Knowledge really is power. And half the battle in this Badass Journey is knowing what's what - and what works.
It helps to turn to the brainiacs for knowledge, so here are some research tidbits I've gathered from various sources on issues ranging from nutrition to the sleep-metabolism connection and the truth about your personal max effort.
Badass Brain Food
1. Speed starts in your head: Are you really giving it your all? A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when cyclists were told they were barely matching their best time (even though, in reality, they were close), the cyclists increased their speed significantly. Lesson: Your maximum effort is likely even higher than you think. Push harder.
2. Slow it down: A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that super-speedy eaters in their research pool had a body mass index that was 12 percent higher than the BMI of slower eaters. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register being full, so slow it down and odds are you won't feel the need to clean your plate. Lesson: To eat less, eat sloooower.
3. Embrace the Afterburn: Consider it a cardio bonus - your metabolism stays revved up well after you get off that bike or stop running. A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that a group pedaling on a stationary bike at max effort for 47 minutes burned 190 calories above their resting metabolic rate for 14 hours AFTER the workout. Lesson: This is why regular cardio exercise, at least 3 times a week, can speed up weight loss results and helps keep you slim and lean (when combined with clean eating, of course).
4. In an energy slump? Skip the sugar, go for protein: A study in the journal Neuron says protein stimulates the cells that keep us alert and keep our metabolism humming. Lesson: When the 4 pm slump hits you, skip the candy bar and go for nuts, lean turkey jerky, string cheese or Greek yogurt (high in protein, lower in sugar than regular yogurt).
5. See no evil, eat no evil: More than one study has found that just having sugary treats within our view makes us more likely to indulge. Consider: Secretaries in a 2006 study ate the equivalent of 77 more calories of candy a day (for a weight gain of 5 pounds a year) when the candy was in a clear jar, as opposed to secretaries whose candy was in an opaque jar. And those who had the jar on their desk ate about 9 candies a day, versus just 4 when the jar was placed six feet away. Lesson: Stay away from the jar, or get rid of it altogether.
6. Ommm your way to lower body fat: High stress and anxiety makes the body pump out extra cortisol, and that messes with the way our bodies store fat - sending more of it into the stomach. A review in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, echoing other similar studies, shows that yoga signals the brain to lower cortisol levels. Lesson: whether you meditate or just chill out solo, take time to find a little zen amid your chaotic days.
7. Sleep better, munch less: It only takes a couple of nights of poor sleep to throw the body's hunger signals out of whack, according to a study in Endocrine Development. Participants in the study saw higher levels of ghrelin (our hunger-stimulating hormone) after two sleepless nights. They also had lower levels of leptin, which is what signals the body to stop eating. Lesson: Sleep really is more than a luxury. It keeps our bodies - and hunger levels - working as they should.
8. Go nutty, get happy: Snacking daily on a serving of nuts - walnuts especially - provides a daily dose of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that also controls hunger levels, according to The Journal of Proteome Research. Lesson: Yet another reason to trade your daily cookie snack for nuts.
Coming up: Core for Couch Potato Time: Nightly core 'homework' to be done during the commercial breaks!