Sleep, Nutrition and Exercise: How to Get Enough to Perform Optimally

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According to the Air Force, many mishaps have cited fatigue as a contributing factor. Getting a better night’s sleep is not only important to be alert during the work day, but also for avoiding health risks (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kristoffer Kaubisch).

Most people struggle to find 30-60 minutes to exercise and usually confuse "too busy" with "not a priority." The biggest challenge of the day is NOT the hour we try to dedicate to exercise, but the other 23 hours in the day when we fail to sleep properly and consume high-calorie food and drinks.

Failing at the daily process will cause greater stress, an increase in body fat, and a tired mind and body that do not "have time" to exercise. To prevent this snowball of lethargy, check out the list of ways to take control of all 24 hours of the day, fit in exercise, control your food intake, and get a good night's sleep. The three aspects (Exerciser, Sleep/Nutrition and Portion Control) have to be working together each day in order to be at your best:

When we use the term "optimal," many think of a world-class-level of fitness standards while others think of what is optimal for them, personally, and set the standard very low. But in a tactical setting, optimal means a mix of the two.

A tactical athlete does not have to be world class in anything, but they still need to be able to meet or exceed the standard required by their military, police or firefighter unit. Whether you are a recruit, retired, civilian or active-duty, the meaning of optimal depends on you and your goals for work and life.

The 23/1 Challenge

Weight Loss for Optimal Health. For most people, even avid exercisers, the biggest hurdle of each day is snacking and portion control. If you do not exercise regularly, the challenge is even tougher -- unless you have a manual labor job or similar activities.

The combination of exercise and portion control ( Move More, Eat Less ) is a must, especially as one ages. Once you get into your 30s, 40s, and 50s, you will see that things slow down. But that does not mean you have to stop. You just have to work a little harder and be more disciplined. Because gone are the days when you can "eat whatever you want" and work out hard and still lose weight or burn fat at a high rate.

Eat Less Tips

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables -- nearly half your plate.
  • Add protein to every meal. Place fish, chicken or steak on a plate full of salad.
  • Get tough. Be more disciplined about eating snacks.
  • Add more fiber-rich foods and drink more water all day long.

Though the goal may be weight loss for most, a better term is body composition (lose fat/gain muscle).

Human Performance. Whether you are in a tactical profession or have to be on your A game at a stressful job, the combination of nutritious food and sleep is required. Leave either or both of these out of your daily living, and you will quickly start to feel both the long-term and short-term effects of stress. Our energy comes to us from our food and sleep. We can get them artificially with caffeine and sugar for a short period of time but will hit a big decrease in energy too. Restorative sleep is required.

  • Sleep 6-7 hours a night. 8 hours when you can.
  • Eat for energy but avoid energy drinks (consume more fruits/vegetables -- less caffeine).
  • Avoid caffeine up to SIX hours before bedtime.
  • Blackout room. Keep it cool and quiet (get eye cover, fan and earplugs if necessary).
  • Avoid drinking too much (even water) before bed as you will awaken in 2-3 hours if you do.

Sleep Study Information

Mental and Physical Stress Recovery. Sleep and exercise are required in combination to help you fully metabolize the catabolic effects of stress. Normal everyday stress comes in many sizes -- from bills you cannot pay, work deadlines, school, family, and especially if you are a first responder. In addition to plenty of restful sleep, food can help too. Proteins, amino acids, antioxidants and omega 3 oils can all help you naturally de-stress.

Exercising, breathing more oxygen, even for 20-30 minutes will be what the doctor ordered for better health screening numbers. Still, sleep is the No. 1 recovery tool and, if you are not getting enough, stress levels stay high and will limit your ability to burn fat at optimal levels, even if you are exercising and controlling your food intake portions. When in doubt BREATHE. Focus breathing throughout the day -- add in an activity that makes you breathe more often (aerobic, anaerobic, resistance training, yoga, walking, etc).

Ideas for Training

Tactical Fitness Training

Tactical Fitness Training Over 40

In the end, it comes down to daily recovery from the previous day's activities, stressors and life challenges. Optimal health requires it, but it also requires physical activity, avoiding junk food and fast food (EAT MORE SALADS), and finding a way to sleep (and nap if possible) to help you use the best recovery tool nature has made for us -- sleep. If you have issues with any of the three, it could derail your health eventually and likely your performance immediately.

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