Execute Your Perfect Marathon Day!

How to plan and execute your perfect marathon day…

You’ve spent months training for the big day. Here’s how to get everything right – from getting to the start to crossing the finish line in style.

There is nothing quite like marathon day. The electric atmosphere, the nervous walk to the start and the smell of Deep Heat and nervousness in the air. All of the miles you’ve clocked in training, the conditioning, the battling through wind and rain, and weekends spent on the road – they have all led to this moment. You’ve done all you can to get your body ready – now it’s about your heart and mind, and executing your plan.

Marathon Sleep

What to do before the marathon

• Take your time

Race day generally starts earlier than you might like, and usually after a less-than-ideal night’s sleep. Don’t panic – world records have been broken after a poor night’s sleep. (In fact, Eliud Kipchoge only got about five hours’ kip the night before he ran a sub-two-hour marathon.) Race morning is about staying calm and going through the routines that have served you well in training.

When we’re nervous, it’s all too easy to rush or cut short our meals. Breakfast provides a key part of the energy you’ll need in the race, so it’s worth getting it right. Build enough time into your morning schedule to graze on your practised race-day breakfast for 20-30 minutes, at least a couple of hours before the start of the race. You’ll digest your food better and probably find you can eat a little more, which may be useful later.

• Stick to your routine

Treat today as if it’s the best long run of training and repeat things you have done before successful runs or races. Try to keep to a familiar routine that has worked for you before other races that went well. The foods you eat, the kit you wear and the music you listen to are all part of your mental warm-up.

Get your logistics sorted well in advance. Know which train/bus you’ll catch and where you’ll head when you get off. Find out where the toilets will be. Leaving this until race day could affect your performance because any last-minute uncertainty can make you nervous.

• Focus

You have a choice as you head to the start. You can choose to let the occasion get the better of you, have your head down and reflect on the training you missed and all the reasons why today won’t be your day, or you can use the last couple of hours before the race to your advantage. Mental fatigue has been shown to negatively affect performance, so the hours before the start should be an opportunity to calm yourself and to focus on the race ahead.

• Create a bubble

It’s very easy to be caught up in the chatter of others before a big marathon. Put yourself in a protective bubble. Consider turning your phone off, perhaps listen to some music and run through a mental list of five reasons why today will go well for you. Whether it’s the training sessions you nailed, or the cause you are running for, find your positive bubble.

• Save your legs

You’ve got plenty of miles to warm up so don’t worry too much about an extended warm-up before the race. A couple of minutes of gentle jogging to check your lacing comfort and mentally prepare is enough. Staying cool during the race can aid your performance, so don’t overdress. Hats, gloves and arm warmers can easily be removed in the first few miles; long sleeves and tights cannot.

Dublin Marathon

How to run the first quarter

• Start steady

The first two to five miles of a 26.2-mile race tend to feel pretty easy. For this reason, the biggest mistake made by runners – from beginners to veterans – is going off too hard. It’s true that data suggests most PBs are run with a slight ‘positive’ (running the first half faster than the second) split by one or two minutes or so, but if you get greedy and try to ‘bank’ more time than that, the last six miles are going to hurt – a lot.

• Be realistic

We all set ourselves targets and often those are best-case scenarios. But if the wind is strong or the temperature is high, try to adapt and manage your expectations. On average, runners will slow by around four seconds per mile for every degree of temperature over 15C.

• Fuel early

Many runners under-estimate their marathon fuelling or leave it too late in the race. Spread your gels, energy drink or other nutrition products evenly through the race. Ideally, runners should be taking on 60-80g of carbs per hour – it’s wise to practise this in training. This intake will probably mean you are taking on a couple of gels per hour, supported by some energy drink.

Running the second quarter

• Stick to your plan

The second quarter of your marathon is a time to enjoy the race-day atmosphere, but don’t neglect your plan. Your legs should be feeling good now that you have warmed up, the adrenaline is still pumping and you may find that your pace starts to drift up. Use a pace band (a list of all the mile splits you are aiming for at your goal pace) and check your mile splits against the markers on course – that’s a more accurate metric than relying solely on your GPS’s pace reading. Stick to your pacing plan – the hard miles are yet to come.

• Use your mantra

This is the section of the race when it is easy to get caught up in what other people are doing. Just because the runner next to you is taking on a gel every couple of miles or beginning to push the pace doesn’t mean you have to. A visible mantra or cue word can help bring you back into your zone – write it on the back of your hand. ‘Focus’, ‘relax’ and ‘rhythm’ are all words I have used in the past.

• Details matter

At the risk of stating the obvious, a marathon is a long way, and the small details can add up to create success – or to undermine it. Stick to the shortest route, which is often marked with a line on the road. Running wide at corners, hopping kerbs and weaving around other runners can add metres and seconds on to an already long race.

Cork Marathon

After halfway

• Find a pack

The halfway distance point has ticked by, but you’re not halfway through your marathon effort just yet. The next part of the race is about reaching the 20-mile mark safely and getting ready to chuck everything you’ve got at the final six miles or so. These miles can be challenging. You have lots of work already behind you, but you still have a way to go. Try to focus on the process of running, not the finish line just yet. Many runners find these miles tick off easier if they can settle into a group that is running a similar pace. That unspoken connection and shared effort with strangers is what makes the marathon special for so many of us.

• Expect a rise in effort

You need to become comfortable with the fact that the marathon will start to feel uncomfortable. That’s normal, but it’s easy to start to talk yourself out of the race at this point. Turn your watch around and work to perceived effort in the second half of the race. You’ve got a rhythm now; centre in on what your body is doing, not what your watch is saying.

• Check yourself

I like to use this section of the race to run through routines to prepare for the final six miles. Go through a mental checklist as you gather yourself for the final big effort. Resetting yourself physically can be a great way to get ‘centred’. Cues such as ‘face and shoulders relaxed’, ‘high hips’, ‘crisp cadence’ and ‘light footstrike’ were on my list – decide on yours and use them to steady yourself.

Dublin Marathon Phoenix park

The final stages

• Embrace the task

‘The race begins at 20 miles, everything else is just transport’ is one of the maxims that sum up the toughest section of the marathon. And it’s true that the final six or so miles of the marathon do require a disproportionate amount of your mental and physical effort. The final quarter of the race is what makes you a marathoner. Don’t fear the struggle, embrace it – it’s why you lined up in the first place.

• Dedicate the miless

Research has shown that having a self-transcending motivation can help improve sports performance. Use that now. Dedicate each of the final few miles to someone important in your life. This will help you tap into that broader motivation but also break the final bit of the race into manageable chunks.

• Fuel creatively

Right up until the last couple of miles, taking on fuel can still help you, but you might feel you’ve had enough. Studies have shown there are benefits to just rinsing your mouth with carbohydrate drink before spitting it out. So if you feel you can’t take on any more, give that a try.

• Race it home

Even at the end, it’s still a race; remembering that helps you push through the final mile or two to the finish. Pick a vest 20-30m ahead and see if you can reel the runner in, then pick another. See if you can pull others along with you, too. Good luck!

 

Source: Tom Craggs, runnersworld.com

Staying On Track During Lockdown

Staying on track during the lockdown

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.

What we can’t control?

Gym’s closing.

What we can control?

Our Mindset.

This is probably going to be the biggest factor in overcoming any obstacles over the next month. We’ve been through two lockdowns already and with gyms set to close a third time, it’ll only be a struggle if we allow it to.

Instead of expending your precious energy in the gym, we can spend this time creating a bulletproof mindset to ensure that we can come back mentally stronger.

Some new hobbies that I would advise taking up include reading, meditation, and journaling.

Sleep Hygiene

If you can maintain a consistent time for going to sleep and waking up, it’s linked to a whole host of benefits. Your daily sleep routine habits influence your quality of rest, general day to day energy, and cognitive performance.

If you can maintain a consistent time for waking and going to bed, bonus points for including a pre-bed routine, better health outcomes are a result of just a little extra planning.

Look up circadian rhythms (fancy words for our bodies’ internal 24-hour clock) and you’ll get a better insight into why.

Food Quality and Calorie Intake

Your body needs calories for energy. But the overconsumption of calories relative to your respective activity levels will lead to weight/body fat gain.

So if you’ve never tracked your calorie intake before, it could be a good idea to start and that can give an insight into why you could be losing, maintaining, or gaining weight. Myfitnesspal is the app of choice, for any smartphone user.

Also, calories are not the only piece of the puzzle here. Yes, they are ultimately what it comes down to when we are looking to lose/gain weight, but you should also be making sure that you consume a variety of good wholesome nutrient-dense foods.

Having a broad spectrum of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes will lead to much better health outcomes, ensuring that we are not only fuelling our body. But ensuring that we are getting in a full panel of vitamins and minerals too, will be highly beneficial when looking to keep our immune system strong and our overall health in check.

Productivity

Yes, I know what your thinking. This is the perfect time to binge-watch one of the hundreds of different series on Netflix, or even browse social media for hours upon hours a day.

While this does sound enticing to some, it is not the most productive use of our time and will ultimately lead to our screen time going through the roof. Something that our minds will not enjoy.

So what can you do instead? 

You could be investing more time in yourself, which previously would have been something unthinkable. Maybe this can be upskilling for work and helping you chase a promotion, new job? Or this time can be used to take up new skills, hobbies, or interests that could have seemed alien to you before.

Our minds love a challenge and will only benefit from learning more. The worst-case scenario is that you end up not enjoying it and finding a different said hobby or skill to do with your time.

Something as simple as going for a walk with a friend or listening to a podcast/audiobook is a great way to make use of your time, learn something new, and increase your overall energy expenditure (bonus points for getting it in during daylight, away from your work, home environment).

Not every single second of our day has to be 100% productive, but instilling some good habits like these, can only be beneficial.

Activity levels

Some big advice I’d give would be to hit a daily step goal. While not everyone will have the benefit of getting outside for as much time as they’d like to. Setting yourself a daily step goal is a great way of keeping your general activity levels consistent.

Most smartphones, watches, and/or fitness trackers have built-in pedometers that measure your step count/activity levels for you without you even needing to do anything.

There are also apps you can download for this, simply search step-counter/pedometer in your app store and choose your preferred app of choice.

Remember what we said about going for a walk with a friend or listening to a podcast/audiobook? That’s one way of increasing activity levels.

If you still don’t have the time or miss training in the gym even though we cannot supply that for you, what we do have on sale soon is Bodyfirst adjustable dumbbells that range from 2-24kg or 5-40kg in 2kg increments.
These a great way to ensure that you can still have some form of progressive overload and can bring a small piece of the gym home, rather than having to use general household items.

Graham Keenan
Personal Trainer & Coach
(Instagram @grahamkeenan_)

Boost your energy levels

Are you one of those people who can’t stop yawning? Well you’re not the only one.
Recent studies suggest that the average person spends 7.5 years of their life feeling tired, with sleepless nights, early starts and long working hours topping the list of reasons why we’re feeling so sleepy*.

58% of those polled admitted to cancelling plans with friends and family in order to catch up on precious pillow time, while 30% have swapped getting sweaty in the gym for extra shut eye.

Now, the answer to this ever-growing problem seems pretty straightforward – just get more sleep, right? But, between ticking off that never-ending to-do list and battling off the dreading FOMO, sleep just isn’t a priority. So, rather than preach about getting your recommended eight hours, here are five easy ways you can boost your energy levels and survive the day without stifling back a single yawn – well, almost.

1) Cut back on the sweet stuff

Always reaching for something sweet when you’ve hit a slump? Well, believe it or not, that mid-afternoon sugar rush could be doing you more harm than good. When you consume sugar, your bloody sugar levels can begin to rise in as little as 20 minutes, making you feel livelier and more awake. However, they can dip just as quickly, causing you to crash and feel even worse than before. If you desperately need to curb those sugar cravings, choose a low sugar snack, such as a protein bar. They contain low impact carbs, ensuring your blood sugar levels stay balanced, avoiding any crazy spikes.

2) Stay hydrated

Keeping those H20 levels topped up is essential for fighting off fatigue. Studies show that if there’s not enough fluid in the body, blood volume can drop, causing the heart to work harder to provide cells with oxygen and nutrients. In other words, dehydration is one of the main causes of drowsiness so make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day! Not a fan of water? Try sparkling if still bores you or mix in a bolero sugar free hydration sachet, a great way to spruce up plain, old water.
Pick up a Bodyfirst Nutrition BPA free water bottle, a great way to keep track of how much water you’re drinking on a daily basis.

3) Eat little and often

Ever devoured those delicious, carb-laden leftovers, only to feel sluggish and sleepy once your lunch break is over? Well, eating little and often may be your best move. Regular snacking throughout the day has been proven to steady your energy levels, keeping them consistent throughout the day rather than dipping.

4) Take a break

Sounds counterproductive but when you’re trying to get stuff done, sometimes the best thing to do is step away and give yourself five. If you’re staring at a screen for hours on end, like many of us 9 to 5-ers, then concentration levels are bound to lag. Do a lap of the office, grab yourself a glass of water, get some fresh air – whatever you choose to do, interrupting your routine and actually moving around will boost your energy levels no end.

5) Get some sun

Ah, the answer to all our problems, right? Everyone feels better when the sun’s shining and it’s not just a coincidence. Lack of sunlight means the brain produces more melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. What we’re after is serotonin, a handy little hormone known to boost mood, focus and concentration. Now, we’re not saying you need to bask in the sun all day, every day – depending on where you live, this could prove pretty tough! But getting anything from 5-15 minutes of sunlight on your body two to three times per week could be enough to up your vitamin D levels and, in turn, boost your serotonin intake.

Ready to tackle your tiredness?

*statistics courtesy of The Independent
Source Grenade.com

World Sleep Day

Why talk about sleep?

The main reason is that getting good quality sleep is AS important as nutrition and exercise in helping to reach your fitness or health goals (if not more important). Yet, sleep does not seem to get as much emphasis as a priority as the other two. Not surprisingly the three are interlinked and sleep can strongly affect your nutrition and exercise performance and vice versa.

Poor sleep, both in terms of quality (how well you sleep) and duration (how many hours you spend asleep) is a major risk factor for obesity and weight gain. This is not so surprising when you learn that poor sleep means you tend to make worse food choices, are generally hungrier (your appetite and satiety hormones don’t work as well in a sleep-deprived state), impairs tolerance to carbohydrates to such an extent that after only a few days of sleep restriction (4 hours a night for 6 nights in the study in question) healthy adults showed symptoms of pre-diabetes. This means that if you’re chronically getting less sleep than you should you are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Not getting enough sleep will also mean you have less motivation to exercise and won’t be able to perform as well at your chosen activity. And even if you manage to keep training and dieting if you’re sleep deprived you stand to lose a lot less fat and a lot more muscle in the same amount of weight lost! That’s baaaad. Getting enough sleep also boosts immune function in a major way and greatly increases your ability to fight off infections. Get colds a lot? Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep also has a huge role to play in emotional and mental wellbeing too. Think about a time where you had a really great nights sleep. You were probably in a great mood and were more productive, you might have smashed your training session that day as well because you were full of energy and you were motivated to eat good nutritious foods. The science supports this as well,  poor sleeping patterns are linked to depression and reduced ability to process emotional information and read social cues as well as concentration and focus. Your brain likes it when you sleep enough!

Invariably then the question arises, ‘how much is enough?’ This depends on the person but most people fall into the range of 7-9 hours being the best. There are some people who are fine with getting only 5 or 6 hours a night but these are in the minority, do not assume you are one of them!

I understand it might not be so easy to get this much sleep every night. We all have lives and things going on, stressful jobs, needing to work long hours, having to take care of young children or other family members, the list goes on. All I’m hoping to do here is to highlight how important it really is for your health to get adequate and good quality time in bed so that you might consider how you can make it more of a priority, rather than leave it as an afterthought or the first thing to get sacrificed on a busy day. Some of these tips and changes are easier to implement than others but take as many on board as you can and I guarantee you’ll reap the benefits of a better night’s sleep. 

1) Minimise artificial light exposure in the evening. Use apps like F.lux, Twilight & Nightshift on your respective screens and even consider getting a pair of ‘blublocker’ glasses like @ambreyes. This will help prevent ‘iPad insomnia’. Similarly, make sure to get some natural light exposure during the daytime as this helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.

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2) Sleep in a cave. Make your sleeping environment as dark as possible. Get a blackout blind and turn off/cover up any sources of light in your room when in bed. And have the room slightly on the cooler side.

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3) Exercise, but finish high intensity workouts at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. I don’t think sacrificing sleep time (if you’re not getting enough to start with) to get a workout in is a good idea.

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4) Get the app Sleep Cycle (Iphone) or Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock (Android). This app is worth getting solely for the smart alarm but then there’s all of the other useful features too that tell you about how you’re sleeping. It is worth much much more than what it costs.

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5) Have a wind-down routine before bed. Dedicate 30 mins or an hour if you can to get off your phone/computer/TV and try to unwind by doing activities such as stretching, foam rolling, deep breathing/meditation, have a bath, drawing/colouring, reading from a book, listening to music etc. Have a mind that won’t switch off at night? 

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6) Similar to #5, avoid stimulating activities right before bed. You won’t find it easy to fall asleep if you go straight from working/studying/watching certain TV/movies (comedy or nature docs are a good choice though)/Playing video games to getting into bed and expecting to nod off right away. Take some time to chill and unwind.

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7) Get up and go to bed at roughly the same time each day, even on weekends. Your body and your circadian rhythm loves routine. A couple of weeks of doing this and you really feel the difference.

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8) Learn your tolerance to caffeine and other stimulants and establish a cut off point in the day for them.

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9) Save some of your carbohydrates and protein for the evening time. A meal like this helps increase serotonin and melatonin and keep blood sugars stable for a good night’s sleep.

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10) Try using some of or a combination of these supplements. Chelated magnesium, Valerian root extract, melatonin, 5HTP, Phenibut, L-theanine, phosphatidylserine, ashwagandha. Consult a doctor beforehand especially if you are taking any medications.

And then in some more detail..

1) Minimise Artificial light exposure at night time

Exposing your eyes to artificial light at night time (especially the blue spectrum) tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This disrupts the production of the hormone melatonin which your body naturally produces at night under normal circumstances to help you fall asleep. The apps mentioned above dim your screens and give them a slight orange hue which makes them far less disruptive to melatonin production so you can fall asleep easier. This is a really quick and easy option that makes a big impact so you should have no excuse not to do it. Similarly make sure you get some light exposure during the day, natural light preferably so that your Circadian rhythm is in sync and your body knows to produce melatonin later when it gets dark. You could also consider getting some blublocker glasses @ambreyes have some really nice ones!

2) Make your sleeping environment as dark as possible and a bit cool

Eliminate sources of external light that might disrupt your sleep for the same reasons as #1. Get a blackout blind or something similar and cover up any other light sources that might come from TV’s (better yet don’t have them in your room) or other technology and make your room as pitch black as possible. If you can’t see your hand in front of your face when you’re in bed then you’re doing really well! Also have your room a little on the cooler side in terms of temperature. The body cooling down before bed is one of the main things needed for sleep onset. This is why a hot shower or bath works well because of the rapid cooling down that follows.

3) Get Active

Getting regular exercise is well known to help you get a better night’s sleep. Just be sure to finish up any hard workouts 2-3 hours before your bedtime. If you don’t have some time afterwards to cool down and relax your body will still be wired from the training session. It’s very hard to sleep when you’re still in ‘Fight or Flight’ mode, which is a good thing from an evolutionary perspective, having the urge to nap when running away from a sabre-tooth tiger wouldn’t have been ideal for our ancestors. So if you do train last thing in the evening have a hot shower or bath, when you get out your body temperature lowers a lot which makes it easier to fall asleep and consider doing a cool down incorporating some stretching and/or deep breathing after working out.

4) Get the app Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is an app that tracks your quality of sleep and uses a ‘smart’ alarm to wake you up when you’re closest to being naturally awake. We have roughly 3 phases we go through during sleep: Light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep. And a full sleep cycle consisting of the three lasts roughly 90 minutes. Sleep cycle tracks your movement in bed while you sleep and the alarm clock goes off when you’re most likely in a light sleep phase of sleep i.e when you’re moving around more (very little movement occurs in deep sleep or REM sleep) which leads to a gentle and comfortable awakening. Have you ever been woken up by your alarm in the middle of deep sleep or while dreaming? You feel groggy and potentially like a fridge fell on you during the night, no? Sleep Cycle can help you avoid that. In addition to the smart alarm is tracks your sleep quality and duration and you can see how much time you spent in deep sleep during the night. You can also set up sleep notes to see how certain things affect your sleep quality ( the app will tell you this). For example I can see from mine if I have a coffee in the evening my sleep quality goes to shit, I might technically be asleep but I can see the next day on the app that I don’t get very much time in deep sleep.

5) Have a Wind-Down routine before bed

Your mind doesn’t work like a light switch, you can’t just turn it on or off, think of it more like a dimmer switch. So if you go straight from doing the things mentioned above or anything else that requires a lot of brainpower to getting into bed you won’t be ready to nod off. So spare as much time as you can before bed, 30 mins up to an hour would be ideal but 15 mins is better than nothing and do some relaxing activities that appeal to you. Get off your phone and other screens (except to set up sleep cycle of course ? ) and give yourself some ‘me time’ to relax and chill out, essentially preparing the mind and body for sleep. I personally like to use foam rolling and stretching and the guided sleep meditations provided by the app Headspace. And if you find there’s thoughts keeping you awake – write them down (on paper) and get them out of your head. This ‘brain dump’ is wildly affective in helping to settle the mind. This tip might be a bit trickier to implement as it requires finding more time in the day, which can seem very hard to do but it’s one that will really make a big impact if you can give it a shot.

6) Avoid stimulating activities before bed

This tip for the most part encompasses things that you are emotionally invested in or trigger emotions as well as activities requiring the mind to be ‘switched on’. Think about it, how ready for bed are you after watching intense shows on Netflix or seeing your favourite sports team get hockeyed, simultaneously losing you fifty quid or coming off a 47 death streak playing Call of Duty online – the answer is not very. Wrap up these sorts of activities well before bedtime as suggested in #5. And choose some more relaxing or positive ones instead. If you’re going to watch some TV – nature documentaries or comedies will have a positive influence.

7) Get into a regular sleep routine

Like I said above, your body loves routine and you’ll notice the difference if you start going to bed and getting up roughly at the same time on a consistent basis. A lot of this is driven by our natural Circadian Rhythm or ‘body clock’. You’ll notice it in action if you do get up at the same time every day and when you finally have an opportunity to sleep in, you don’t, you just wake up anyway at your usual time. There is usually some sort of disruption switching from the weekdays to the weekend when a lot of people use the weekend as an opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some of the sleep they lost during the week. While it is beneficial to pay something towards your ‘sleep debt’ in this manner you’ll feel much better if you consistently get enough during the week and only add maybe an hour more on the weekends if you need it.

8) Have a caffeine cut-off

In our workaholic sleep-deprived society we tend to use caffeine and other stimulants as a crutch to give us enough energy to get through the day. This is obviously by no means an ideal scenario. If you can kick the habit and instead make sleep a bit more of a priority then over time you’ll find you won’t need to abuse stimulants to get you through the day and while you might enjoy a few cups of coffee (guilty) you won’t be relying on it to get you through the day. Figure out after what time stimulants start to negatively affect your quality of sleep and then establish a cut-off time. For me it’s no caffeine after 3pm if I go to bed around 10.30 – 11.00 pm. We all metabolise caffeine differently so it’s important to figure out what works for you as an individual. Some people will have it out of their system in a couple of hours, for others it could be half a day or longer if you keep adding to the caffeine that’s already in your system. So if you need to take pre-workout in the evening to get you through your workout and then can’t sleep because the caffeine keeps you awake and then you have to have loads of caffeine the next day to keep you awake and then repeat this cycle, yeah, don’t do that.

9) Eat some carbohydrates and protein in the evening

Consuming carbohydrates makes the amino acid tryptophan more available in the brain and protein rich foods provide this amino acid. In the brain it helps to release more serotonin which makes you feel content and happy and sleepy and serotonin is a precursor to melatonin , the hormone that helps you fall asleep. So you can take advantage of this by consuming a whole food protein and carbohydrate rich meal a few hours before bed. Consider shifting some of the carbs you would have at breakfast to the evening time and see if it helps you sleep better and go for a more protein and fats meal in the morning.

10) Use certain supplements to help you fall asleep and get a better night’s sleep

Magnesium – this essential mineral amongst over 300 other biological functions can help relax the nervous system and promote a better night’s sleep. Not all magnesium’s are created equally so opt for chelated forms like magnesium glycinate or aspartate or magnesium citrate. Avoid magnesium oxide, it has poor absorption in the body and can have laxative effects. You can also go for a topical magnesium cream or spray which you apply before bed or have a bath containing epsom salts. For oral supplements somewhere between 200 mg up to 1500 mg , depending on the type, 30-45 mins before bed should do the trick.

Valerian Root – The extract of this root can act as a natural sedative, helping you fall asleep. 500 mg – 1000 mg 30 mins before bed. With any of these supplements start at the lower dose and work up. In a minority of people valerian root can actually make you more awake so be aware of that.

Melatonin – The hormone we talked so much about already is also available in supplemental form. Unfortunately not over the counter in Ireland. It can be got in other parts of Europe and in the United States though. 1 mg up to 10 mg has been shown to work but more is not better so use the lowest dose possible to get the desired effect, 30 mins before bed. There isn’t any negative feedback loop associated with melatonin supplementation where taking the supplement reduces your natural production of it. It can be especially useful for shift workers or to overcome jet lag.

5HTP – Essentially supplemental tryptophan which we said earlier can help increase serotonin levels and therefore natural melatonin production. Like melatonin this isn’t freely available over the counter in Ireland. Typical doses range from 200 mg – 500 mg per day in the afternoon or evening. Consult a doctor  beforehand if you are taking any medications or other drugs, this goes for all of the supplements mentioned but particularly for 5HTP as combining SSRI antidepressants with 5HTP can be fatal.

Phenibut – Helps increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain which makes you feel calm and relaxed and promotes deeper sleep. 250 mg up to 1000 mg taken in the afternoon or evening. As always start with the lower dose. Can only be taken once or twice a week due to potential for withdrawal symptoms. Do not combine with alcohol.

L-Theanine – This amino acid found naturally in green tea also helps to increase GABA and help you feel calm and relaxed without being sedated. It can also help to take the jittery edge off caffeine if they are combined (this is why green tea doesn’t make you jittery like coffee might). 100 mg to 200 mg before bed to help improve sleep quality.

Phosphatidylserine – Can help reduce cortisol/stress levels and is critical for cognitive function. 200 mg with dinner and then another 200 mg before bed.

Ashwagandha – Helps the body cope with stress / feelings of anxiety so that you can better wind-down and relax and get a good night’s sleep. 300-500mg is a good place to start.

So there you have it, everything you need to have a good nights sleep…good night Zzzzzzz

By Bodyfirst Nutritionist Brian O’HAonghusa

Music Boosts Performance

Music by Eminem can boost athletic performance by up to 10%, a study suggests.

Some of the US rapper’s best-known hits – including Lose Yourself and Without Me – have been found to “significantly” increase power and endurance during prolonged periods of intensive exercise.

Researchers have spent three months working with the British swimmer Ben Hooper, in order to develop a “soundtrack to success” ahead of his gruelling 2,000-mile swim across the Atlantic this December.

Their work also uncovered some songs which are best to avoid, with songs by Bob Marley likely to cause fatigue and a lacklustre performance – as well as I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing by Aerosmith.

Popular exercising songs such as Eye Of The Tiger, labelled as “cheesy” in the report, have no major impact.

Other tracks which were found to have a “surprisingly beneficial” effect on Mr Hooper’s results included Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia, as well as Hall of Fame by The Script.

Although it has long been known that songs with a distinctive rhythm and fast tempo can be useful for training athletes, this study by Hartpury College also found that lyrics must “strike a chord with the test subject” and have “emotional resonance” if there is to be any noticeable effect on their performance.

Richard Collins, the sports psychologist who led the research, explained: “With Ben, listening to Eminem inspires confidence and determination as there is a general theme of triumphing against the odds.

“Other songs made him think of his daughter and reminded him why he’s doing this historic challenge – to show that ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary.”

When listening to a successful playlist, the time it took Mr Hooper to complete a 12km swim in a standard pool fell from an average of four hours to just three hours and 47 minutes.

His pace per 100m had also increased from two minutes, to one minute and 48 seconds.

The top 10 songs – along with some of Mr Hooper’s personal favourites – have been added to a waterproof MP3 player in preparation for the beginning of his epic journey on New Year’s Eve.

The athlete, from Cheltenham, said the study “will prove of great benefit to me as I’m battling the elements and needing every ounce of motivation I can muster to keep on going”.

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(News source: Sky News)

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