8 essential health and fitness priorities to keep you at the top of your game by Emily Schofield*

Wednesday, 8 July 2015, By Chris Foy

Probably one of the most common questions I am asked by new clients 'How can I get more energy?' The answer is quite simple, sleep better and longer.  Sleep influences weight, mood, appetite, stress, and libido. There's almost nothing you could do that's more important to your overall well-being and metabolic health than getting a good night's sleep, every single night. Lack of sleep sees an increased production of the hormone cortisol, which is directly related to fat storage around the midsection. Take magnesium to calm the sympathetic nervous system, reduce stress and muscle tension to allow for a better sleep. 

Strength training - Strength training is a superior way to lose fat and attain an optimal body composition, that is, more lean mass and less fat. Strength training decreases blood pressure, increases muscle mass and bone density, gives you more energy and makes you feel good. Strength training also stimulates the body's anti stress system, lowering cortisol and releasing endorphins.

Minimise stress for a better cortisol balance - Stress is toxic to the body, as mammals we have the fight or flight response to stress hardwired into us. When we become acutely stressed, the body responds in ways as it would to prepare us for an attack, harmful event or threat to survival. Our heart rate and blood pressure become elevated, digestion slowed, decreased immune system and our adrenal glands start producing more of cortisol a stress hormone. For people who are chronically stressed, the wear and tear that these affects have on the body over time is very apparent.  Decrease your stress by exercising more, sleeping more and eating nutrient rich low GI foods.

Eat OFTEN - Eating frequency is the first aspect of eating for weight loss and muscle gain that I explain to a new client. Why is it so important to eat several small meals a day as opposed to 3 larger ones? The human body is an incredible adaptogen, when you do not eat anything for several hours your body goes into 'starvation mode' and tries to hold on to energy stores (fat stores). Your metabolism slows down significantly. For example, if you have dinner, followed by fasting for 8 hours over night followed by another  5 hours fasting because you skip breakfast, your body is trying to hold onto your energy stores not knowing when it's next meal is coming!  Avoid this by eating smaller frequent meals throughout the day to increase your metabolic rate and lose more fat.

Reduce alcohol intake - Alcohol is toxic to the body, it is energy dense and nutritionally deficient. It lowers testosterone and impedes your ability to build muscle. The body's preferred fuel source is carbohydrate, followed by fats and protein, when alcohol is added to the equation, being a toxin it is the first thing to be removed by the body. This means that anything else being consumed at that time (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) will not be able to be burned until alcohol has been removed from the system. This often means that other fuel sources being consumed in conjunction with alcohol will be stored. Alcohol also decreases quality of sleep, resulting in increased cortisol production.

Be active, not sedentary - If you work a sedentary job, be active where you can. The more exercise you do, the more energy you will find you have. The little things count - walk to work, take the stairs, get up for an early morning jog. If you sit down at work all day, drive home and head straight for the couch then I can guarantee you will be lacking energy.

Take fish oil - Supplement omega 3's to decrease inflammation within the body, lose body fat, decrease cortisol and stress, reduce joint pain and support bone health.  Fish oil is anti-inflammatory due to its omega 3 content and may assist in reducing stress. Fish oil can also improve your insulin sensitivity, poor insulin sensitivity is common to people who are overweight and can make losing weight a slow process. 

Take magnesium - Magnesium is an anti-stress mineral- need I say more? Magnesium is the most critical mineral for coping with all stress.  If you are chronically stressed, you can become magnesium deficient even if you are eating an abundance of magnesium rich foods - predominately dark green leafy vegetables. Magnesium is involved several essential biochemical reactions such as insulin sensitivity, protein synthesis, calcium absorption, testosterone production and regulation of the sympathetic nervous system.  Take magnesium anytime after 4pm for an improved quality of sleep.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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