We all have heard the phrase, “listen to your body!” But, what exactly does that mean and how do we do it? How do we know what it’s telling us?
Sometimes we can trust our own judgement on what our body is telling us, other times we can easily let our emotions skew what it’s actually telling us. We can mistake boredom for hunger, or stress can suppress our hunger. We may need a rest day, but our guilty conscious may be telling us to push harder and workout anyways. We may be starving, but that online macronutrient calculator says we can’t eat anymore that day or we will gain weight.
Learning to listen to our bodies and constructively assess biofeedback is key to getting to know what our body really needs. The more we practice this, the easier it will become and a great place to start is having a coach or someone from the outside looking in, that can help us assess what’s really going on without getting emotions involved.
We can be given the most perfect nutrition plan in the world, but if our biofeedback is off in one or more areas, it can greatly affect progress. For example, if we are hitting our nutrition on target every day, but we are sleeping like crap, we are bound to feel like crap! This can alter the number on the scale, the way we perform and our body composition, just from lack of sleep! Hence, why it’s so important we are constantly looking at the big picture.
As coaches, we want to make sure that week to week we are not only assessing nutrition but we are assessing all biofeedback markers. So let’s take a look at what these markers are and why they are important!
The first marker, and we venture to say the most important one of all, is sleep! It seems to be glorified these days to be running on empty and burning the candle at both ends, but why? Sleep is when our bodies are able to recover from the long hard days and stress we put it through. Getting 8 hours of sleep is crucial to make sure that our energy stays steady throughout the day so we can perform and accomplish what we need to through the day. This is also a time where our hormones repair themselves. Ghrelin and Leptin are our two hunger hormones, if these aren’t fully recovered and rejuvenated, our hunger signals can be thrown off. Have you every been extremely tired and felt hungrier than normal? That’s because lack of sleep is most likely giving you false signals which can lead to overeating and weight gain! Think if this is day after day and month after month it can be seriously hard on your health! With lack of sleep motivation to be active can go down and it’s much harder to put our bodies to their full potential! Lack of sleep can cause more inflammation in the body which can be the start of many more health problems.
Piggybacking off of sleep, keeping track of your energy patterns throughout your day and week is helpful. It should not be the norm to feel huge spikes and drops in energy. If you are, then you will want to look further into quality/quantity of sleep, recovery, food quality and quantity & daily stressors. Not enough sleep of course is the number one culprit, but eating low quality foods, unbalanced calories, or having too much stress can all contribute. Diving deeper into these areas and making small changes can do wonders for your energy levels! If you are constantly walking into the gym with low motivation and low energy, it’s not always beneficial to “push through.”
Are you constantly hungry or thinking about food? Are you never hungry and have no appetite? Neither is a good thing! Unless you are purposely in a well planned out caloric deficit that you have a time line for, regular, extreme hunger is not a good thing! Yes, we should have regular hunger signals throughout the day, that is healthy! But if you are ravaging 24/7 it’s a sign that you need to up your calories. When in a dieting phase hunger will naturally be higher, but it shouldn’t be anything you can’t handle. On the contrary, if you are in a dieting phase and you don’t feel hungry at all this can also be a red flag. We should have natural hunger signals, especially when in a deficit. If hunger is totally gone, it’s a sign your body is adapting and needs a break from dieting.
Stressors in life will happen and a little stress isn’t always a bad thing, however, if you are in a constant state of hair-pulling stress, it’s likely you need to make a change. Emotional and mental stress directly affect our bodies physically and can prevent progress from happening and can even potentially cause weight gain. Again, these days stress seems to be glorified, when in reality it is a slow killer. If you feel like you are stuck, look at the stressors in your life and if you feel like stress is high, make it a priority to start finding ways to rid of it! Meditation, yoga, more sleep, workouts, time with family & friends, vacations, getting outside, whatever you find relaxing and rejuvenating- make more time for that!
If you are looking to live a healthier life and get results- whether that be weight loss, performance, weight/muscle gain or just overall better quality of life, nutrition is key. However, nutrition and your biofeedback go hand in hand, one will suffer without the other! Beyond scale weight, measurements and body composition, the above markers play a huge role in your overall health and success. Next time you feel frustrated with progress or how you’re feeling, dive deeper into these markers and see if you can find something that is throwing you off!