Body performance, sleep, and recovery are areas of interest for many seeking to improve in areas of general body fitness and performance. Our purpose here is to highlight how body performance, sleep, and recovery processes relate. It also aims to determine how you can optimize these practices to give rise to better performance.
The significant findings are that body performance can be optimized in different ways, depending on the person. The foremost among this’s nutrition and training. Sleep and recovery are essential in optimizing physical performance and their advantages to the body, as well. Today, we’re talking to adult men to inform and educate on improving performance and the different variables that affect an individual’s body.
We’ll also cover the role of sleep in recovery. Recovery after exercise is a significant area of concern. Sleep’s importance is an underrated factor in optimizing body performance and recovery. Let’s jump right in.
- 1 Body Performance
- 2 Side Effects Of Poor Sleeping Habits
- 3 Sleep Hygiene
- 4 Sleep and Social Behavior
- 5 Recovery After Exercise
- 6 What Affects Recovery After Exercise?
- 7 Role of Food in Body Performance
- 8 Carbohydrates and Performance
- 9 Protein and Performance
- 10 Role Of Fluids In Performance
- 11 Role Of Food In Sleep
- 12 Role Of Food In Recovery
- 13 Synthesis Of Glycogen In Recovery
- 14 Muscle, Protein And Recovery
- 15 Fluid Replacement Post-Exercise
- 16 Lifestyle Factors Affecting Body Performance, Sleep And Recovery
- 17 Lifestyle and the Recovery Process
- 18 Lifestyle and Body Performance
- 19 How then can you best optimize body performance, sleep, and recovery?
- 20 Optimizing Sleep
- 21 Optimizing Recovery
- 22 Questions and Answers
The human body is made up of different components, starting from the bones to the joints and muscles. Performance is determined by how these parts will work individually and synchronously as a unit. For instance, proper mobility of joints is essential in affecting the movement initiated by different muscle groups around the body.
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What Affects Body Performance – At a Glance?
Experts have shown that body performance and the production of energy in muscles are interdependent. Insufficient energy will result in inadequate performance. The process that leads to contraction is also dependent on various factors. A few of these are:
- Physical preparedness
- Psychological preparedness
Physical preparation is essential since optimal performance is dependent on how proper training has been. Regular training, muscle strength needed to accomplish an exercise, and endurance continues to build up to achieve peak results. It also enhances the confidence and skill required in carrying out activities, resulting in better performance.
Psychological preparedness is also necessary. Concentrating on the task at hand is vital for optimal body performance. In its absence, there are mental blocks. These disrupt the smooth flow of information between the brain and muscles. Mental blocks result in a collapse in the focus while executing a task and may even result in injuries. Poor psychological preparation may also cause physical disruptions such as shaking, muscle tightening, and increased sweating.
Proper Nutrition and Hydration
Proper nutrition is critical for optimal body performance. The diet should accommodate all bodily needs during activity resulting in uptake and utilization of energy and fluids. A significant breakdown in the muscles involved in the exercise or movement occurs. A proper diet and hydration are necessary to mediate against adverse effects of muscle breakdown by replenishing energy and fluids. Unrefined carbohydrates derived from whole grains should form a fundamental part of such a diet. Vitamins and minerals are also essential. Protein content should be sufficient to support the processes of muscle growth and repair. Proper hydration plays several roles in the body, including:
- maintaining adequate blood volume,
- regulating body temperature through sweat,
- ensuring smooth muscle contraction since water content in muscle cells is sufficient.
Age and Peak Performance
The ages of peak body performance are between 15-30 years. Beyond this age, body performance decreases due to a reduction in the functional capacity of different body components. There is a decrease in the mineral content and overall bone density, resulting in a higher risk of fractures. The muscles hold fewer electrolytes and water, whereas the joints become less elastic. The lungs become stiffer, keeping less air, while the size of the heart muscle decreases, causing a reduction in the amount of blood that can circulate.
Sleep is a necessary process for all human beings. The quality and amount of sleep that an individual needs within 24 hours is essential to how the person will perform during times of wakefulness. Sleep occurs as a cycle, alternating between NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
This cycle consists of different sleep stages. Progression of sleep starts from stage one, proceeding to two, three, then four. The fifth stage is termed stage R (REM). NREM sleep is seen to consist of the initial four stages of sleep. Stages 1 and 2 are considered light sleep. They initiate the cycle of sleep and act as a transition between wakefulness and the deeper stages of sleep. There is relaxation of muscles while breathing, and heart rate decreases. Stages 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep. The blood flow to muscles increases, and there is an initial release of hormones. The last stage is REM and is discussed below. The body goes through these stages of sleep up to four or five times in one night, with the period of REM sleep significantly increasing for each cycle. In the final cycle, the body may skip NREM entirely.
One of the most significant impacts of rest is in memory. Whereas sleep generally aids memory, REM sleep is more adept at this. This is because studies have shown that different types of memory will undergo preservation during this phase of sleep, specifically procedural memory. This is the type of memory that aids in physical performance, without the conscious awareness that these tasks have been performed previously. REM sleep provides the body with a period to repair memories acquired during the day and consolidate them.
Evidence has shown that REM sleep improves new ways of moving the body, such as trampoline athletes problem-solving abilities. REM sleep facilitates the provision of energy to both the brain and the body. A reduction in the REM sleep that an individual experiences at night results in increased irritability and anxiety states during the day. It usually accompanies a decrease in the concentration span and an increase in appetite.
As mentioned, an essential aspect of sleep is the release of hormones, especially REM sleep. One crucial hormone that links sleep and exercise in men is testosterone. In the event of inadequate sleeping times, usually less than eight hours a night, studies have shown a significant drop in the average production of testosterone.
Testosterone levels increase with longer durations of sleep and decrease with prolonged periods of wakefulness. Knowing this, how important is testosterone concerning exercise? It tells the body to increase the number of blood cells circulating. It also contributes to the increased strength of bone. The main effect of testosterone is stimulating growth spurts of different muscle groups. It accelerates the formation of new protein in muscles, increasing the size and number of muscle cells, therefore offering a competitive advantage.
Different studies have demonstrated how sleep deprivation will ultimately affect optimal body performance. Varying degrees of deprivation result in different outcomes. The degree of deprivation required to change anaerobic exercises negatively differs from that needed to impact aerobic workouts. Only a 24-hour period without sleep will start affecting aerobic performance, whereas anaerobic body performance will be affected starting from the 30-hour duration following continuous wakefulness.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation is more detrimental to regular periods of exercise than the impact seen on shorter but high-intensity periods. The most significant amount of power achievable is seen to decrease with prolonged duration of wakefulness. These changes seen were also accompanied by reduced levels of endurance in the performance of physical activities. The studies showed that the mechanisms of these reductions of optimal body performance in the face of sleep deprivation were not precise. Others have suggested that increased periods of wakefulness increase the perception of effort needed to perform a task. It is, therefore, advisable for men to achieve adequate sleep to optimize performance.
Sleep debt is also known as a sleep deficit. It is the total accrued effect of getting inadequate sleep. Two types exist.
- Sleep debt due to partial sleep deprivation.
- Sleep debt due to total sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is when an individual gets inadequate sleep over days or weeks. For instance, over one week, a person continuously loses one hour of sleeping time each night. This means that he has lost seven hours of sleep. He will then go about daily activities in the following week with a sleep debt of seven hours.
Sleep and athletic performance are interdependent, and having a sleep debt will be detrimental to performance. One possible side effect of sleep debt is weight gain. Lack of sleep disrupts the secretion of hormones that are responsible for feeling full after eating. This causes more food consumption, resulting in an increased body mass index and subsequent obesity if the sleep debt persists.
Side Effects Of Poor Sleeping Habits
Sleep deprivation and poor sleeping habits result in increased stress levels in the body. When stress levels increase, the response is to increase the production of stress hormones. In this case, the levels of cortisol are increased. Cortisol is a hormone that results in weight gain, usually around the waist area, on the back, giving a humped back appearance, and the face, giving a moon-shaped look.
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Another effect of sleep deprivation is the change in the metabolism of energy that accompanies it. There is a decreased production of glycogen and carbohydrate during times of sleep deprivation. These are needed for energy production during exercise. Muscle cells break down glycogen and glucose into smaller components that release the energy required. In this way, the reduction in the quality and amount of sleep results in reduced performance as seen by:
- Low energy during exercise periods.
- Poor focus while performing activities.
- Slow reaction times.
- Easy fatigability while performing daily activities.
Sleep hygiene are the various habits and activities that a person performs to increase the quality and duration of sleep, resulting in a higher level of alertness during the day. As seen above, the right amount of sleep is necessary for the daily productivity of a person. Frequent sleep disturbances and excessive daytime sleepiness are some of the features that constitute poor sleep hygiene. The question therefore is, what constitutes good sleep hygiene?
1. Avoiding stimulants at times close to bed. The most widely used stimulant in the world is caffeine. Once ingested, it enters the bloodstream and stimulates neurons. It takes up to five hours for half of the ingested caffeine to be eliminated. It causes increased alertness, insomnia, irritability, and an increase in heartbeat. You’ll want to avoid stimulants such as alcohol, coffee, and tea up to six hours before bed to improve the quality of sleep.
2. Exposing yourself to natural light. With the advent and spread of technology, many people don’t go outside as often, preferring to stay indoors with exposure to electric lighting only. Natural light works with the sleep-wake cycle in human beings and other mammals, by controlling the release of hormones such as melatonin that regulate sleep. With irregular exposure, the release of these hormones is interrupted.
3. Establishing a bedtime routine. This entails coming up with an activity that helps the body identify the end of the day. It may involve taking a shower before sleeping, listening to soothing music, or meditating. It is essential to avoid situations that may cause stressful events or elicit strong emotional responses.
4. Establishing a pleasant sleep environment. The bedroom environment should be reserved as a place for sleep. It should be a stress-free environment with a comfortable mattress and pillow. The temperature and humidity should be adjusted well to provide a cooler atmosphere. Many people use cell phones in bed before falling asleep and other people park themselves in front of television screens – both interrupt the sleep/wake cycle. Lights that emit bright hues should be turned off to allow for relaxing sleep.
5. Establishing a sleeping schedule. A sleeping plan provides guidance for the amount of sleep that is needed for your optimal performance. This means there is a consistent time between sleeping and waking hours, and the times of sleeping and waking up each day are the same. To maintain regularity, these times should also involve the weekends.
6. Food intake. Food intake should be limited to 2-3 hours before sleep. Eating food too close to sleeping times limits the duration of quality sleep. Foods such as proteins and fats require a long time to digest, which can cause discomfort at the beginning of sleep, which delays sleeping times.
7. Alcohol and smoking are health hazards but have also been shown to be detrimental to the quality of sleep a person enjoys. Alcohol has a high liquid content. If large volumes are consumed in the hours before sleep, sleep will be interrupted by frequent visits to the toilet. Nicotine, found in tobacco, is a stimulant, which much like caffeine, interrupts the sleep cycle, as well.
Sleep and Social Behavior
Rest has an impact on how human beings interact with each other within the social construct.
Researchers at the University of California discovered that inadequate sleep is a trigger of loneliness and social rejection. They found that it manifests similarly to individuals with social anxiety. They tend to limit social contact with other individuals, feeling less inclined to engage with other people, resulting in loneliness.
So what did we find out in our glance at optimizing performance? To optimize physical performance, the brain and the entire central nervous system play a significant role. Sleep is essential in facilitating the functionality of these systems. Sleep deprivation causes a slowing of the transmission of impulses between the brain and muscle cells through the nervous system. In the performance of activities then, the optimal level at which these activities can be carried out is reduced due to this effect on the central nervous system.
A study assessing the Profile of Mood States showed that minimal sleep, constituting up to six hours a night or less, for a concurrent period of four days negatively affected the mood and cognitive function in an athlete. This was also accompanied by increased fatigue and confusion. This general disturbance in mood shows the extent to which sleep can involve the central nervous system.
Recovery After Exercise
Experts have discovered that the activities carried out by men following periods of exercise and competition play a considerable role in determining how well the depleted nutrients and destroyed muscle will be restored. Once an individual carries out an activity, there are changes that the tissues and different body systems undergo to perform. The recovery that follows this activity is an essential aspect of the cycle of training and adapting the body to different conditions.
The primary goal of sleep recovery is to restore the body to a state of balance, also known as homeostasis. In the period following exercise, the energy and fluids used up during the period of training have to be replaced. Changes that occurred in the lungs, heart, and other parts of the body will return to normal. Since exercise involves strong muscle contractions, the tearing of muscle fibers almost always occurs. Hence the recovery process following training aims to repair these damaged tissues.
Studies have shown that muscle requires an average of 24-48 hours following exercise to recover sufficiently. Attempting any intense exercise before proper recovery is detrimental to overall performance since it only results in the destruction of muscle rather than building. Recovery from exercise should be carried out in a timely fashion before the next time you workout. This increases the benefit gained from exercising.
Recovery following exercise seeks to increase the gains of body performance and adaptation. When an individual practices a sport or exercises, the body becomes fatigued. Other internal changes that occur are depletion of glycogen and energy stores, depletion of water resulting in dehydration, a rise in the general body temperature, and damage to the soft tissues. Light exercise can remove lactic acid from the body. Lactic acid is a chemical waste and must be processed and excreted. Sweating caused by exercise helps flush out harmful waste, such as lactic acid. If the human body has no harmful waste, it will stimulate cell regeneration, healing, or repairing damaged cells.
What Affects Recovery After Exercise?
Three underlying mechanisms have been found to contribute significantly to the changes seen during training:
- Skeletal muscle damage
- Reduction in the availability of substrates
- Accumulation of metabolic byproducts
These changes impact the central body systems such as the circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems. Therefore, this post-exercise recovery period’s goal is to return the body to the state where it was in the period before the exercise by reverting the changes in these body systems. This involves replacing the depleted energy, recovering the lost fluids, and repairing any tissue that might have been damaged. The accumulation of metabolic byproducts is quite significant.
During exercise, muscle breaks down glucose to provide energy and creates a byproduct known as lactic acid, mentioned earlier. Accumulation of lactic acid prevents the optimal performance of tissue from occurring, most often by causing muscle pain. Hence, it should be removed, which occurs during the recovery period. In low-intensity exercise, aerobic respiration occurs, and the muscles have sufficient oxygen to break down the accumulating lactic acid, hence in the recovery period, little oxygen is used up. In high-intensity endurance training, anaerobic respiration takes place. This causes the accumulation of reactive oxygen species. These are reactive chemical compounds that accumulate in muscle cells during contraction. In the presence of oxygen, they are easily removed. During the post-exercise recovery period, these reactive oxygen species and lactic acid are then removed from the muscle cells.
Experts have shown that to optimize how the body adapts to training, prolonged periods of recovery should follow training periods that are short but intense. More time will have to be spent in training recovery than spent on training to achieve optimal results. The recovery process, therefore, facilitates better adaptation to exercise. A term “under reaching” describes durations of training without adequate periods of recovery. This manifests as a temporary limitation to the optimum body performance and may require a significant period to bring performance back to its peak level. There are different ways in which athletes utilize the recovery periods.
Different athletes have come up with various athletic recovery programs that work for them. The following are ways in which the recovery period can be optimized:
1. Replacing depleted fluids.
2. Observing a healthy recovery diet.
3. Passive stretching.
4. Carrying out active recovery tasks.
5. Taking a cold bath.
6. Going for a massage.
8. Avoiding excessive training.
Let’s move on to another topic. What role does food play in body performance, sleep, and recovery?
Role of Food in Body Performance
The right nutrition is essential in any man hoping to optimize body performance. From the start, a person needs to live a healthy life, and the link between proper nutrition and good health can’t be denied. If the aim is to be a professional athlete, a weekend league player, or even a daily exercise guy, good food and the right nutrition will profoundly impact your performance. The diet should:
- Provide sufficient nutrients and energy to cover for the need in exercising and training.
- Facilitate the recovery and adaptation processes that occur after exercise sessions.
- Facilitate the attainment of a peak body weight that is consistent with the best level of performance.
- Ensure adequate fluid volume in the body while performing exercises.
- Ensure good health in both the short term and long term.
The diet utilized should be personalized according to the desired level of training. Current guidelines for the intake of proteins and carbohydrates have been adjusted to suit the man’s body weight by changing the food substrate’s input to match the body weight, that is, grams of protein or carbohydrate per pound or kilogram of body weight (g/kg). The intake of foods that have a high-fat content, and highly-processed foods, are discouraged. This includes foods such as chips, pastries, cakes, and fried foods. The preferred sources of fat are nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. However, the diet that is usually consumed by the general population can be applicable. This entails:
- Carbohydrates content of more than 55% of food calories.
- Protein content ranging from 12 to 15% of food calories.
- Fat content should be less than 30% of food calories.
These values are not fixed and can be adjusted according to the type of activity carried out to optimize performance. If you do strenuous exercises for more than one hour in a day, then the carbohydrate percentage of the diet can be bumped up from 55% to 65% and a maximum of 70%.
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Carbohydrates and Performance
The role of carbohydrates is to provide energy during exercise. In the process of digestion, they are broken down into glucose. This provides the power needed during exercise to provide energy for muscles and body systems. The body can also store fuel. This is done by converting the glucose into glycogen that is stored in both muscle and liver tissue.
One way in which these stores of glycogen can be increased is by frequently consuming foods that have high carbohydrate content. If the diet restricts carbohydrates, there is no immediate fuel during exercise, and even glycogen stores are depleted eventually. This forces the body to seek alternative sources of energy, which may be protein. This results in loss of muscle tissue.
One concept important on the subject of carbohydrates and performance is in the glycemic index. This is the numerical figure that indicates the ability of a carbohydrate food to increase the level of glucose in the blood, that is, how fast or slow it is for a carbohydrate food to raise the amount of glucose in the blood. Current studies have suggested that foods with lower glycemic index are more beneficial before starting exercise. The glucose will be released over an extended time, giving a sustained release of energy.
The meal consumed before exercise will impact performance when exercising. Intake of a meal up to three hours and a snack two hours before the start is beneficial. Before starting exercise, such meals are recommended to be carbohydrate-heavy since fat and protein intake could result in digestive discomfort. Examples of good meals and snacks are muffins, crumpets, toasts, pasta, yogurt, fruit salad, low-fat milk, or cereal.
Foods with a high glycemic index are beneficial during the exercise and recovery period. The release of glucose and the subsequent rise in blood levels will be near instantaneous to provide energy for exercise demands. If the exercise period lasts more than 60 minutes, eating early on is recommended, followed by regular consumption over the recovery period. This helps to top up the depleted glucose levels and to delay any fatigue.
Protein and Performance
The amount of protein consumed by active men slightly exceeds that of the general population.
- People partaking in events that require strength such as weight lifting and endurance workouts, who exercise for long durations are advised to consume 1.2-1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight.
- Men exercising daily for 40-60 minutes but are not involved in endurance events should eat 1.0-1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight.
- The recommendation for the general public is 0.8-1.0 g of protein per kg of body weight.
Surveys show that many men actually exceed their recommended protein intake.
Role Of Fluids In Performance
Lack of water, resulting in dehydration, negatively impacts performance. Fluid intake is far more critical in long-lasting events that require high intensity and those performed in warm climates. Consumption of water is okay, and it adequately replaces any fluid depletion in the process of exercising. However, the use of energy drinks has been shown to provide fluid replacement and electrolytes such as sodium, facilitating the absorption of the depleted fluids.
Role Of Food In Sleep
The importance of sleep in anyone exercising to improve performance has been emphasized. Diet, sleep, and exercise interact with one another. When one is affected, the impact extends to the other two components. Disturbances in sleep are a problem that can occur in periods of training and following training. One of the factors that impact sleep is the diet that men consume. A diet deficient in fiber with a high content of saturated fats and sugars may result in light and poor quality sleep at night. Men who want to optimize body performance should, therefore, avoid such diets.
For good sleep a diet should consist of:
- Whole grains
- Vegetables and protein with high B complex vitamin content. This is important since B complex vitamins are one of the components in forming melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle in human beings. Examples of such foods are fish, poultry products such as eggs and dairy products such as milk.
- Fresh fruits.
Role Of Food In Recovery
Having highlighted the importance of recovery from exercise to the adaptation of a man’s body to future training, food plays a significant role in this phase. The process of exercising depletes the necessary substrates like proteins and carbs. In the absence of a proper dietary regimen in this phase following exercise, the benefits won’t be seen.
Fatigue following exercise may make many men feel less hungry. If this is usually the case for you, the consumption of a snack such as chocolate milk, half a sandwich or yogurt will help in this recovery process. In the next two hours, it is advisable to consume a large meal made up of carbohydrates to a greater extent and protein to a lesser extent, the role of which is discussed below. These will help in a quicker recovery period and preparation for the next training times.
Synthesis Of Glycogen In Recovery
Since exercise consumes the glycogen stores inside the muscles and liver, the period immediately following working out constitutes the replacement of these depleted stores by the formation of new glycogen. To maximize this, it is advisable to consume foods rich in carbohydrates. Possible food choices to consume are sandwiches, low-fat milk, juices, and cereals. Carbohydrate sources with a high glycemic index are also advisable. This is, however, dependent on the time of recovery required. With extended recovery periods, it is advisable to consume carbohydrate foods over a regular timeline. The high intake at the start is advisable if exercise will be resumed within an 8-hour timeframe.
If the recovery period is bound to last for less than 8 hours before the next training session, intake of up to 1.2 g/kg of protein per hour is recommended in the first four hours, with the remaining time being the average daily consumption of carbohydrates. The recommended glycemic index of the carbohydrate food source needs to be high for the rapid replacement of depleted stores.
Muscle, Protein And Recovery
As discussed previously, exercise, especially one that is intense and for long durations, temporarily increases the consumption of proteins, hence the body acquires a protein deficit. The intake of protein in the diet will:
• Compensate for the proteins lost in the exercise period.
• Contribute to the formation of new muscle.
Since the recovery period allows for the adaptation of muscles, the formation of new tissue requires a dietary intake of proteins. Muscle is made up primarily of a complex chain of proteins known as actin and myosin. These complex chains of proteins interact with each other during muscle contractions to produce the desired movement. Typically, the synthesis of these new proteins to make up new muscle occurs in the 24 to 48-hour period following resistance training and 24 to 28 hours following endurance training. To coincide with this, to achieve maximal results, nearly 20 grams of protein following high-intensity training or endurance exercises maximize the effect of new muscle synthesis by providing the necessary raw materials. About 10 grams of protein is the required amount for those engaging in low-intensity exercises. This is because muscle recovery occurs to a greater extent following a high-intensity program compared to a low-intensity workout. Hence their demands for protein differ.
Fluid Replacement Post-Exercise
The replacement of fluids and electrolytes following training is done through standard rehydration; drinking water. Men need not have to wait or anticipate the feeling of thirst. Following exercise, water and electrolyte balance are altered, mainly due to sweating. The restoration of this balance is essential in the recovery process. The balance will only be restored if the volume of fluid lost during the exercise process is replaced adequately.
However, the intake of pure water alone is insufficient. The concentration of electrolytes should also be in balance; otherwise, the body will remove the excess water to balance them out, resulting in thirst. It is, therefore, important to replace electrolytes concurrently. This can be done by drinking drinks that have added electrolytes. The need to replace the loss of electrolytes is vital since homeostasis, or equilibrium, must be maintained. In the presence of dehydration, the absence of water and electrolytes in muscle cells will also result in muscle cramping.
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Body Performance, Sleep And Recovery
As simple as it may sound, the choices we make day in and day out have a significant effect on body performance. These factors also have effects on sleep and recovery, which are essential in influencing the quality of performance. What you do after working out or training greatly determines how fast the psychological and muscle strength rebuilds in preparation for the next bout. In this section, we will look at the lifestyle factors that affect each of the following; body performance, sleep, and recovery. Due to the close relationship between the three areas, an overlap of the lifestyle factors is expected, as we will see below.
In this current digital era, most people carry their electronic devices to their bedrooms where they can use them until late into the night. In a recent study, a good percentage of adolescents and adults, including men, have a TV set, video game, computers, cellular phones, or DVD player in their bedrooms to try to kill boredom before sleep. While they perceive this as an excellent technique to enhance sleep, studies have shown that late-night use of electronic devices leads to shortened sleep duration, insomnia and other sleep-wake problems, and excessive body weight. The alteration of the quality and length of sleep is due to the suppression of melatonin. This causes a delayed or disrupted sleep phase as well as circadian asynchrony.
Caffeine is a widely consumed beverage to increase alertness. As a psychoactive substance, just like amphetamine and cocaine, it activates the dopamine pathway (commonly referred to as the reward pathway), leading to significant but gradual behavioral changes. It specifically blocks the sleep (adenosine) receptor giving a stimulant effect. Caffeine also decreases homeostatic sleep pressure resulting in wakefulness. There has been a recent trend of excessive consumption of caffeinated energy drinks among men and women, which leads to sleepiness, disruption of healthy sleep, and reduced functioning during the day.
Every person needs to understand the critical relationship between their feeding schedules and their sleeping patterns. Different feeding schedules, more so those in the evening, can delay or advance the circadian rhythm, which is crucial in determining quality and duration of sleep. Hormonal and nutritional cues involved in the feeding process are essential in synchronizing the sleep process. The cellular metabolic processes that occur after feeding can significantly interfere with the circadian or sleep responses to light and the master circadian clock regulating sleep. Mealtimes are essential, therefore, in synchronizing the circadian rhythms. Late-evening meals have been strongly linked to short sleep duration, sleep deprivation, and delays in sleep onset. All these result in poor quality sleep.
The above lifestyle factors affect the physiological processes involved in sleep regulation. The quality and amount of sleep are vital to body performance. It offers strength to both the body and the mind as it gives time for the body to consolidate memory, repair memory, and release essential hormones. Every individual must make healthy life choices as they directly or indirectly affect their effort.
Lifestyle and the Recovery Process
For everyone, the right balance between exercise and recovery is vital. This stimulates fitness gains while allowing time for the body to adapt to the new level of fitness. Different lifestyle factors affect recovery, as we will discuss below.
Nutrition and recovery.
Any individual involved in intense physical activity, after exercise or competition, needs to consume nutritious foods to promote healing. The more one works out, the more they should eat. During practice, the body breaks down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and needs a consistent and balanced diet to heal itself. Many junk foods such as fast foods, refined white rice, and flour slow the body’s healing in the recovery process, which eventually leads to reduced body performance. On the other hand, high glycemic index (GI) foods such as cornflakes, watermelon, and ripe bananas increase the body’s metabolism and help with recovery.
The level of hydration and recovery.
Water constitutes 55 to 60% of the human body. Water is crucial as it acts as a medium for a myriad of bodily processes, including healing and repair, muscle contractions, and regulation of body temperature. However, a majority of men overlook the importance of frequent water intake to their general health hence neglecting their daily requirements. As regularly observed, most, if not all, men drink adequate amounts of water during the exercise period. This is, however, forgotten during the post-exercise period. During exercise, a lot of bodily fluids are lost through physiological processes such as sweating, and this should be replenished in the post-exercise period to facilitate quick and adequate recovery. Therefore, there is a need for adequate water intake both during exercise and post-exercise.
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Alcohol and recovery.
Alcohol affects various bodily functions, including performance in several ways. Frequent and uncontrolled alcohol intake lowers the body’s immune functions. Lowered body immunity, in turn, increases the body’s susceptibility to infections and the inability to recover from otherwise not serious illnesses quickly. Various research studies have shown that diseases, especially bacterial, impair the healing process of injuries and other inflammatory processes sustained post-exercise or competition. High levels of alcohol in the blood also decrease protein synthesis and the body’s adaptability after high-intensity exercise. Protein synthesis is at the center of healing and repair, and hence its impairment derails recovery. To improve the quality of timely recovery, one should abstain from alcohol or accompany it with a high carbohydrate diet to reduce or eliminate its effect on the recovery processes.
Sleep and recovery.
Adequate sleep allows the body enough time to recover. Poor sleep hygiene practices that lead to insufficient or disrupted sleep impair recovery. Inadequate sleep increases the level of stress hormone (cortisol). High cortisol levels lower testosterone production and hence impairs protein synthesis in the muscles. Adequate testosterone levels are needed for optimal muscle growth and recovery.
Lifestyle and Body Performance
The kind of life led by an individual is vital in determining their ability to perform to full potential. As alluded to earlier, lifestyle factors affecting sleep, recovery, and body performance are closely interrelated. In this part of our discussion, we are going to look at the factors affecting body performance.
Stress and body performance.
Stress can have both positive and negative effects on performance. The body’s natural response to stress includes various biochemical changes due to the release of the fight or flight hormone, adrenaline. In excess levels, this is detrimental to the body as it leads to a lack of control when performing. On the other hand, eustress is a positive type of stress that improves preparedness and performance. It enables men to exit their comfort zone to produce maximum results. Distress is the negative stress which is toxic to the body. Stress coping techniques such as relaxation breathing are essential to keep stress levels as low as possible.
Drugs and performance.
Due to stiff competition that exists in the world of sports, some individuals may opt to use a variety of drugs to try and enhance their overall performance. However, most performance-enhancing drugs are illegal, and violation of the laws on the drugs may lead to probation or expulsion from future sports activities as they allow men to be unfairly advantaged as compared to the other competitors. These drugs include diuretics, stimulants, and anabolic steroids. Apart from these, other socially acceptable drugs harm body performance, such as tobacco and alcoholic drinks.
Sleep and body performance.
As seen earlier, adequate and proper sleep is essential in improving recovery and body performance by releasing growth hormones. Besides, sleep disruption also lowers focus and concentration, hence the poor acquisition of motor skills necessary to improve performance.
Diet and body performance.
The quality of nutrition is crucial for enhancing body performance. According to research, a daily balanced diet with enough carbohydrates and proteins increases endurance during exercise. Nutrition choices are essential, therefore, for any performer.
Alcohol and performance.
Just as alcohol affects recovery, so does it affect body performance (see above). To meet one’s training needs, it is good to cut down on alcohol consumption.
How then can you best optimize body performance, sleep, and recovery?
To maximize performance, six different methods are available, which can be combined to provide maximum results.
Nutrition shouldn’t be based on the physical appearance that a person will have but instead on your exercise and performance. All men have a high energy consumption. Therefore, their diet should be structured to complement these energy requirements to realize optimal body performance. The timing of the foods should be in three phases; before working out, activity, and recovery phase. This should also be planned with the length of the activity in mind. If the exercise or sport takes a long time, high energy foods will be consumed more often than with a shorter performance.
The diet should be right in both the quality and quantity. In conjunction with nutritional needs, hydration will also optimize performance. The importance of adequate intake of water and electrolytes will ensure that the muscle cells will be operating at the optimal level. Another aspect of the issue of nutrition is health. Only a healthy person can achieve optimal performance. The immunity of all human beings is linked to the content of their diets. With a poor diet, the possibility of having a weakened immune system increases, hence the likelihood of being sick rises. To avoid this and achieve optimal performance, proper dietary intake is necessary.
Adaptation of the body types to best suit a specific type of training is essential to achieve optimum performance. Even though consistent training in one area of expertise will also produce results, training in an area that complements your body type is beneficial. There are three types of body types, known as somatotypes, which are determined through genes. These are based on the skeletal frame and body composition.
• Ectomorphs. These are long and lean with little body fat and muscle. They have difficulty in gaining weight.
• Mesomorphs. These are the athletic body types. Their bodies are described as strong and have a significant amount of muscle. They can either gain or lose weight without difficulty.
• Endomorphs. They have a considerable amount of body fat and muscle and can quickly gain weight.
Depending on the activity in which you’re performing, the ideal body type can be adapted into one of the three or a combination to optimize the performance. For instance, mesomorphic individuals perform better in weightlifting while ectomorphs excel more in running. In this similar example, the body of a runner is adapted to producing short bursts of energy over long periods. As such, they are better suited to endurance events and can optimize their performance there. That of a weightlifter is better suited to produce huge bursts of energy over short periods, and their performance is optimized in power events.
In consultation with food nutritionists and experts in a specific field of training, dietary supplementation can improve optimal performance. Proteins, creatine, and even caffeine intake before the onset of training can increase performance to a slight extent.
The importance of sleep can’t be overemphasized. It is recommended that men get up to eight hours of sleep a night. The use of sleep hygiene will improve sleep in both the quality and quantity obtained. However, to optimize performance, extending sleeping times either at night or during the day by having frequent naps is beneficial. This concept is known as sleep extension. The biological functions that occur during sleep, such as the release of the hormone testosterone, have a significant impact on performance. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is severely detrimental.
To optimize performance, being able to focus on what a person is doing is vital. To maintain focus, many people meditate. In the process of training and performance, you encounter distractions from fellow fitness goers, the crowd, or even feelings of self-doubt. This shift in focus acts as a distraction that diverts attention from the task at hand, resulting in poor performance. Meditation helps men and women to recover following training and reduce periods of injuries. Meditation has also been found to boost the immune system, which prevents illnesses and promotes consistent optimal performance.
The recovery process that follows training or exercising should be adhered to as described above to produce future body adaptations to the exercise routine and ensure peak performance that excels over time.
As mentioned previously, sleep and body performance are in synchrony. Sleep and its deprivation have a significant toll on productivity, daytime energy, and weight. To achieve optimal body performance, sleep should be considered a critical component of your workout schedule. Despite the recommended baseline for rest being eight hours a night, different organizations have come up with a standard time. The Human Performance Project has a recommendation of nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep in a night. This is for top-level athletes such as those training in the NCAA, professional and even Olympic teams. The best way to optimize sleep is by observing the guidelines of sleep hygiene.
- The sleep-wake cycle is one of the ways the body informs us when to sleep. Men should take advantage of this by having regularized times for sleeping and waking up, while napping should be limited to 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.
- Exposure to natural light is another way to optimize sleep. You should get sufficient daytime exposure to natural light, especially in the early mornings. The areas where you workout should be in the open or in a building that allows much natural light. Sleep and technology have already been highlighted and should also be avoided late in the night—the importance of these concerns melatonin, which regulates the amount of sleep that you get. Melatonin is produced by the body, depending on the amount of light that a person is exposed to.
- Monitoring your food intake before sleeping is also important. Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine prevent sleep, while foods with high sugar content such as pasta, white rice, and white bread eaten during the day can cause wakefulness at night.
- Establishing a bedtime routine will also help the body identify that sleep is imminent, and thus falling asleep is easier.
In employing such techniques, men can optimize their sleeping periods in both quality and quantity.
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The importance of recovery following exercise is at the same level as the exercise period itself. Recovery strategies have come up to maximize the advantages that the training imparts on the body. Physical activity causes stress. The body is not a machine. Therefore, periods of intense training and exercise should be accompanied by prolonged rest, termed recovery. For each hour spent by an athlete training, thirty minutes of sleep is needed to recover, which means that a day that runs for 16 hours requires 8 hours of sleep for the CNS and the body to recover from the pressure. Therefore, sleep recovery is one of the ways the recovery process can be optimized.
The training effect on the body needs to be compensated in the recovery phase. To optimize this, some in fitness have come up with strategies such as ice baths or tight clothing in the recovery period.
Body performance is an essential aspect in the lives of anyone seeking to optimize health, look, and feel of the body. It can be optimized by improving the diet, workout routine, sleep, and recovery phases. Fatigue is inevitable, but a proper diet can delay fatigue. A recovery process following exercise is always necessary. To optimize recovery, one important consideration is a positive sleep system, in combination with sleep hygiene. Foods and different lifestyle choices have varying impacts on body performance, sleep, and recovery processes.
Questions and Answers
Q: How can I optimize my body?
A: A few things you can work with in your daily life to optimize your body include practicing breathing exercises to combat stress, drinking plenty of water to help keep the body hydrated, get plenty of restful sleep each night, and choose healthy, nutritional whole foods as a mainstay of your diet.
Q: What does performance optimization mean?
A: Performance optimization is the process of making something work as efficiently and effectively as it can.
Q: How can I maximize recovery days?
A: To maximize recovery days eat plenty of lean protein and carbohydrates and rest muscles worked the previous day. Feel free to work on cardio and use stretching to keep muscles limber.
Q: What foods help muscle recovery faster?
A: Foods that help muscles recovery faster are packed with protein and complex carbohydrates. Think cottage cheese, sweet potato, spinach and foods of that nature. Whole grains like oats, quinoa, and wild rice are ideal for recovering muscles.
Q: Do naps help muscle recovery?
A: Yes, naps of about 15 to 20 minutes have been shown to speed up muscle recovery. Keep the naps short though, because longer than 20 minutes and you could wake up groggy.
Q: How do you optimize deep sleep?
A: The best way to optimize deep sleep is to create the perfect sleeping environment and schedule. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed and turn down the temperature in your room for a slightly cooler atmosphere. Go to bed the same time each night, even on the weekends, to keep your circadian rhythm in check.
Q: How do you optimize energy?
A: The best way to optimize energy is to feed the body foods it needs to work optimally, drink enough water to maintain good hydration, control stress levels, sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a night, and exercise daily. It also helps to maintain a healthy body weight, which Noom can help with.