You’ve been following the Paleo diet for months now, maybe even years.
Maybe you’ve lost some weight and you’re feeling pretty good.
But you’ve read countless stories about people who have healed their bodies and gained superhero-level energy from going Paleo.
Starting your day at the same time will help get your body clock on a schedule.
You’re not sure what, but something is missing. Because you still don’t feel utterly fantastic. You don’t feel like you’re five years old again, running through the fields and swinging from the branches of the trees. You still don’t have that energy, and maybe you still have a little pain here and there.
So what gives?
The missing pieces of your puzzle will complete your lifestyle. Not your diet. Your lifestyle.
You’ve probably heard it before, but never really paid it much attention. But your lifestyle plays a huge part in your overall health. So here are three very important factors that you may be missing from your Paleo lifestyle.
By now you’ve probably heard that you need 8 hours of sleep a night. But do you really know why you need this much sleep?
But getting a full 8 hours of sleep a night isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to help you:
- Give yourself a bedtime. If you don’t set a limit on how late you stay up, you will likely end up staying up much later than expected. Giving yourself a set time to be in bed helps you know when to start winding down and when to get ready for sleep.
- Dim the lights and slow activity an hour before bed. Turn off the computer and the TV. Ditch your tablet and your phone. Turn off all bright lights that signal your body to stay awake.
- Limit caffeine. If you do drink caffeine, make sure you don’t drink it too late. Everyone’s limit and tolerance is different, so knowing your body and how much you can handle really helps.
- Have a bedtime ritual. It may sound silly, but a bedtime ritual will help your body know it’s time to sleep, even if you aren’t super tired. You ritual can involve taking a relaxing bath, getting your clothes ready for the next day, drinking a cup of tea, or reading a book. Do whatever works for you.
- Wake up the same time every day. Starting your day at the same time will help get your body clock on a schedule. No matter what day it is, weekday or weekend, try to wake up at the same time or at least very close to it. Routine is key here.
Another important factor in the Paleo lifestyle is stress; or rather, managed stress levels. Stress stimulates the production of a hormone called cortisol, and chronic stress can lead to a hormonal imbalance and a number of other health problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, and more.3
Like sleep, we know that dealing with stress isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Here are some tips to help:
- Exercise. Exercise releases hormones that counter stress hormones. Getting enough exercise daily can help keep you calm and battling chronic stress.
- Unwind. Spend some time each day unwinding. This could be simply sitting and reading the book, going for a stroll in nature, or meditating for a while.
- Set realistic expectations. While it can be hard to say no to people we love, there are times when managing your own schedule and expectations is a necessity. Do not over-promise and set limits with friends and family.
- Eat antioxidants. Foods that are high in antioxidants can give you the much needed vitamins to help you battle stress. Make sure you are consuming a rainbow of vegetables and some fruit each day.
I already mentioned that exercise can help control stress levels. It can also improve your mood and mental health.
But it’s important not to OVER-exercise. In fact, too much cardio can lead to over-training, and can actually do more harm than good.4
Paleo forerunners like Loren Cordain and Mark Sisson recommend exercising less. Here’s what you should be doing:
- Move slowly … a lot. Get out and move around at a slow pace, every day. This means walking, hiking, climbing a tree. Forget moving to burn calories. Just move to move your body and play.
- Lift heavy things. A couple times a week, lift something heavy. This can be hitting the weights at the gym, doing some bodyweight exercises, or just getting out in nature and picking up some heavy rocks.
- Sprint. Besides lifting heavy things, a couple of times a week you should sprint. Not just a run – I’m talking all-out, running-as-fast-as-you-can-in-short-bursts kind of running. Sprints should be done for really short periods of time (like 30–60 seconds kind of short) but should be done with such intensity that you are completely winded when you’re done.
If you have been loyally eating a Paleo diet for a while and still don’t feel your best, you may be missing something from your lifestyle. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, doing your best to manage stress, and exercising the right way.
Have you found Paleo hasn’t worked quite the way you thought? Have you tried implementing some of the tips above? Let us know your thoughts!
- Broussard, J.L., Ehrmann, D.A., Cauter, E.V., Tasali, E., and Brady, M.J. (2012) Impaired Insulin Signaling in Human Adipocytes After Experimental Sleep Restriction: A Randomized, Crossover Study. In Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(8), 549–557. Retrieved from http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1379773
- Lim, J. and Dinges, D.F. (2007) Sleep Deprivation. In Scholarpedia, 2(8), 2433. Retrieved from http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Sleep_deprivation
- (Anonymous) (2016). Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- Mueller, J. (2014). 8 Signs Your Cardio Workouts Are Doing More Harm Than Good. In Spark People. Retrieved from http://www.sparkpeople.com/blog/blog.asp?post=you_asked_how_much_cardio_is_too_much