Most of us know by now the importance of the key components in losing fat and getting stronger: train hard (heavy resistance training), do cardio, eat well, and recover (get enough sleep, etc). If you’re not balancing your sympathetic system (think adrenaline) with your parasympathetic system (rest & digest) then you won’t get far in your fitness quest. If your sympathetic system is always ON, your stress hormone cortisol will be running upwards which opposes fat loss. Cortisol is good to a degree when dieting to lose fat but not constantly. When cortisol is high estrogen levels rise as well. Too much estrogen will cause thyroid dysfunction, which leads to lowered thyroid levels. Lowered thyroid levels negatively affect the metabolism, in turn, negating your hard gym and diet efforts. Basically it’s a downward cycle of malfunctioning hormones, the body always in a fatigued state, and a lot of frustrations. Here are some ways to elevate the parasympathetic system; especially later in the day when your body and mind should be winding down.
1 – Start wearing blue light blocking glasses from 3 hours before bed to limit the stimulating effects from your phone, ipad, tv, etc. (Swannick is a great brand I wear nightly.)
2 – Have black-out curtains in the room to prepare your body for sleep
3 – Meditate or do something that calms the mind daily. It can be something like taking a power nap (10-20 min), reading a paperback, tanning under the sun, doing yoga, going for a nature walk, hitting the sauna, getting a massage, playing with your dog, stretching, deep breathing, etc
4 – Take vitamins that help activate the parasympathetic system: magnesium, rhodiola, tryptophan, huperzine A, acetylcholine, ashwagandha, bacopa, GABA, chamomile, etc
5 – Touch your lips. Run your finger along your lips gently to activate the parasympathetic system.
6 – Try not to multi-task. Focus on doing one task at a time and don’t rush.
7 – Track your progress in the gym; make sure your strength isn’t suffering. If you notice a significant decrease in strength, add a rest day or change your routine.
8 – Rest for at least 15 minutes after every meal. Whether you stay at the lunch table and let your food digest, or have time to lie down. The parasympathetic system controls digestion and supports your gut health.
9 – if you’re in a chronically stressed state, don’t intermittent fast. Women for the most part should be mindful of how they feel when fasting for more than 16 hours because of their hormones. It should be challenging to fast that long, but not dreadful that all you think about is your growling stomach and food.
10 – Skip your morning coffee and opt for chamomile or another herbal tea (without caffeine). You don’t have to do it daily, but a couple of times per week will help calm the nervous system.
11 -Humming or singing helps activate the parasympathetic system. Whether your in your car or taking a shower, it’s a good time to do it.
I hope these takeaways can help boost your fat loss goals and de-stress your life, even if just by a little.
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