Hi folks, if everything feels more challenging right now, you’ll definitely want to check out this week’s post. PHCI’s Coaching & Curriculum Director and seasoned health coach, Erin Power, is here to show you how to achieve your goals with less force and more flow. Got a question for our health coaches? Drop it in the comments below or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.
“Nearly every day, often in the late afternoon, I get so tired I can’t do anything (whether it be work, socializing, or exercise). Still, instead of surrendering to a nap, I try to force myself to do something. Do you have any tips for these situations?”
What if, instead of forcing your body into doing something it doesn’t want to do, you actually did the thing it wanted you to do?
We make things so much harder than they need to be. Like when your stomach growls. Your first thought might be to ignore it because it’s not a mealtime, or because you just ate, or because you’re trying to fast for another few hours. Or you’re convinced you’re thirsty and suck down a glass of water to keep the growling at bay. Here’s an idea: what if you responded to your body’s signals instead of dismissing them? How amazing would that be?
You say you get so tired that you can’t do anything. So, what’s the benefit of forcing yourself to stay up? Is it because you have work to do? Responsibilities to manage? Think napping’s only for kids? Worried the productivity police will come and pull your overachiever card?
Are Naps Good for You?
In many cultures (that are far smarter than we are, mind you), midday naps are considered non-negotiable.1 From Spanish siestas to Italian riposos to Japanese inemuris, these cultures believe that napping is a respected activity you can and should do daily.
So really, it’s just us folks here in the “developed West” that equate napping with laziness. But tons of research shows the widespread benefits of taking a midday rest, everything from improved alertness to a longer life span. In fact, I took a nap in the middle of the day last week, and my Oura Ring upgraded my sleep score from an already impressive 96, to a 98 (out of a possible 100). So, naps can absolutely count as beneficial, quality sleep.
How Long Should Naps Be?
Take this study that looked at the impact of napping on athletes. Researchers had thirteen national-level karate athletes take either a thirty-minute nap or no nap after a night of partial sleep deprivation. Then they completed a series of tests that included cognitive and physical activities like reaction time, mental rotation, squat jumps, and countermovement jumps. The study found that a thirty-minute nap enhanced cognitive function and helped the athletes overcome psychological and physical fatigue more effectively.
Thirty minutes of resting can leave you feeling restored and ready to take on anything. There are even studies that say that a 10-minute nap does the trick.2 That being said, if the sleep you get at night is sub-par, you’ll want to address that first. But the idea here is that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation.
Napping doesn’t have to mean checking out for the rest of the day. And it doesn’t need to bring up feelings of guilt, shame, or assumed laziness. When your body tells you it’s tired, honor those signs. Then pull the shades, get under the covers, and set the alarm for thirty minutes. You can thank me later.
“I’ve been Primal for years, but lately have been leaning more towards Carnivore. What are your thoughts on this?”
I’m not a big fan of diet declarations, in general. I am, however, a fan of listening to your body. And if you’re finding that you feel better eating more animal-based foods and less of everything else, why not give it a go?
What’s the Carnivore Diet?
Carnivore is an animal-protein focused diet that includes foods like meat, fish, eggs, and — depending on which Carnivore doctrine you align with — may include honey, and lower-lactose dairy products. While it’s similar to Primal (both believe that we should eat the way our ancestors did), the carnivore diet also generally excludes fruits and veggies.
A sampling of foods in the “eat this” category include:
Cream and hard cheeses in small amounts
Some people do well on a strict carnivore diet, claiming weight loss, improved mood, and better blood sugar regulation. There haven’t been a ton of studies to date, but anecdotally, quite a few folks in the Mark’s Daily Apple community and in the Primal Health Coach community seem to thrive on it. I’ve had a handful of clients try it to manage the symptoms of irritable bowel diseases, with some pretty excellent outcomes. It is considered by some to be the “ultimate elimination diet.” That doesn’t mean you have to push into total Carnivore though.
Our society tends to reward the all-or-nothing thinking that makes us believe we must go full throttle on our plans to make them worthwhile. If we’re not loading up on organ meats 24/7 (and shouting our dietary choices from the rooftops), it means we’re not 100% in.
Since you’re already eating Primal, the bulk of your calories come from animal products anyway. So, use veggies, fruits, and tubers as accents on your plate. Let them enhance your micronutrition rather than be giant caloric staples.
Strictness for strictness’ sake can be a recipe for failure. Limiting the big inflammatory players like sugar, grains, and seed oils is smart, and going full carnivore might not be necessary. Try making some subtle shifts and pay attention to how you feel. Just listen to your body. Finding your optimal way of eating might be easier than you think. And if you need extra help or accountability, you can sign up for daily, actionable tips through the new myPrimalCoach app. You can even work with your own health coach one on one.
“Do you have any guidance about resting heart rate and HRV, or know of a good resource to learn more about it? I recently stopped running/walking due to too many other commitments and my HRV went up 20 points. It feels very unhealthy but certainly looks like my body likes being sedentary.”
Increased heart rate variability has to do with your parasympathetic nervous system, or your relaxed state. It’s the measure of variation in between each heartbeat. And while I’m not personally really into tracking metrics (calories, steps, macros), I think there’s a benefit of checking in on your HRV numbers.
Benefits of Tracking HRV
Tracking your HRV gives you insight into how stressed your nervous system is. It also allows you to see if you’re producing excess cortisol (which can make you weight loss resistant). Generally speaking, the number will be lower if your body is in sympathetic or fight-or-flight mode. If you’re in a more relaxed state, the number will be higher. But it’s not just your daily run/walk that impacts your heart rate’s variability. When you’re burned out, sleep-deprived, undernourished, or not well-rested in general, you’ll notice that the variation in your heart rate starts to go down.
Research shows that people with a high HRV tend to have better cardiovascular fitness.3 It means that the body is adept at vacillating between sympathetic and parasympathetic states. Basically, high HRV indicates a balanced nervous system that can adapt to various conditions on demand.
But in your case, your numbers went up when you stopped exercising. Again, these numbers provide feedback about your body’s stress levels, so there’s a chance that your workouts weren’t doing what you think they were. Being completely sedentary isn’t the answer, however.
Heart Rate Variability Resources
Daily movement is one of the best things you can do for your body. So, when you start walking and running again, try integrating a few of these practices and see if you notice a change in your numbers.
Non-fitness ways to increase HRV:
Deep breathing or meditation
More or better-quality sleep
Adjust your food intake; double down on the anti-inflammatory foods that don’t trigger a stressful immune response
Notice how your emotions, thoughts, and feelings affect your stress levels
I do use my Oura Ring to keep tabs on my HRV. The Elite HRV app is a good one too. But don’t dismiss your gut instincts about your health. Your body has been trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do for years. And it’s not too late to start paying attention. I have a deep respect for exercise science and love the insights HRV can provide. However, there’s no replacing the act of honoring your body’s signals. That means pushing yourself when you feel rested and recovering when you’re not.
Are you trying to force your results, or are you in the flow? Tell me down in the comments.
About the Author
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.