When looking at muscle building, fat loss and performing and hitting numbers, we have to assure, through nutrition, that we balance stress on the system.
What is Eustress?
Stress is a common term now in our lives.
Stress is a disruption of homeostasis and comes in many aspects - external factors being, heat, cold, noise, light or something we perceive or imagine psychologically like feeling underappreciated or disconnected from loved ones.
Physical, substances, lack of sleep…
Mental - anxious thoughts, multitasking...
Emotional - depression, fear...
Existential - hopelessness or purposeless...
Relational - culture shocks, unsupportive relationships...
Environmental - pollution or disrupted dark/light cycles...
If one hits, we might be ok but things change when they combine.
This is the amount of stress we can handle and tolerate.
If we look at shift workers or parents for example, they have a very different amount of stress than a teenager, actor or athlete whose meals are cooked and whose responsibilities are low.
You have a base level of stressors for your current homeostasis. Typically as you get older, you balance more stress.
A typical cycle is - stressors disrupt this homeostasis, for example, during a workout, the extra demand might be on our lungs or quads, your sympathetic nervous system engages and some people feel sick and queasy or some people react excitable, in the recovery phase we feel tired, immunity falls and inflammation rises to deal with the damage.
If we recover, we build, grow and we get stronger — as long as we recover well.
A Healthy Balance of Stress - Eustress Vs Distress
The cycle of disruption, alarm and recovery, is normal and we should be focused, energetic and alert in response to changes.
When we exceed all of this and we cannot meet our recovery, this is where we chronically get damaged, bodies, performance, mood, productivity, relationships and quality of life. This causes dis-stress.
Bad habits may start to arise in an attempt to cope with stress and our perception of the stress matters.
If we feel capable - we feel energised and positive - that is eustress.
Negative distress feels like sharks are around us.
Stress and recovery are intimately linked, if we react well, we get stronger, and if we don’t, it breaks us down.
Stress Response - Nervous System - Recovery - Immune System
Both are key players in recovery.
Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) - organises the basic responses of the body.
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) - is the fight or flight response (action).
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) - brings us back to calm but also triggers a freeze response, when the sympathetic nervous system has been exhausted and all we have the energy to do is lie down and play dead…
Enteric Nervous System (ENS) - governs the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.
Our immune systems get hindered by too much stress but can also become more robust if well-balanced.
It’s up to us to find the right amount of stress.
We all have different appetites and tolerances for stress. Some find training exciting and discipline motivational. They’ll embrace it and be motivated. Some will find it daunting and like they will fail and need support. We all have unique ‘recovery zones’.
How much or how quickly depends on genetics, mindsets, past experiences and other stressors you’re currently dealing with. Obviously, we can help you build your tolerance and capacity.
Enhance recovery through good nutrition, social support, self-care and sleep.
Sleep Rules Recovery and Metabolism
Good quality sleep in the right amounts helps us lose fat, gain muscle, recover and repair, regulate lipids and blood sugar, regulate hormones and appetite, clean up and get waste products… the opposite happens if we don’t.
Chronic health conditions, excess body fat, poor recovery, and trouble controlling appetite… typically associated with redundant sleep.
People burning the candle, shift workers, and people with issues such as sleep apnea show signs of the above.
We feel and function better after good sleep.
Sleep - the body clock - the circadian rhythm - regulates biological functions, body temperature, heart rate, digestion, hormones, immunity and repair, appetite, mood, growth, development, energy and ageing.
We evolved with light and dark - when this doesn’t happen all of these functions are affected.
We need to get priority to quality sleep.
If you don't get a set amount of sleep - focus on the actions, rituals, skills, and practices.
It's More Than a Pre-Sleep Ritual
Dimming lights, blackout curtains, blue blockers, nasal strips, no animals in the sleep environment, deep breathing and calming, caffeine in the first 8 hours of the day only, etc.
There's more that can be done.
Nutrition, light exposure, social interaction, smart supplementation and management of time, behaviours that align with sound sleep and therefore the balance of healthy stress.
We have busy lives and yet proper recovery is our tool to thrive, good nutrition, cultivating mindsets and nourishing sleep - we need to devote attention and time to making them happen.