Aside from catching an early flight, caring for a sick child or perhaps getting up to watch a World Cup match, you may have never considered getting up as early as 5am. For most of us it sounds like torture. But a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and began doing it anyway.
Overwhelmingly, people’s initial reaction is “Why?” with an added look of bewilderment. Now, I’ll admit that I love sleep. A lot. I too never understood why someone would voluntarily wake up early. If we could sleep in late, shouldn’t we just let our body rest? I saw it as some act of deprivation.
The truth is, there was no underlying reason for it. I undertook this as a personal challenge for myself. Philip Doddridge wrote; “The difference between rising at 5am and 7am in the morning, for 40 years, supposing you went to bed at the same hour at night, is nearly equivalent to the addition of 10 years to a man’s life.”
I know I’ve wasted hours of my life that I will never get back because I kept hitting the snooze button.
When you wake up at 5am, you start your day earlier than 99.9% of the world
Going About It
It’s not easy, trust me. Waking up early can be a daunting task, especially when you first attempt it. In fact, I had attempted this once before, failing and giving up in the first week! I could give you tips like; “Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room” or “start off small, setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier each morning”. Which are decent tricks to help you succeed. The truth is, YOU are your biggest obstacle. If the drive to get up isn’t there, you won’t succeed. This is true with anything. One important tip I did learn; Don’t give your brain time to rationalise. If you allow your brain to think, it will talk you out of getting up early.
Don't Let The Sun Catch You In Bed!
Once you do manage to get yourself awake and out of bed, it is vital to have scheduled some important or exciting plans for the morning – Wake up with purpose! Morning rituals have become an important part of my morning routine – if you win the morning, you win the day. Getting up at 5am on the dot and making the bed. That’s a big win for me. Then I’ll eat a big breakfast. If you are getting up early and spend that time pottering around aimlessly until your day starts at 9am, then you have just wasted 4 hours.
Make Your Day Top Heavy
We all have that one item on our ‘to do’ list that we dread. It looms over you all day (or week) until you finally suck it up and do it after much procrastination. Not only should you wake up with purpose and a plan but do one of the least desirable tasks on your list first. The morning is the time when you are (generally) more well rested and your energy levels are up. Therefore, you are more equipped to handle more difficult projects. And look at it this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way round. By the time your work day is ending, you’re winding down with easier to do jobs and heading into your free time more relaxed.
Unfortunately, there are none. None that I know of anyway. There are a ton of benefits though! Here are just 4.
Doing this experience, I have realised waking up early is so difficult for many because it’s a holistic lifestyle change, beyond just changing your waking time. There is a sense of control acquired from beating your inner voice. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that 5 minutes won’t hurt, don’t listen. When you are in charge of your inner voice, things start on a high and usually only get better.
Yes, when you first start you are going to be tired, mainly because the time your head hits the pillow hasn’t shifted any earlier. This is part of the process. You need to feel tired at the end of the day, so lights out can come sooner.
“Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.” – Dr. SunWolf
However, If you can muster the will. If you can train your body and conquer your mental resistance, the benefits to an early start are incredibly rewarding.
Dr Edward Benson-Cooper,
The latest coffee trend sees butter and coconut oil tossed in, to create a brew that is meant to enhance brainpower while shaving inches off your waist.
For people in ‘the know’ with health trends, this isn’t new. If you haven’t noticed, more and more of the trendier cafes – riffing off paleo phenomenon – are offering coffees laced with butter and oil.
It all started when US entrepreneur Dave Asprey downed a cup of yak butter tea in the Tibetan Himalayas in 2004. Trying to replicate the buzz back home, he eventually settled on a large cup of coffee, two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Asprey claims that by drinking one of his ‘Bulletproof coffees’ in the morning, you’ll get “unusual” mental energy while maintaining complete satiety deep into the afternoon. Asprey also credits the coffee with helping him shed over 40 kilograms.
HOW DOES BUTTER FIT IN?
Asprey claims the butter adds a nutritional payload. Although he stresses it must be grass-fed butter, which is higher in antioxidants and vitamins A, E, D and K than grain-fed butter.
WHAT ABOUT MCT OIL?
This is the magic ingredient. According to Asprey, MCT oil (such as coconut oil) rapidly converts to ketones, which is a source of energy - “It turns out the brain prefers ketones to glucose as a fuel source. So if your brain’s running on ketones rather than glucose, food cravings go away and your ability to both focus and think improves dramatically. It’s like your brain turns on again”.
SHOULD I BE DRINKING THIS STUFF EACH MORNING?
So far, there is only a smattering of studies to support Asprey’s claims. Dietitians have pointed out the staggering kilojoule load of packing your morning coffee with butter and oil. Indeed, a single cup of bulletproof coffee contains roughly 2000 kilojoules – about a quarter of the recommended daily total. It also carries 44 grams of saturated fat – nearly twice your RDI. Of course, recent studies have questioned whether saturated fat is as bad for you as previously once thought.
If you're interested you can check out a previously blog here, talking about the changing perceptions of 'fats' and coconut oil, a Medium Chain Saturated Fat (MCT).
SO WHAT’S MY MOVE?
Give it a whirl and see how it affects you, but follow these steps;
MAKE YOUR OWN ROCKET FUEL
Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Turns out they’re much more than an easy holiday gift basket.
Aside from the obvious benefits of vitamin C and fibre, citrus has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke, an increase in fat loss and inhibited growth of cancerous tumours. Grapefruit in particular has been shown to prevent asthma, help you stay ‘regular’ and promote healthier skin.
5 Ways Citrus Helps Your Health
Loading up on citrus and vitamin C won’t prevent colds, but high doses of C (400 to 500 mg) may shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms.
Citrus fruit are rich sources of flavonoids. The predominant flavonoid in these fruits—hesperidin—is credited with boosting “good” HDL cholesterol and lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Naturally packed with water and fiber, citrus will help you stay full and satisfied, but grapefruit may have a decided advantage, according to a 2006 Journal of Medicinal Food study. When researchers put volunteers on an exercise plan for 12 weeks and asked them to eat either half a fresh grapefruit or drink apple juice and pop a placebo pill before each meal, the grapefruit group dropped an average of 3½ pounds (compared to just ½ pound for the apple group).
Both citrus and salt, enhance flavours. So skip the salt and add a spritz of citrus juice instead to keep dishes lower in sodium.
A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating lycopene-rich foods (a special class of antioxidants in most citrus) may help guard against colon, lung, breast, skin, stomach and prostate cancer.
You gotta love that!
Grapefruits are also 91% water, and contain a payload of electrolytes that make them an ideal pre and post workout snack to hydrate and stay energized!
The most abundant, highest-quality protein on the planet could be scurrying across your kitchen floor.
The thought of eating bugs is probably making your skin crawl. But it shouldn’t. Eating insects is after all, something man has been doing for a long time. In fact, insects were our first source of animal protein and there is pretty good evidence that human evolution was driven by nibbling on termites.
"On an intellectual level, is a bug really all that different from say, a prawn?"
The reason for an initial repulsion is that insects trigger the body’s ‘disgust reaction’, an evolved response to prevent us coming into contact with potential harbourers of disease. Part of the problem for insects (which isn’t faced by various meats or fish) is that in many cases, the product looks exactly like it does in the wild (or on your kitchen floor). Beef, lamb, venison or pork in contrast, have been cleverly named to disguise their origins, helping you get over that mental hurdle. A piece of bloodied, unprepared slab of 'flesh' would be pretty disgusting. A well-cooked steak, not so.
Could insects become our primary source of protein?
Many cultures – primarily in Africa, Asia and South America, already rely on creepy-crawlies as one of their main sources of protein. For that to happen in New Zealand and the rest of the ‘Western World’, we’re going to need to get over that 'yuck factor'.
Growing world populations, water scarcity and a shortage of land mean edible insects are in an industry that has potential to swarm.
In terms of a sustainable business model, bugs have a lot going for them. For starters, they breed like well, rabbits. A female cricket can lay anywhere from 200 to 1000 eggs, with a zippy six-week gestation period. Plus, unlike heavy-hooved livestock, you don’t need acres of grass or mountains of grain to feed them. A report by the UN Food Agriculture Agency found it takes 2.1 kilograms of feed to produce 1kg of edible body weight of bugs. To produce 1kg of beef by comparison, you need 25kg of feed (almost 12 times as much). Insects also don’t mind being treated like battery hens, easing ethical objections. It’s quite easy to raise insects in a way that keeps them happy. They’re not stressed by overcrowding. Crucially, they can also be killed quickly and humanely. Bugs ready for harvesting are euthanised in a freezing chamber.
But the payoff is not just sustainability, perhaps more importantly is the nutrient density. Take crickets, the gateway bug due to the relative ease of manufacturing them. Gram for gram, these summer night songbirds provide more than twice (more than TWICE) the protein of beef. And it’s high quality protein too, containing all 9 amino acids. They also pack five times as much magnesium, and three times as much iron. The reason for their nutritional firepower? Unlike heavy-hooved livestock, you eat the whole bug, feelers to tail. You’re getting a lot of protein from the endoskeleton as they use all the nutrients they consume to make the shell hard on the outside, and that’s what you’re eating. This hard exterior delivers a payload of calcium, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and potassium.
Is Insect Powder the Pure Protein You’ve been looking for?
If crickets are the gateway insect, then powder is the form that’s most likely to go mainstream and start showing up in increasing quantities in biscuits, cakes, energy bars and breakfast cereals.
Can’t see it happening?
It already is and not surprisingly, it's the paleo community that has been one of the first to hop on board the insect bandwagon. People have this preconceived notion that insects are dirty, disgusting and gross. But these insects are bred specifically for people to eat. No different to any food available in a supermarket.
Back in the 80’s many in Kiwis and Aussies were appalled at the prospect of eating raw fish. Now? The lines at sushi bars can stretch around the block. And what about the insects of the ocean; Crabs, prawns and crayfish? These are often served with eyes, legs, tails and tentacles intact. Lobster was even once considered among the least desirable foods one could eat – "a garbage meat fit for only prisoners, apprentices, slaves and children." In many cases, we now consider these delicacies. The reason? We’ve grown accustomed to eating them and all disgust elicitors become a lot less disgusting with exposure. Which is precisely why the future of nutrition could be critters.
Are we set up to return to our original protein source?
Our prehistoric forebears may be celebrated for spearing sabre-tooth tigers and bringing down woolly mammoths, but they were just as likely to be digging about in the soil for bugs. The question is, with all this information; Are you ready to dig in?
Over the past few years, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has become a real source of personal inspiration. He has transformed himself from a popular professional wrestler, to one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Yet, it is not his A-list status or even his commitment to hard-earned muscle that has drawn my inspiration. It is his tireless work ethic and determined attitude.
So from troubled delinquent to beloved superstar, here are 7 Dwayne Johnson teaching moments. Seven, because in 1995, that’s all the money he had in his pocket before deciding to turn his life around.
Dwayne first learnt and applied this lesson by way of heavy metal and calloused hands. The gym was Dwayne’s home when he was homeless and has served as an outlet for frustration over his failures. There he learnt at a very young age; “there is no substitute for hard work” both inside and outside the gym.
At just 13 years old, Dwayne’s first gym session was humbling and saw him ‘buried by the weight’. “I’ll never forget that feeling, I was completely embarrassed.”
This created an obsession with ‘moving that weight’, a philosophy, which continued into his career. Whatever obstacle stood in his way, he was going to move it, no matter how ugly. Persistence means progress, not perfection.
Coming home to an eviction notice and padlock on the door, Dwayne made a vow to never be homeless again. Surrounded by others who had achieved success through sweat equity and hardened hands, his purpose now was to train harder than ever before.
And while in retrospect, he knows that lifting weights and paying rent are unconnected, the determination and sense of purpose that grew out of that event, would continue to serve and drive him to this day.
Despite all the focus and discipline he showed in the gym, his unstable home life left him directionless outside of it. By the time he entered highschool, he was a towering 193cm and weighed 102kg, but squandered his potential by getting into fights and was arrested multiple times.
Thanks to a high school football coach (and future mentor), Dwayne would learn to control his anger and put all that hard-earned muscle to good use on the field, rather than off it.
Like a deadlifting session gone wrong, one day, Dwayne had the realisation that, if he didn’t turn things around and take responsibility for his actions, he might never get the chance.
“There are signs around you all the time, and a lot of the time we don’t see them, but sometimes we do, and those become our greatest lessons.”
In order to handle the challenges that come your way, you must be able to read and respond to them mindfully. Rather than simply reacting out of habit.
When times are challenging, or you find yourself doubting or questioning your path. Remember, there are no shortcuts to success. You need to be willing to travel back down that hard road and start everything again, beginning with the basics.
For Dwayne, he didn’t need directions, that road was well-worn. He simply needed to call upon the same principles that powered him through his most gruelling training sessions: focus, persistence and HARD WORK.
To Dwayne, there is a sublime beauty in life’s struggles and he knows he is a product of the most challenging times in his life. “As crazy as it sounds, in my mind, I’m always a week away from getting evicted, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
*Inspiration of this blog, was taken from the January 2016, Muscle & Fitness Magazine
Eggs are pretty much the gold standard which all other proteins are judged. For starters, they’re cheap! But they are also packed with amino acids, antioxidants and iron, making them a solid investment in your health.
Caged Eggs vs. Free Range Eggs – Nutritionally, What’s the Difference?
Free ranged eggs tend to have a much deeper yellow/orange yolk and a recent comparison of nutritional data found free range eggs had;
Cage-Free vs. Free-Range vs. Organic
5 reasons to eat more eggs
1. Lower stroke risk
Adding an extra 20 grams of protein to your daily diet (three eggs) can slash your stroke risk by 20%, reports the journal of Neurology.
2. Good gut senses
Mixing protein-heavy snacks with exercise increases the levels of good gut bacteria, University College Cork reports.
3. Stronger heart
The tryptophan in eggs helps you produce serotonin, low levels of which are linked to an increased risk of heart attack.
4. No energy slumps
Amino acids help your body make norepinephrine, a chemical that boosts alertness. Eggs provide you with the full spectrum.
5. Sharper brain
Packed with choline, eggs have been linked to better mental functioning and reduced dementia according to the University of Boston.
When it comes to ‘it’ foods, coconut oil is the one of the hottest things around. Converts tout its heart benefits, weight loss and dental hygiene properties.
However, some have put coconut oil under the chopping block, concluding that its high saturated-fat content should preclude it from making health claims.
So is coconut oil a super food or just super hype?
The controversy comes from coconut oil being extremely high in saturated fat, which was once thought to raise cholesterol. However, fats are no longer seen as the villain of heart disease and obesity, clogging everyone’s arteries.
For a start, most coconut oils in the 90’s were partially hydrogenated (a nasty process). Today’s selections contain virgin, organic and unprocessed options.
Second, the fat crazed hysteria of the 90’s is over. Butter is back on our tables and people are eating egg yolks again. As a society, we have been so focused on trying to lose fat (around our middle) it was only natural we thought we needed to eat less 'fatty' food. In this regard, it is unfortunate the two share the same name when actually, good fats are one of the three essential building blocks our bodies need to survive and thrive.
When it comes to coconut oil specifically, studies have found that medium chain saturated fats (like coconut) can actually aid in weight loss and decrease fat mass. It also contains zero (dietary) cholesterol and has been shown to improve overall body cholesterol.
The main area coconut oil falls short is its smoke point, that is, the temperature at which certain oils burn. You want to avoid burning oil as this can cause a break down and the creation of free radicals, which can damage cells and increase the risk of cancer.
The smoke point for coconut oil is around 175oC which is somewhere in the middle for cooking oils. You don’t need smoking hot oil for a good saute, so coconut oil is perfect for low-medium heat cooking and sautéing, just keep a close eye on the stove. For higher heat cooking, such as searing meat or stir frying, you'll want to use a healthy alternative with a high smoke point. Avocado oil is great, and has a smoke point of about 190 - 205oC, one of the highest.
Overall, the health benefits of coconut oil are tremendous and I only ever have 3 types of oils in the kitchen. Olive oil for salads, avocado oil for high heat and coconut oil for everything in between.
All this makes coconut oil worthy of its ‘Superfood title’.
But rather than gobbling it up like it’s a magic pill, the key is to enjoy it and use in moderation!
You have likely seen a few of these taking up space in an unused corner of the gym. They are cylindrical shape, come in multiple colours, sizes and are made of foam. You may even be vaguely familiar with one, having awkwardly jumped on wondering if you were using it right. They are called ‘Foam Rollers’ and they are one of the most effective tools at your disposal for recovery and injury prevention, achieved by performing self-myofascial release.
Our modern sedentary lifestyle, sees us sitting at our desks, in our cars and at home on often more than 8 hours a day. Unsurprisingly, this constant seated positon causes various muscle imbalances, often disrupting good posture and contributing to lower back pain. The hip flexors are particularly vulnerable to this extended seated position (as illustrated below).
Foam rollers are an ideal tool to help combat muscle imbalance as they can apply myofascial release to just about any muscle group. What’s more, you have the advantage of controlling the amount of pressure you apply to the tissue AND what problematic area to focus on.
The main benefits of foam rolling are as follows:
Below are some examples demonstrating basic foam roll exercises:
Lack of sleep isn’t the only thing sapping your energy. Little things you do (and don’t do) can exhaust you both mentally and physically, which can make getting through your day a chore. Here are a few common bad habits (and lifestyle tips) that will put the pep back into your step.
1) You skip breakfast
Similar to how your car runs on petrol, the food you eat literally fuels your body. So, when you wake up, you need to refuel your system with breakfast. Skip it, and you’ll feel sluggish.
The more I research, the more I feel we have gotten our meals back to front. Most of us have very little (or no breakfast), medium lunch and big dinner. This makes no sense! Our biggest and most nutritious meal should be at the beginning, to ensure we have enough fuel and energy to power though a busy day, not right before we go to bed.
In case you don’t have time to be cooking roasts at 5am in the morning, here are some examples of more traditional, nutritious breakfasts.
Oatmeal with protein powder and a dab of peanut butter; a smoothie made with fruit, protein powder, Greek yogurt, and almond butter/milk; or eggs with slices of salmon or avocado.
2) You rely on caffeine to get through the day
Don’t be a slave to coffee! If you are finding that coffee no longer gives you a boost, but just a feeling of ‘normal’ or if you find yourself thinking; “Argh I really need coffee”. Chances are, your body is addicted to caffeine and can no longer functional normally without it. While some studies have shown that up to three daily cups of coffee may actually be good for you, it is important to appreciate coffee instead of being co-dependent.
Using caffeine improperly can seriously disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that consuming caffeine even 6 hours prior to bedtime affects sleep, so cut yourself off by mid-afternoon and watch out for those surprising sources of caffeine.
3) You have a glass of wine (or three) before bed
A nightcap sounds like a good way to unwind before falling asleep but ultimately, it sabotages sleep maintenance. Alcohol initially depresses the central nervous system, producing a sedative effect, which people can find helpful for falling asleep. However, alcohol creates a rebound effect as it is metabolised, creating an abrupt surge of adrenaline in the system. This is why, after you have been drinking, you are more likely to have a restless sleep (tossing and turning) or to wake up in the middle of the night.
4) You check e-mails at bedtime
The glaring light of a tablet, smartphone, or your computer’s backlit screen can throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
Sensitivity to the digital glow of tech toys can vary from person to person, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid all technology for one to two hours before bedtime. Can’t avoid checking your device before your head hits the pillow? Then hold it at least 14 inches away from your face to reduce the risk of sleep interference.
5) You skip exercise when you’re tired OR you don’t exercise because you’re tired all the time
Many patients will tell me; “I don’t have time to exercise”. Yet they have time to binge watch a couple episodes of their favourite show (#GameofThrones). What they are really saying, is; ‘they don’t have the energy.’ As previously mentioned, breakfast is a vital component to ensuring you have enough fuel to get through your day. Skipping your workout to save energy (or not working out at all!) can actually work against you.
It has been found that sedentary but otherwise healthy adults who began exercising lightly three days a week for as little as 20 minutes at a time reported feeling less fatigued and more energised after 6 weeks. Regular exercise also boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
6) You have a messy Office / Car / Bedroom
A cluttered space mentally exhausts you by restricting your ability to focus and limits your brain’s ability to process information. If your office or living space needs major reorganising, avoid becoming totally overwhelmed by taking it one step at a time. Start by tidying what you can see, then move through your desk, cabinets and drawers etc. At the end of each day, make sure your work and personal items are organised and put away.
7) You’re not consuming enough iron
An iron deficiency can leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, weak and unable to focus. It makes you tired because less oxygen travels to the muscles and cells. You can boost your iron levels naturally by loading up on lean beef, kidney beans, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and peanut butter. Pair them with foods high in vitamin C, as vitamin C improves iron absorption when eaten together.
Note: An iron deficiency may be due to an underlying health problem, so if you’re experiencing fatigue which you think may be due to a deficiency in iron, make sure you visit your local doctor.