7 Unexpected Habits for Exercise Performance
By: Kevin Rutherford, Nuun's Chief Eternal Optimist (CEO)
I'm coming off a 6-city speaking tour of the USA with our brilliant advisor and partner, the world-renowned sports scientist Dr. Stacy Sims. Stacy and I have a mission to reach as many athletes as possible, educating everyone on the importance of "clean" for our bodies, our planet, and for competition in sport. We believe the athletic community has got it all wrong. But on our education tour, I didn't realize how much I would learn. I learned far more than I was able to coach others, and I learned new habits for putting life's odds for health and vitality in my favor.
The 7 habits I learned from Stacy that will make you healthier and perform better:
1. You can’t out exercise a bad diet.
Too many athletes think they can eat what they want as long as they “burn it off”. The reality is this will catch up with you over time if you don’t feed and hydrate your body with clean nutrients. Consistently hydrating and feeding yourself with toxins is like expecting your human engine to thrive on very dirty fuel. First off, you don’t actually burn it all off. Secondly, your body needs the right hydration and nutrients to optimally perform in both the short and long term. By denying your body the essentials it ultimately needs, your performance will not only decline over time but your internal environment becomes a breeding ground for disease.
2. Don't pass on the salt. On the contrary, "pass the salt please."
Salt has received a lot of bad press over the years and rightfully so. The reason is that excess (and in particular low grade) salt has been used in a lot of processed food to enhance taste and to help preserve products for a longer shelf life. In essence, excess salt has been used to mask an issue to “market to the consumer with crap.” The reality is that you need salt. Putting a pinch of salt on your real, nutrient dense food, and even in your water, will help you replenish electrolytes in your body faster. This means you are hydrating through your liquid and food intake for better muscle performance, body function, and mental acuity. So next time, say ‘pass the salt’ and put pinch in your glass of water or on your salad. Your body will thank you.
3. Make every bite count.
Society has convinced us that we need to constantly fuel ourselves both in sport and every day life. But that is far from the truth in both cases. Think about these questions: how long could you survive without oxygen? Answer = 5-7 minutes. Or how long could you survive without hydration? Likely about 5 days. Lastly, how long could you survive without food? The answer is somewhere between 60-80 days. The point here is that oxygen, hydration, and nutrients are required to sustain life and performance. But, notice that the lowest priority of the three is fueling your body. In traveling with Stacy, I noticed that she doesn’t eat as much as most people yet she pushes her body harder. The reason she doesn’t eat as much as most people is that Dr. Sims only takes in what her body needs. Secondly, Stacy makes sure every bite counts by focusing on nutrient density (quality over quantity). One little trick: always eat more colorful plants first.
4. You have time to exercise. Commit to consistently pushing your body, no matter how early.
Our #cleanmatters tour felt a little like being a rockstar. We traveled to 6 cities over the course of 8 days. In every city, we had a full day of meetings with the media, athletes, coaches, teams, and sport retail industry leaders. At the end of each day, we capped it off with an evening speaking event in front of a very engaged crowd looking for insights to help them reach their personal best. The challenge with these long days is that we don’t have time there is no time to exercise. Stop. Not so fast. Stacy would get up at 4am to get in a run and some circuit training before catching a 6:30am flight to the next city. Through peer pressure, I trained with Stacy as I learned her habits and commitment. The truth is, all of us have the time to push our bodies. It’s a choice. Prioritize your early morning workout before the day gets taken away, no matter how early.
5. Water alone doesn’t hydrate you.
Have you ever noticed when you drink a lot of water that two things occur? You notice that you have to urinate at a much higher frequency and the color of your pee is clear. Although that's not all bad, the reality is that the water molecules need sodium to attach to the cells in your body for optimal hydration. Without sodium, the water will go right through you and as a result you are not actually hydrating, and your body will crave more and more water. At lunch, Stacy would put a pinch of salt in her water (and mine). Next time, be the conversation starter and put a pinch of salt in your water. If you are exercising, you will need more than a pinch of salt. That's where our Nuun tablets with optimized electrolytes come in.
6. Mainstream sports drinks don’t hydrate you. They dehydrate you.
More people use bottled water to train and race over any other form of hydration. The second most common habit is to use a traditional sports drink. As mentioned in habit #5, water alone doesn’t hydrate you. Even worse is hydrating with a sports drink that has excess sugars, carbohydrates, and artificial ingredients that your body doesn’t know what to do with. The physiology of your body is designed to separate your hydration from your fuel. Combining too many carbohydrates with your hydration is a path to dehydration and stomach issues. The simple reason is that your small intestine is 95% fluid. When consuming ‘liquid carbs’, your body actually pulls water from your blood to dilute this carbohydrate intake. The result is dehydration, poor muscle performance, and likely intestinal distress. Separate your hydration, with an optimized blend of electrolytes, from your fuel. Your body will thank you with a new personal best on the course.
7. Focus on quality of sleep over quantity.
A questioned asked by the audience in one city was: “Is it more important to sleep consistently at the same time or to get as much sleep when you can get it?” The answer is that quality of sleep wins over quantity every time. Although a good benchmark is to strive for 6-8 hours of sleep, pay much closer attention to the quality of your sleep. In order to achieve a high quality sleep, here are some tips:
- Drink something cold before bed to lower your core temperature. (that's right, no hot tea)
- Sleep in a cooler environment. Your body will naturally cool down and then rise again in temperature when it time comes to wake up.
- Consider cold tart cherry juice before bed. Tart cherry naturally contains melatonin and has beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.
I have never come off of a whirlwind travel schedule and felt stronger and healthier in my career like I did on this tour with Dr. Stacy Sims. I felt so great that I just had to share what I learned so all of you could benefit too. Practice these 7 habits and the odds are that your life will be healthier and happier.