Up to this point, we’ve done a few noteworthy things: in Part 1 of this series, we defined nutrition, it’s function, and gave folks a beacon to strive for. Part 2 of this series was all about assessment, because without a clear understanding of where you’re starting, there’s no way to know what step to take next.
Today we’ll be covering the consequences that arise from a lack of enough quality nutrition. This is important to cover for three key reasons:
- Your understanding of this information provides opportunity for empowered decision making – when you know why you are doing something, there is greater buy in.
- It helps inform the design of your plan
- It emphasizes the interconnectedness of each SEMM pillar
Because of point 3 above, I thought it’d be helpful to bucket these consequences in relation to the others.
Relation to Sleep:
- Melatonin is well known as a great facilitator of sleep when taken as a dietary supplement. Reason being is that it helps to regulate your natural circadian rhythm, signaling the body that it’s “time to sleep.” But did you know that it’s a hormone produced and released naturally by the body, in the pineal gland? When your hormones are disrupted, as can happen when nutrition is sub-optimal, melatonin production is negatively affected as well. This in turn causes reduced sleep quantity and quality. So if you find yourself going to bed at a reasonable hour, but you’re unable to sleep soundly through the night, that’s an indicator to pay attention to.
- Your appetite upon waking in the morning can provide feedback about your sleep. Believe it or not, waking up feeling hungry is a good sign! When this is not a regular occurrence, some simple reverse engineering of meals from the previous day provide valuable insight into how nutrition can be adjusted to positively impact sleep.
Relation to Move:
- The quality of foods that someone eats will play a large role in what types of exercise that person should participate in. For instance, individuals whose nutritional profiles are dominated by processed foods (like the Standard American Diet…”S.A.D.”) should avoid high stress, high intensity exercise. The reason is that the body will not, over a long enough time frame, have the ability to adapt and thrive. While exercise of this kind may produce a quick, positive adaptation, that will be short term as a wall will inevitably be hit. This is the uncomfortable, and commonly avoided, truth behind one of the fitness coach’s favorite sayings: “You can’t out train a bad diet.”
- Being underfed (a nutrition/food quantity issue) is another cause for concern as the consequence is a lack of energy to sustain physical activity and facilitate adequate recovery.
- Inconsistent energy rhythms throughout the day is another commonly expressed issue that clients frequently mention. This can be attributed to blood sugar mismanagement through a lack of optimal nutrition.
Relation to Manage:
- There’s a great illustration of the interplay between nutrition and stress in the cinematic masterpiece Austin Powers, where one of the characters says: “I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat.” This feedback loop is a reality for many where the reach for a (usually unhealthy) snack happens because of some emotional/stressful trigger. The dopamine rush as this snack hits the bloodstream causes more of it to be eaten and the cycle repeats itself.
- Additionally, the blood sugar roller coaster described in the previous section has another manifestation beyond depressed energy rhythms. And it’s so popular that it has it’s own nickname: HANGRY. That’s right, drops in blood sugar lead to increased irritability along with the ability to make cognitively sound decisions.
Nowhere above did I make mention of the overwhelming ties between nutrition and a few other key areas, like:
- Chronic disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Immune function
- Global disorders of nutrient deficiency
It is for all of these reasons (and more) that if you are serious about cultivating resilience in your long term health and wellness, you have to include this pillar.
In our closing post of this series, we’ll go over the specifics of program design when it comes to nutrition.