Plus, How you can get started with pushups at home, even if you have never done one before
[Copy of my weekly newsletter] Please enjoy my 4 Most Valuable pieces of content that I found to help you live longer better.
Firstly, a small tip: you'll always get the most bang for your exercise buck if you combine various full range of motion compound exercises including bodyweight, cable / band work and free weights. That means eliminating using gym machines - unless you are too weak to stand.
These four topics stood out to me this week:
1. Poor sleep can change your reaction to pain
Pain is a very complex sensation. Studies have shown that people who "medically" should be feeling substantial pain do not, while others who have no discernable medical condition feel intense pain .
Research published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that poor sleep interferes with pain centres of the brain. This in turn can change how you perceive pain and react to discomfort.
They also found that even subtle changes in sleep quality, like waking up repeatedly, were linked with next-day pain.
How can you improve the quality of your sleep? Glad you asked - read the next article.
How this can help you: If you are like me then your sleep will improve when you do not play with your mobile phone after 8pm, not eat after 8:30pm, not watch TV in bed, do a 3-minute meditation, and listen to music - especially mantras, chants or binaural beats (Spotify has many).
2. For better sleep tonight, pair carby snacks with this secret ingredient
A study of over 50,000 women found that those who ate high glycemic index foods (like refined grains, starch and sugars) had comparatively higher rates of insomnia. That's compared to people whose diets were rich in fibre.
Unstable blood sugar levels in general are associated with poor quality sleep. Poor quality sleep is associated with many medical problems including increased perception of pain, as you read above.
What's the secret ingredient which might help? They suggest eating an apple.
Adding anything with more fibre to your pre-bedtime eating will slow the release of glucose into your stomach and blood.
Being a Type 2 diabetic I'm familiar with how this works. I've also found that the best way to find out is to do your own blood measurements and keep records (if you are diabetic). That's because everyone reacts differently to food.
Bananas, oranges and strawberries all have good fibre also. Personally I prefer a handful of unsalted nuts.
How this helps you: Poor sleep is the source of many ills. Avoid high-GI and empty-calorie foods in the evening. Have a nice piece of fibrous fruit or a handful of nuts instead.
3. Nutrition myths that we stopped believing in 2019, including the carnivore diet and superfoods
This is worth reading even though it is kind of pop-culture. For example, it explains that superfoods are "real" in the lab, but the quantities needed for their super powers to transform us are beyond what what we could eat in our everyday diets.
I like its "revelation" that "fats ain't fats". I eat plenty of fats.
Not keto at all, but about 50% of my calories from good fats (25% each from protein and carbs). I get good fats from avocado oil, hemp seed oil, nuts and fish. The article warns against too much saturated fat but I always eat full fat dairy, and a fair amount of meat.
The article debunks various other trends such as eating a little often and the idea that existing on a carnivore diet is fine.
How this helps you: Pick up the ideas that appeal to your lifestyle and use them to try something different - especially adding more healthy fats such as in nuts and avocado. Be sure to reduce other foods equivalent to the calories that you are adding in by eating more foods with good fats. For example, three Brazil nuts contain about 100 calories, take that out from somewhere else in your food mix.
4. Pushups and tips for beginners
Pushups are a foundation bodyweight exercise. In my experience, from participating in classes, everyone hates them. I understand. If you try to do too much too soon you will hate them - because they are hard.
They are hard but great for your full functional body strength.
After all, in a push-up you have to be able to hold a plank, firm your core, and brace your back, shoulders and neck. That's all a massive task.
Start small. Take the advice of this article and start with the version that you can manage without over-exerting yourself.
My advice is to keep doing each variation until you have perfect form before you progress to the next. I see people all the time at the gym doing "pushups" which are no more than a creaky back and a twitch of the elbows. There is more value in 1 proper pushup than 20 poorly executed ones.
As you progress you will feel your posture improve and will be able to do your simple daily activities more confidently.
How this will help you: Read the article and find a starting level which suits your ability. When you master each level, try moving up to the next. The secret is to keep progressing.
You will also find this post of mine helpful:
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