It’s not uncommon to see somebody who sleeps 5hrs per night and eats junk food daily ask us about an obscure, useless supplement, certain that it will be what takes them to the next level. I’m baffled that these people ignore the bottom of the performance pyramid in their search for the pointy top, but can only suppose that’s because the bottom is a heck of a lot more difficult and less shiny than the top. There is NOTHING sexy about the following message, but it’s the most important one you may ever receive in your quest for high performance:
Hard work and nailing the basics comes before everything else. Full Stop.
If that statement sounds familiar and applicable to everything in life, that’s because it is. Only you (with a little motivational nudging from us) can work hard, but what are the basics?
Yawn, right?! The most un-sexy of the un-sexy essentials. Not only is this a massive slog to take care of and prioritise, it’s also bafflingly misunderstood and wrongly implemented, even by those with the best intentions.
Just drink a crap-ton of water everyday, right?!
Just drinking excessive amounts of water will not necessarily re-hydrate you and can cause hyperhydration: over hydration which can lead in essence to the body drowning itself…and you running to the bathroom frequently…therefore dehydrating yourself!
When you sweat you lose electrolytes: just have a Gatorade!
Sports drinks have little if any electrolytes in them: listed ingredients are usually just residuals from the sugar with which those things are loaded!
Why does this actually matter? Isn’t it just sweaty marathoners who need to worry about hydration? Nope. Hydration massively affects brain functioning, testosterone, sleep, flexibility, and blood sugar regulation(1,2,3). Paying attention now? Good…We’re not helped by modern diets being severely deficient in magnesium, nor by the mythical dogmatic phobia of sodium. Start fixing this by buying the fanciest (Celtic Sea Salt or any Pink Himalayan Salt) salt you can find and tossing a pinch in everything you drink. You won’t be able to taste it and will immediately notice a difference in focus, sleep, and yes hangovers!
Get Enough Protein
There are a dozen different ways to quantify the most important things you should do for your nutrition: Stay away from junk food (however you define that), get the right amount of calories, or ensure proper macronutrient intake…in our experience and research we’ve seen one consistent thing which is an instigator of human performance across a spectrum of topics… Protein consumption. Getting enough protein from the right sources will result in improved sleep quality, cognition, training status and immune system function, and disease prevention in addition to better-known areas such as strength and recovery (4,5,6,7,8). You simply won’t be able to accomplish yourÂ performance goals without enough of this macronutrient. Start by getting in a protein-based breakfast, then have a big hunk (~40g) more protein before bedtimeÂ and see how much it affects your satiety and sleep. If you’ve done it right, chances are you won’t look back from there!
Far and away the most impossible-to-overstate factor for health and performance…Sleep! Do we really need to list the effects? OK, injury prevention, Immune function, diabetes, Alzheimers, and day to day cognitive function are all tremendously impacted by sleep (9,10,11,12,13, 14). Tip of the iceberg, that list. MANY out there think that sleep which is adequate for basic functioning along the lines of dragging ones ass through each day is enough. This, like many parts of health and performance, can all-too-easily become a blind spot of which the impacts we are totally unaware of until we fix it. Get your nighttime habits in line, create a strong sleeping environment, and be diligent. Go a consecutive week with 8hrs+ of high-quality sleep and tell us you don’t feel incredible. Come on, we dare you!!
Obviously this is a conceptual rather than instructional or detailed article. How can you implement and excel at these three aspects of performance? You’ll have to read our upcoming posts, listen to our podcasts, and contact us for coaching to find out!
Sign up for our mailing list here. We’re not going to make things sound more complicated than they are to justify our expertise like most others, but we CAN tell you how to feasibly implement and optimise the above advice.
Don’t ever forget, the pyramid MUST have a solid base in order to be built so tall.
- American College of Sports Medicine (1996). Position stand on exercise and fluid replacement. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 28:i-vii.
- Sawka, M.N., S.N. Cheuvront, and R. Carter III (2005). Human water needs. Nutrition Reviews, 63(6): S30-39, 2005
- Effect of hydration state on testosterone and cortisol responses to training-intensity exercise in collegiate runners. Maresh CM, Whittlesey MJ, Armstrong LE, Yamamoto LM, Judelson DA, Fish KE, Casa DJ, Kavouras SA, Castracane VD. Int J Sports Med. 2006 Oct;27(10):765-70
- Effects of high-protein diets on body weight, glycaemic control, blood lipids and blood pressurein type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Dong JY, Zhang ZL, Wang PY, Qin LQ. Br J Nutr. 2013 Sep 14;110(5):781-9
- Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM & van Loon LJ. (2012). Protein Ingestion Prior To Sleep Improves Post-Exercise Overnight Recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise.
- Witard, Oliver C., et al. “High dietary protein restores overreaching induced impairments in leukocyte trafficking and reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection in elite cyclists.” Brain, behavior, and immunity (2013)
- Beelen M., R. Koopman, A.P. Gijsen, H. Vandereyt, A.K. Kies, H. Kuipers, W.H. Saris, and L.J. van Loon (2008a). Protein coingestion stimulates muscle protein synthesis during resistance-type exercise. Am. J. Physiol. 295: E70-77
- Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, Wren TA, Barzdukas A. J Pediatr Orthop. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-33
- Sleep Duration in the United States: A Cross-sectional Population-based Study Patrick M. Krueger, Elliot M. Friedman Am J Epidemiol. 2009 May 1; 169(9): 1052-1063
- Besedovsky, Luciana, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. “Sleep and immune function.” PflÃ¼gers Archiv-European Journal of Physiology 463.1 (2012): 121-137.
- Sleep restriction for 1 week reduces insulin sensitivity in healthy men. Buxton OM, Pavlova M, Reid EW, Wang W, Simonson DC, Adler GK. Diabetes. 2010 Sep;59(9):2126-33
- Sleep problems associated with behavioral and psychological symptoms as well as cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease. Shin HY, Han HJ, Shin DJ, Park HM, Lee YB, Park KH. J Clin Neurol. 2014 Jul;10(3):203-9
- Role of sleep continuity and total sleep time in executive function across the adult lifespan. Wilckens KA, Woo SG, Kirk AR, Erickson KI, Wheeler ME. Psychol Aging. 2014 Sep;29(3):658-65
- Sleep duration and weight gain: reconsideration by panel data analysis. Nishiura C, Hashimoto H. J Epidemiol. 2014 Sep 5;24(5):404-9. Epub 2014 Aug 2