Q&A Recap: Your TOP Priorities – Sleep, Hormones, Recovery

Here’s a brief recap of what we discussed at our group Q&A last week. Have a question, problem or tip to share with the group, or just need some support from your community? Join us Mondays at 6:30pm (tonight, our discussion will optimizing your digestion) in the coaches’ lounge, every week during the June BCCC (signup on Mindbody). Meg and Greg will be talking briefly about some more in-depth nutrition topics that pertain to athletic success at CFCC, and then we’ll take any questions you have about your own BCCC journey!

Remember our cool little pyramid? We’ll be referencing it A LOT going forward, so get familiar with it! During our last Q&A, we spent some time talking more specifically about the foundation of our pyramid – sleep, hormones, and recovery (we’ll discuss digestion later). Two things to take away, that we hope will start to frame your BCCC and the way you see your health going forward – NONE of these things act independently. You can’t train well without addressing nutrition and recovery, you can’t eat well if you’re chronically overtired, you can’t digest your food properly if your adrenals are whacked out from being stressed out all the time…start to think of how everything relates. The body is a complicated and beautiful piece of machinery.

Also, as far as what we expect – we discuss things in terms of what’s OPTIMAL. We know that for a variety of reasons, you may not always get to “optimal,” but the worst thing you can do is give up entirely because you can’t be perfect. AIM for optimum, don’t EXPECT optimum. 


How did we evolve?

We woke with the sun, spent the day outdoors seeking food, fell asleep naturally as the sun went down, after we ate a big meal. We slept in complete and total darkness (in caves, no artificial lights – television, lamps, phones, computers, etc). We never had sleepless nights due to work stress or late night drunk texts from friends.


Ideally (if you work a normal schedule): try to be in bed (eaten, digested, unwound) by 10pm
If you can’t do that, at least make it consistent (so if you work later shifts, keep your schedule as consistent as possible day to day even if it’s weird compared to other people’s.

How to enhance sleep:
– no electronics before bed (start shutting off your tv/computer/phone as early as you possibly can to mimic the natural time of day that the sun would set).
– ESPECIALLY no TV in the bedroom (seriously, get it out of there. Your bedroom is for sleeping and sex).
– eliminate artificial lights in the bedroom (use towels or tape to cover up digital clocks, chargers, phone screens face down).
–  Use blackout shades (usually necessary for city dwellers) or a sleep mask. Your room should be so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
– Make sure you’re doing the right amount of training – not so much that you’re systemically overstressed, but no so little that you don’t get rid of excess energy
don’t restrict macronutrients for any extended period of time …being chronically “low-carb”  disrupts sleep
– get outside during the day for 20-30 minutes — blue light (the color of sunlight) disrupts sleep at night but you NEED it in daytime — helps body make VitD and ultimately melatonin
– mineral deficiencies can also disrupt sleep: especially MAGNESIUM (most of us, even those that eat a perfect diet need to supplement this: Natural Calm is Meg’s favorite magnesium supplement)
Q: How long before bed should I turn off electronics?
A: at least an hour, preferably more

Bedtime/sleep is a habit/ritual, like anything else – try to mimic the natural light of day and the darkness of night as closely as possible. Do things like read (a real book, not a computer), drink caffeine free tea, take warm baths to wind down at night. Also, lowering the temperature of your bedroom can help to guide your body into sleep.

Varied schedules/shift work: if you can predict in advance, do as much as you can (cooking, etc) beforehand to make it easier on the long days.


Q: If you’re getting to bed later than you want to, better to sleep a full 8-9 hours and sleep in or get up at a consistent time?
A: Better to sleep later if you can, to catch up on the hours.

Q: What’s the ideal amount of training?
A: 3-4x weekly for most people, can do more if you are taking special efforts with recovery (sleeping 9 hours nightly, etc) — need LESS if goal is fat loss, bc this is a stressor on the body. 4x is the sweet spot for most.

Q: Define intensity – can we “jog”?
A: Light jogging is the “dead zone” where you don’t improve (at that level of intensity, you’re burning carbs, not fat. Low intensity movement like walking burns fat, high intensity activity like weightlifting/CrossFit/HIIT builds muscle/makes body adapt. The “middle zone” does nothing.)

Keep in mind that while professional athletes (like Michael Phelps) train for hours and hours each day – there’s a reason that their careers last only ten years at best. We want you guys to be SUSTAINABLY healthy and doing what you do for years to come.

Q: How do you feel about NAPS?
A: Naps are awesome. There’s a reason why so many cultures have a “siesta” time built in during the hottest part of the day. Just make sure you’re actually NAPPING (20 minutes or less, no REM cycles). Don’t let it become a nap coma.


Cortisol = stress hormone… good in small spikes, not good if too much or too little

Focus on processing stressors in an effective way.  “What am I going to do with this information I’ve just been presented with?” Then answer that question and move on. Don’t dwell on the little things that upset you.

CAFFEINE: Constant caffeine is a stressor that will raise cortisol levels. Don’t drink coffee after noon/2pm-ish. Cortisol is produced in the morning naturally to help wake you up. If you can’t wake up without caffeine, your body is not producing the right hormones in the right amounts.

Realistic maximum: no more than 2 small coffees (24oz) daily – but it’s worth taking a break from coffee every so often and swapping for green tea, just to give your system a break.

Q: What’s wrong with decaf coffee?
A: The decaffeination process usually involves lots of chemicals that aren’t so healthy. Apparently La Colombe brews a decaf coffee without chemicals but Greg and Meg have not tried it, so someone should report back.

INSULIN: storage hormone (SCRIBE NOTE: serves as the key that opens cells to enable them to accept glucose/fuel). Just as with ALL things…too little insulin is just as bad as too MUCH insulin.

You do not need to fear the carbs, BUT you do not want to have insulin levels elevated throughout the day. Two options: If you prefer to have carbs at each meal, avoid high glycemic things like dairy and sugar. Second option: arrange for larger but more infrequent insulin spikes, ie one carb-heavy meal each day (Greg likes this at night)*.

*HOWEVER, HEADS UP: The idea of macronutrient timing (which we’ll discuss at the Q&A on 6/17!) should NOT be the first thing you worry about. First, focus on sleep/recovery/food quality first and once you’ve plateaued doing all that, experiment with nutrient timing. If this extra step stresses you out, shelve it.

***You will be less able to store carbs appropriately if you do not sleep well the night before. This makes you more insulin-resistant and less carb-sensitive. Stay away from carbs if you had a bad night…DESPITE the fact that you will want to eat all the sugary things more than ever before on those days.***
HEY, LADIES: Whether or not you’re planning on getting pregnant or actively avoiding it, at a certain age, your body is designed to support fertility. We’re not making judgement calls on anyone’s choices here, but it’s a state you need to be aware of. Eat the carbs. This will also help to suppress cravings as your body is actually using more carbohydrates during certain phases of your cycle.

Same for men… if you cut body fat too low, sex hormones are negatively impacted.

Q: Why am I so depleted after workouts?
A: Start with BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) – they can be used immediately for fuel. They’re bitter – heads up. Get instantized, mix with water. 1-3 scoops before AND after workout. Before is more important than after; as it triggers protein synthesis within your body. Still need to eat a meal within 1-2 hours of finishing your workout.



Additional Interesting Reading:


 Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival

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