reassessing, they double down on training as if a lack of training is the culprit to their lack of success. The go-to solution for many athletes and coaches is typically more training.  Harder, longer, faster, whatever it needs to be… just more.  If still not enough, then more of more is the next go-to solution.  There is definitely a volume and an intensity level of training that needs to be completed to compete, but load sessions are only ½ of the equation:

The Training Effect = Load + Rest

Think of it this way… breathing is made up of both inhalation and exhalation.  What would happen if all you did was inhale, never exhaling?  Beyond a point your body wouldn’t tolerate your nonsense and would shut down the experiment, you would explode exhaling until your lungs felt empty.  It is no different with training… if all you do is train, rarely taking the time to rest fully, your body will start to offer warning signs, and if those are not respected, it will work to end the abuse.  How?  Its different for everyone, we each have our own ‘weak’ link, our own warning system: a nagging pain, a cold which refuses to go away, a few extra lbs of weight, stiffness, becoming moody, sluggish, etc… When we refuse to heed the warnings, instead popping a painkiller or muscle relaxant, cold medication, psyching ourselves up with a good stiff self-talk reminding ourselves of our goals, our responsibilities – because simple, free, readily available rest cannot be the solution, right? – we break down our bodies causing injury, burn out, or a max out.


Loading the body more and more, with little to no rest does not equate to the training effect, in fact it leads to the exact opposite: The Untraining Effect.


The Untraining Effect occurs as a result of insufficient and/or inappropriate healing, rebuilding, restoration, and rejuvenation due to a lack of recovery between load sessions.  The outcomes are known by all athletes because every athlete at some point overreaches without adequate recovery resulting in overtraining side effects.  It is the point where energy levels become lacklustre, performance in workouts becomes sloppy, slow, lethargic, forced, and when the goals for the season become an uninspiring burden, not a motivating reason to head out the door. Even the solution – sleep – becomes restless, broken, difficult when we are stretched too thin for too long.  Eating changes either to binges, to meals inspired by craving, general overeating, or the opposite, minimal eating as appetite disappears.

When we desperately desire the end product (over process), we drive ourselves too fast, too hard, too soon hoping that if we only try more, results will arrive sooner.  Worse, we will even push harder in these moments in an attempt to try to force results to happen.

In the short term, The Untraining Effect can be easily reversed with rest, but usually more rest than athlete and coach are willing to accept.  When the rest is cut short, and training resumed – usually because anxiety or panic sets in with a competition approaching – the result is training limbo where there is just never quite enough rest to allow full recovery.  In time, this limbo becomes a negative training spiral where the exit is unfortunately found when the athlete gives up, quits the sport, becomes injured and unable to return to the sport, depressed and unwilling to resume training, and/or ends up suffering from subclinical symptoms or a full blown medical diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the array of supplements, stimulants, and medications available today serve only to prolong the limbo by masking the damage being done under the hood.

Over the long term, The Untraining Effect becomes less and less easily reversed (see Stress & Overtraining [1] – article Part 2 on hormonal changes with sustained overtraining).  When the lack of rest becomes persistent, the body must compensate to maintain function:  hormones, pH, breathing pattern and rate, neurotransmitter supplies, nervous system sensitivity all undergo adaptations (none of which are healthy, and many of which lead to the lifestyle diseases overwhelming western cultures).


Exercise can not only be unhealthy, it can lead to injury, illness, and dis-ease when not balanced by full recovery.


Our dog knows how to be healthy.  He knows how to have both an amazing day enjoying the outdoors, and how to recover: sleep, loads of it.  Try it out for yourself. Get sleep, good quality uninterrupted sleep each and every night, at least 8 hrs, more if you are younger, and even more if you are in any form of training (adults included).


Kenyan born, Dutch long distance runner and World Cross Country(2006&2007), Half Marathon (2005&2008), and Road Running (2006&2007) Champion Lornah Kiplagat slept 16 hrs a day during the most intense periods of her training.


American long distance runner and American record holder in the marathon and half marathon Deena Kastor slept 10 hrs a night and napped an additional 4 hrs a day when logging 140 mile training weeks.


If you are even remotely serious about excelling – in sport, in music, academically, in your profession, or simply in being healthy – then there is no short cutting sleep.

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining’.  

To find more posts on sleep, click on the ‘sleep’ tag below.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [4]

Is your training unproductive?  Are you working out, perhaps pushing harder and harder and nothing sticks?  Are your split times stagnant, or worse slowing?  Is your power output and endurance faltering?  Before you review training data, what about reviewing your sleep data.

How many hours of sleep are you getting consistently?  Is it straight or broken?  Do you find it easy to fall asleep?  Are you falling asleep or collapsing into bed, or do you toss and turn waiting for sleep to arrive?  What about falling back asleep if you wake up in the night?  Is waking up easy? Sleep quality is as important as training quality.  When sleep quality diminishes then training quality already has or is about to deteriorate.

In order for your training to be productive, your body and mind need to start workouts rested and ready to learn, think, and work.  A lack of sleep precludes total recovery between training sessions and prevents a receptive state to deal with the challenges and stresses of training.  If you haven’t recovered from your last workout, then piling on another one is not going to have a positive effect, in fact you are risking starting into a negative training spiral.

It happens to all athletes at some point… your ‘A’ race is fast approaching, your training has been inconsistent due to work/school priorities or life in general, so stacking workouts one on top of the other is somehow rationalized as logical.  But you cannot ‘cram’ your way into peak performance.

Athletes often get overwhelmed with pre-performance anxiety, recounting negative feelings and images from a prior poor performance.  Feelings of guilt, disappointment, anger and frustration are anticipated as doubt begins to overshadow any remaining enthusiasm and belief in executing a desired performance.  Lack of emotional stability, unrealistic goals, doubting race readiness/training impair an athlete’s judgement in the final weeks of training ahead of their event. The unfortunate result is that athletes increase training intensity exactly when it needs to be tapered, and increase training volume when sleep, rest, and recovery are the priority, all in a futile attempt to right perceived training wrongs.  It is not uncommon for inexperienced coaches to panic, to doubt their own programs wondering if the training they prescribed has been appropriate, and if the objective will be met or if the season will be lost in vain.

Sleep probably doesn’t even register as a form of training with many athletes or coaches.  Yet sleep is as important and as beneficial to peak performance as time spent in the gym, on the field, the road, the track, or the pool.  To encourage athletes to sleep, to nap, to rest, coaches need to have their athletes log sleep hours along with training hours, in this way, rest is neither skipped nor discouraged.

In fact, if peak performance is desired, then as a coach I would go so far as to ban an athlete from training if they fail to consistently obtain sufficient sleep.  What’s the point of training an athlete who seeks consistent flawless execution but is repeatedly tired, weak, unable to focus, and lacks clarity in their priorities?

The reality is, if you don’t sleep sufficiently, then you have no goal of peak performance.

The training effect does not occur until and unless there is adequate rest, and sleep is the optimal form of rest.  Rest allows the body to physically heal and rejuvenate, allows for the neurological integration of new patterns of movement improving technique, coordination, balance, increases neurotransmitter supplies improving agility resulting in faster turnover and higher power output. Its simple: it takes time for the body to do all of this, and it takes energy and focus to do it right.  If the body is not given time to recover, then subsequent training sessions will not build on top of prior sessions: there will be no training effect. Instead working out – because at this point you cannot call it ‘training’ – will serve to take an already weakened, tired, fatigued, and sloppy body and debilitate it further.

Is your training unproductive?  Maybe its has nothing to do with your training, and has everything to do with a lack of rest, recovery, and sleep?

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [3]

12 Feb 2015
By: Brett Sutton, Head Coach Trisutto.com
Published at: triathlon.competitor.com

From “The Ability to Adapt is Critical

“Age Groupers are driven self starters who would do or get up at anytime to fit whatever painful session coach has decided to give them.  Meanwhile, they are all working high stress jobs while juggling their family commitments also.  Despite this, all are so determined to meet their triathlon goals that they have at times, at least to me, made their lives worse.”

“It’s as if they have lost something of true importance. This can affect their mentality in a negative way, destabilize their week and undermine their future training.”

“Missing a session or two has no physical negative to a long term plan and that pushing through doesn’t enhance performance, it hinders it. Cramming a missed session in somewhere down the line. Just doesn’t work.”

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining