Monday, May 18, 2020

Head down-bed down: Why Sleep is so Essential

Best advice ever

"A good soldier sleeps when he can".  This was some great advice given to me as a young soldier.   It was a luxury to have a routine in the military, as at any moment it could all change in an instant.  Soldiers have an amazing ability to some sleep (or 'Egyptian PT) anywhere, anytime and in any condition.   You'd have to and the reason is frank.  If you're fucked, then you're useless.

I've never been a 'lay in' kind of person, when I wake up I like to get up, and normally that'll be around 0700am, providing I can get my head down before 2200. I'd do my training, have a bit of brekkie and start the day refreshed and ready to go.

Until I became a Dad

Holy flip that all changed! Particularly in the winter months my little boy used to  wake through the night, screaming - like SCREAMING! It got to a point where I felt so run down, I had to take a day off work because my immune system was shagged.

I remember one night I had the house to myself and I had the first full night's un-interrupted sleep in a year.  No kid-no wife, just a king size bed to myself, to go 'star fish' for eight hours; eight hours of peace and coziness....aaaaaaaahhh.  

KA-POW!!! the next morning I was up spring-ier' than Tigger.  I was fresh as a daisy, even before my alarm, I felt absolutely amazing! Corrrr it was like, well I don't know, like having the best night sleep of your life I s'pose. 

We all need it and we all love it.  So what's the point of it then, and how does sleeping benefit us?

Researchers suggest that one of the most vital roles of sleep is to process all the information the brain has absorbed throughout the day, as well as the processing we: 

  • Repair
  • Rebuild 
  • Recycle 
  • Strengthen cells, bone and tissue

How much sleep do we need?

The National Sleep association recommend that the average adult requires between 7-9 hours sleep. Any less than 7 hour's then your in 'sleep debt', which can be made up, say for instance if you miss out on a hour or two one night.  But if it continued over the week, the debt would increase and unfortunately trying to catch up over the weekend, will throw your sleep pattern (circadian rhythm) well out of whack, leaving you even more tired!

Circadian Rhythm

The Circadian Rhythm is Basically our 'body clock', which circulates over a 24 hour period.  It's what wakes us up in the morning feeling refreshed and makes us feel tired when it's starts to get dark.

Stages of sleep

75% of our night's sleep consists of Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) of which there are four stages, three and four being most critical as this is where:

  • The muscles relax and blood flow increases. 
  • Muscles repair 
  • Immune system recovers 
  • Growth Hormone is released 

The other 25% consists of Rapid Eye Movement (REM), and this is our deep sleep. It helps improve brain energy for the body and brain, and improves performance for the day time.

Between the hours of 1000pm-0200am is where most of the physical repair takes place and 0200am-0600am is where the psychological repair takes place. 

Get a good sleep for weight loss!

The hormones Ghrelin and Leptin help regulate hunger and satiety and again a mixed up sleep pattern will throw your regulation right out, making you more likely to grab high energy, sugary carbohydrates.

A study was published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Obesity, on the correlation between sleep time and weight loss and found that over a six month period participants on average saw an average weight loss of 6.5kg (including a balanced diet, and a decrease of 500kcal per day). The researchers basic interpretation of the study said that “chronic stress may trigger hormonal reactions that result in an intake of energy-dense foods, so that eating becomes a “coping behaviour” and palatable food becomes “addictive”.

Top tips for a top kip

  • Avoid watching the TV especially highly exciting/stressful programmes e.g. Sports, dramas and the news 30mins before bed. Read a book instead, ideally not a gripping one 
  • Down tools earlier. Everyone's got to work but switch off. Get some family time in and relax...without wine!
  • Cut down on the alcohol, caffeinated drinks and sugary treats and drinks 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Have warm bath or shower hour bed time to raise the core temperature.
  • Cool the room temperature down to below...
  • Write a diary, including at least x3 positives from the day.  Write down any wins/losses you can learn from
  • Write a to do list for the next day, so that you're not thinking about what to tomorrow
  • There are loads of supplements you can research, magnesium being one them, but I'd say clean up the diet first 


Monday, May 11, 2020

Got That Gut Feeling, Or Is It Just The S**ts?

Your Microbiome

The gut or ‘Microbiome’, is a rich ecosystem of friendly and not so friendly bacteria. In fact 85% of the bacteria is ‘good’ bacteria and is 15% bad bacteria. Our gut flora help us digest, (though not directly involved in) by creating digestive enzymes. They’re amazing in several ways, they:

  • Protects us from pathogens 
  • Boost the immune system 
  • Aid in the production of certain vitamins and minerals like B1, B2, B3, B4, B6, B7, B12 and vitamins A and K. 

There's loads of the little buggers too. Our body has close to 10 trillion cells, but we have 10 times the amount of bacteria. One linear centimetre is said to have more bacteria than humans ever born. There are over 1000 species living in the gut, totalling between 2-3kg in weight. In 99% of our DNA we carry around microbes, and as we get older the microbes decline and become less diverse.

Anatomy of The Digestive System

Most of us are between 5-7ft tall, and our digestive system can be as long as 25ft. Depending on the quality of the foods consumed and the health of the gut, will depend on transit time, but 97% of can be expected to be absorbed.

From Top to Bottom

When you start chewing it triggers an appearance of certain acids, mucus enzymes and bile all to alkalinise and emulsify foodstuff, turning it into a bolus.

Passing down the esophagus, through the oesophageal sphincter into the stomach, where the main stage of digestion begins. The bolus is then broken down in to chyme by the hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

The chyme then moves down into the small intestine, the first part of absorption. The small intestine is made of three parts duodenum, jejunum and the ileum. The SI is approximately 6-7m in length. It’s full of finger like structures called Villi and Microvilli, as a collective known as the intestinal brush boarder, these are the most important absorptive structures in the body.

Moving on to the Large intestine (the most metabolically active organ), AKA the colon, which is larger in diameter but smaller in length (1.5m).  Final absorption of potassium, acids, gases and the H2O in the chyme takes place, then moving on to excretion. The whole process taking 18-72 (again, obviously depending on gut health and food quality).

The Who’s-Who of Poo-Poo

1/3 of fecal matter (your poo), consists of 1/3 of dead bacteria, 1/3-1/2 of inorganic material and fat. Proteins, cells, fibre, digestive juice and bile pigments make up the remainder. In fact your poo weighs more in bacteria than digested food. Transit time and frequency can be improved with high consumption of fibre rich foods (fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds/beans/pulses etc). Physical activity can also decrease transit time - ever heard of ‘runners belly’???

Reference: Heaton, K W & Lewis, S J 1997, 'Stool form scale as a useful guide to intestinal transit time'. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, vol.32, no.9, pp.920 - 924. Retrieved on 2/3/2007.

Type 4 poo is the most ideal and is a sign of healthy gut bacteria. Type 1 and 7 is not a good and if it remains consistent, you may want to consider seeing a health professional.

Here's one for you…

5litres of ‘gas’ leaves the body per day

Cause of Bad Guts

Certain things can cause a dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance):

  • Prolonged use of antibiotics 
  • Stress 
  • Poor diet 
  • Aggressive medical therapies (radiation/chemo) 
  • Too much animal protein 
  • Poor gut motility 

Food sensitivities tend to come from: 

  • Lectins (found in seeds, grains, pulses and nuts) 
  • Gluten and related proteins (found in grains) 
  • Casein, lactose and immunoglobulins in dairy 
  • Fructose (fruit sugars) 
  • Processed foods, preservatives and additives 

The best way to see if your client has an intolerance, is to recommend an elimination protocol. Your client is to remove all above for a duration of time and slowly re-introduce them one at a time, so as not mis-interpret the offender. Make sure your client records daily after every meal.


We don’t actually produce prebiotics (they come from olgiosacerides - complex carbohydrates), they basically are there to keep probiotics alive. Sources include beans/pulses, fruits, whole grains and starchy veg.

Probiotics are the good bacteria, working hard to kick out the bad bacteria. Good bacteria influences our overall health, metabolism, digestion and body composition. Natural probiotics are found in: 

  • Yogurt (dairy/coconut/soya) 
  • Buttermilk 
  • kefir (dairy/non dairy) 
  • Sauerkraut (fermented) 
  • Pickles (fermented) 
  • Cultured cheeses 

Sprouting, fermenting and soaking certain grains, seeds and starches increase the absorption by making them more digestible, gives foods more minerals and the food has more protein.

The gut is a fascinating and complex ‘organ’ and is far beyond the scope of this blog. You’ll need to do more reading and research, to increase your knowledge.  I recommend a great book called ‘Brain maker’ by David Perlmutter, as a bit of a start.

Keep it real Folks

Phil Snowden
The Fat Loss & Performance Coach

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