I was listening to a podcast the other day (Mind Pump Media #865, although the Mind Pump episodes are amazing) in which the "world's strongest bodybuilder" Stan Efferding was interviewed. Although I'm not a huge fan of bodybuilding because of its negative effects on hormonal health, Stan's interview was interesting in that he promoted what he called the three big pillars when trying to achieve any health goal. These three pillars are sleep, nutrition, and training.
Too often, we buy into the idea that some supplement or pill will fix all of our issues. But unfortunately, supplements especially really only impact about 1% of our progress most of the time. It's our focus on sleep, nutrition, and training that really take us where we need to go.
I've discussed sleep in detail on the blog numerous times, but it bears repeating. Not getting enough sleep (especially over the course of days, weeks, months, or even years) is NOT good for our hormonal health, as well as our body's general health. Our organs need sleep to rejuvenate and repair. Sleep is when these important processes take place, but if we are depriving our bodies of sleep, we start to create issues elsewhere in the body. Our stress, thyroid, and sex hormones will be impacted, as will our digestive and mental health.
This topic is obviously near and dear to my heart. You cannot see optimal health without addressing your nutrition. It simply won't happen especially if you are older than 21. That's just the way it is. Focus on eating real, whole foods (animal protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds) to nourish your body daily. Eliminate and/or reduce your intake of the common inflammatory foods like gluten, soy, vegetable oils, sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed and refined foods (especially those that are grain based), conventional dairy, and alcohol. Trust me - it's not as hard as you think. You can read more about my approach to nutrition here.
Exercise and movement is critical to maintain, especially as we age. The metabolism benefits of exercise, most commonly from strength training, cannot be understated. Plus, moving your body frequently throughout the day is amazing for hormonal and mental health as well. Building muscle helps prevent muscle imbalances and injuries as we age as well. If you do not have a regular fitness regime that does include resistance training (not just cardio!!!), I would strongly consider working with a personal trainer in your area to help teach you basics of strength training, form, and progression so that you can start to apply that to your goals as well. Also, the excuse of not being able to afford a trainer, at least for a couple of sessions, is invalid - would you rather fall because of muscle imbalances or injury yourself with improper form and pay the hospital bills and lose time at work? Trust me - it's worth it (and I'm not just saying that because I am a personal trainer!).
There you have it. Sleep, nutrition, and training. They come together to make up a huge portion of our health. If you are not addressing any of these three pillars and/or overemphasizing one at the expense of the other two, you are doing your body and health a disservice.