Three things you can start today for better health – sleep, food, and water

Assuming you’re training with consistency, the next three things I want you to lock down on is the amount of sleep you’re getting, the amount and quality of food you’re eating, and the amount of water you’re drinking every day.

1. Sleep

It would be hard to say which is more important on this list, because without any of them, for long enough, you’d die. That being said, I believe sleep to be the most critical, due to it’s unique and specific effects on brain chemistry. Sleep is a critical component of both physical health and cognitive function.

A few of the benefits of getting adequate sleep are:

  • the brain is “washed” clean during sleep.
  • the body repairs itself during sleep.
  • working memory is improved during sleep.

Many of the problems that arise with sleep deprivation are:

  • aching muscles
  • confusion, memory lapse or loss
  • depression
  • hallucinations
  • headaches
  • confusion, memory lapses or loss
  • obesity
  • seizures

For more info on sleep and sleep deprivation, visit these Wikipedia pages:

Additionally, the following video offer an entertaining snapshot of the topic.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all amount of sleep a person needs, it appears that six to eight hours captures the range for what is considered optimal for human performance and health.

2. Food

What you eat, is as important as how much you eat. If you eat the wrong amount of the wrong foods, you’re not going to achieve the health results you’re after.

Though it’s almost cliche, Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC), the father of modern medicine, nailed it when he said “let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food.”

When talking about food, we’re considering both the quality of food, and the quantity of food we’re eating. Eat too much, and you’re going to get sick and miserable. Eat the right amount for your size and activity level, and you’ll kick more ass in all aspects of your life. Eat the wrong types of food for your biology, and again, you’ll fail. Learn what foods are toxic to your gut and which foods are medicine, and you’ll thrive!

Where to begin? Anywhere. Learning how and what you’re supposed to eat is a process. Do your research. Talk to people – nutritionists, coaches and trainers, and your doctor. Read – books and articles. Then change your diet, and control what you’re eating. Test different protocols on yourself to find the diet that’s right for you.

Here are four worthwhile books to get you started:

  1. The Anti-Inflammation Zone: Reversing the Silent Epidemic That’s Destroying Our Health (The Zone)
  2. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health
  3. The Elimination Diet: Discover the Foods That Are Making You Sick and Tired–and Feel Better Fast
  4. Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It

3. Water

Water, as you know, is critical to your health. But how much are you supposed to drink?

You don’t want too little, because “Under relatively mild levels of dehydration, individuals engaging in rigorous physical activity will experience decrements in performance related to reduced endurance, increased fatigue, altered thermoregulatory capability, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort.”

On the other end of the spectrum, drinking too much water can have deleterious affects on your health, the worst being hyponatremia (low sodium and electrolyte balance).

A fantastic book on the topic of excessive water consumption is Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports

Though there are numerous variables affecting the amount of moisture your body loses in a day – such as activity level, climate, and elevation – a good starting point for anyone is to drink 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight a day. Then start to experiment from there to find your sweet spot.

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