Here is the podcast I did with Dr. Susan Kleiner, about halfway in we go in depth on cortisol and how to combat it to get better and deeper sleep and create a thriving immune system (hint hint, it involves carbs and calories in a decent amount). Make sure to subscribe, you can also find the Eat To Perform podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
First let me say this is not medical advice, if you think you are sick go see a doctor. That said, the best protection from Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a high functioning immune system. Here are some things you should do right now that could help a lot.
1. Get nutrient dense foods that are also ENERGY dense
Ok, so remember all those foods that you took out like Orange Juice, Dairy and Whole Grains. This might be a real good time to bring them back, they could save your life. Part of a high functioning immune system is having the kind of gut flora that will help you fight off illness so if you have removed all of the ENERGY dense foods that are also nutrient dense foods that’s not good.
2. You might want to pause your fat loss cycle (or evaluate how it important it is RIGHT NOW)
If you are feeling lethargic, having trouble sleeping and in general trying to squeeze out the last couple of pounds you probably want to stop. Dieting is stress, what that means for your immune system is that you are taxing your immune system unnecessarily for a few pounds when you are trying to stay alive. Doesn’t mean never but probably does mean not now.
3. This might be a really bad time to be low carb
One big argument low carb advocates make is that their are no essential carbs and this is true, your body can in fact break down protein and fat to create glucose. But is that why you are low carb? Most people that are low carb are trying to lose weight, so they are on a diet and eating less. Frankly it’s very difficult to get the volume you need eating high fat sources and vegetables because they don’t provide you the right amount of energy that your immune system will require. What people often find when they start any kind of diet is that they get sick, like I mentioned above it’s stressful. One of the big benefits of consuming low carb foods is that they are great for hunger, so you are essentially manipulating your hunger to get to a lower calorie deficit. My question is, at what costs? If you look at Eat To Perform our low days are low on the carb side, especially in a fat loss cycle but the other days allow for some cycling that brings back energy. This is helpful for your immune system. Additionally high fat coffee is all the rage in the low carb community mostly because many people sleep drastically less when they are low carb. There aren’t a lot of people that are fanatical about low carb that also aren’t fanatical about coffee. There is a reason for that.
Also insulin and cortisol are antagonists (and to a certain extent being full) so adding back in some energy dense and nutrient dense carbs like fruits and starches can help you sleep longer and deeper.
Note I am not making an argument for processed foods here.
4. Even if you aren’t low carb you might still struggle with sleep. You want to fix that now. It could literally save your life. Here are some simple techniques and ideas you can use that will help a lot. Reduce caffeine consumption if you are sleeping less than 7.5 hours a day. No single thing will help your immune system more than this. A couple things you can do is to lower the thermostat in your house to 65 degrees or below when you are going to bed.
Here are a few things I find that help a lot getting to sleep:
1. I put on a podcast with about a 15 minute timer (sometimes I extend to 30 minutes). Keep it light and not too thought provoking.
2. Take a hot bath or shower before bed. For you to fall asleep your body temperature needs to lower so going to bed after a hot bath will often allow you to get to sleep better and you sleep deeper.
3. If you consume caffeine limit it to early in the morning. If you have to have coffee at 2pm to get through the day you aren’t getting enough sleep. Maybe try to get in a 15-20 minute nap. Anecdotally I find that when I am dead tired by 730 or 8pm and just trying to stay awake until 930 I CAN wake up a bit earlier because I sleep deeper and faster. The naps can help with this a bit but like I said, if you nap too long that’s sleep and you really want to keep that to the night time.
I’m not a huge supplement guy but certainly I am being more conscious of Vitamin D, Fish Oil and I use ZMA for sleep. For more information on unbiased reviews of supplements that might actually help check out this article on the coronavirus on Examine.com.
The reality is that these are tips that we work on with our clients all of the time but for a lot of folks the want to lose a few pounds or get better at exercise doesn’t rise to the level of urgent. This is a different time, the good news is that you can take these tips and when you do want to lose a few pounds or get better at exercise you will have a solid foundation in place to do so.
With a much better immune system.