19 Dec The Havoc of Perpetual Summertime
By PAUL ROBERTS of Tribal MSP
Do you suffer from seasonal adjustment disorder or low mood when the bright and long days of summer come to an end?? Have you ever considered that maybe your body is craving the unique properties of your new season??
Yesterday, I spent a bit of time explaining to the Tribe the importance of varying our sleep, stress levels, training and nutrition cyclically. For our ancestors, autumn, winter, spring and summer seasons would have provided natural variation and opportunity for certain nutrients, movement, physiological and psychological reboots and rest.
Whilst wonderful, modern 21st century life is rigid; we are stuck in a perpetual summertime.
Our ancestral summertime had unique properties –
- Increased stimulation and heightened adrenaline and cortisol to cope with fighting and mating season.
- Elevated insulin levels and blocked leptin and ghrelin to match and allow for increased carbohydrate consumption.
- Long light filled days and shortened sleep cycles.
- Tough physical demands.
- And, plentiful food.
Our modern lives are similar to our ancestral summertime 24/7/365 days of the year and the metabolic chaos and prevalence of non-communicable diseases are unquestionable evidence that we are craving seasonal variation in line with our ancestors.
What does this mean to you as an athlete??
It means that for you to establish a healthy relationship of continuous development with your desire for greater performance you have to cycle your approach to nutrition, sleep, stress and movement through the year and nod your hat to the lifestyles of our strong, lean, healthy ancestors.
Here’s three tips for how you might engage in more winter to make your next season of performance a successful one.
1. Extend your sleep and practice meditation.
During winter our ancestors would have spent way more time sleeping- in fact as much as 12-14hours, during this time they would have moved between different levels of consciousness. It is believed that after a period (4 hours) of deep sleep, a period of a few hours would have spent in a semi conscious state (much like meditation), and, another period of deep sleep would have followed. It is thought that the semi-conscious state was a psychological re-boot, a chance to process thoughts and feelings that had accumulated over the entire year- a chance to gain clarity and look after mental health.
You may well be sacked or divorced if you choose to stay in bed for 12+ hours each night through the winter, but, I would suggest that for a period of your year you choose to stay in bed until your body feels like getting up rather than being shocked into life by an alarm clock. Also, I would make meditation a daily practice. Our Tribal members enjoy the work of Andy Puddicombe of HeadSpace as a way of looking after their psychological health.
In the UK, 1 in 10 children have a mental health problem at any one time and 1 in 4 adults will report suffering the discomfort of mental health issues each year. An alarming level of psychological health, maybe our environment is not serving us, as it should??
2. Practice food scarcity and intermittent fasting.
As well as increased sleep, our ancestors would have experienced food scarcity during the winter months- an uncommon sensation for us at a time of food overload. The benefits include but are not limited to homeostasis and sensitivity of hormone regulation, giving your digestive system a break, increased energy and feelings of lightness and improved mental clarity.
Practicing fasting does not have to be an uncomfortable experience and neither should you ever feel ravenously hungry whilst fasting. In fact, our bodies have properties that allow us to comfortably skip a meal without any negative consequence- if you simply can’t miss a meal without feeling dizzy or faint, this may well be a post you should pay special attention to.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into your modern life is to, on occasion, miss breakfast- the natural overnight fast can be extended making it easy to fit into your day- on fast days, females should aim to work up to having their first meal of the day 14 hours after their evening meal of the previous day. Males can extend this a little further to 16 hours and beyond depending on their level of fat adaption and balance.
Beware the 01st January push- One of the craziest conceptions of modern life is our approach to an all or nothing approach to weight loss and health promotion that culminates with 1 day deciding that we are going to eat nothing and start running, spinning or some other high intensity calorie burning.
??Consider this, and, I hope it sounds as crazy to you as it does to me – radically increase our activity level whilst radically reducing our nutritional intake??
It’s a short-term recipe for frustration and no progress that would have our ancestors frowning with incomprehension at us 21st century morons.
Sorry, rant over- here is the last tip.
3. Turn out the lights.
Artificial light is a wonder of modern life that gives us the freedom to live our modern lives, but, at the same time- it provides the light that makes our perpetual summertime a possibility- bright lights on at 11pm in the middle of winter will provide the signals for your body to be awake not asleep.
In an attempt to find balance in your natural circadian rhythm, whilst it is dark outside choose low lighting for 4 or 5 hours before your target bedtime, also, minimise the stimulating influences of television, laptops, mobile phones and other technologies that are only made possible by artificial light.
There you go, 3 tips that should see you align with our ancestors without actually strapping on a loincloth and moving into a cave. Really hope you found this blog of assistance in balancing the rigors of your endurance lifestyle.
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