By: Joe DI
Hormonal optimization is an essential step to becoming the ultimate Spartan badass. “Hormonal optimization” means that the endocrine glands are producing the optimal amount of the various adrenal, sex, and thyroid hormones to ensure the body is prepared, ready, and hungry for whatever obstacle it may face next. Paradoxically, a twenty-first century lifestyle powered by long hours on the computer, high stress and lots of coffee, has pushed thousands into a downward spiral of malady. The effects of under-optimization lead to poor recovery from exercise, depressed mood or energy, even a stalled sex drive. Eek!
Luckily, here are three things you can add to your morning routine to get your body back on track!
1. Hydrate Immediately
As quickly as possible upon waking, rinse the mouth thoroughly, and then consume a large glass of mineral water.
It may be surprising to learn that much of our hunger may just be thirst! Many of us are chronically dehydrated and deficient in many essential trace minerals found in high quality water. Hunger becomes the body’s next logical attempt to get the nutrients it needs. Our morning thirst then, disguised as hunger, causes many people to overeat or over-carb at breakfast. Doing so tends to create the hormonal high’s and low’s later in the day many call “the 2:00pm crash.”
To avoid the crash, hydrate quickly upon rising and at least 15 minutes before eating each morning. Choose high-quality mineral water, such as Evian or Fiji, or simply add a pinch of high-quality Himalayan Sea Salt to a glass of filtered water. Consume 8-16 oz each morning and, if desired, add a squeeze of lemon for taste and additional benefit.
2. Watch the Sunrise
Waking up consistently early is a great way to improve sleep quality and reset the body’s internal clock, what experts refer to as the body’s circadian rhythm.
Anytime sleep is improved hormones tend to be optimized. Sleep is that important and can lead to a more reliable and consistent energy level throughout the day. Sunlight, the only consistent form of light on the planet for billions of years (until fire came along), is a strong, evolutionary trigger to rise and take on the day. This trigger raises cortisol levels, which naturally dip during sleep to allow sex hormones to rise and facilitate recovery.
The added benefit of watching the sunrise, versus just getting up early and hopping under an artificial light source, is that it is innately relaxing. The sun is a powerful, evolutionary force that helps people to start their day slow and relaxed, even if it will not stay that way for long. So sneak in some deep breathing and reflect on the adventure ahead each morning, and your hormones may just improve even more.
3. Cold or Contrasted Showers
After watching the sunrise and preparing to take on the world, there’s only one thing left to do.
Cold showers build mental toughness like nothing else. Above and beyond that, when exposed to cold the body releases a protein called Adiponectin. Adiponectin breaks down fat and pushes glucose into cells, if there was a magic-pill, cold showers might be it.
Joe De Sena, the Founder of Spartan Race experienced this phenomenon first hand and ever since swears by the cold shower. However, for new Spartans shaking in their boots at the thought of such misery there may be a less painful, potentially equally beneficial alternative. Alternating between 20 seconds of cold water, with 10 seconds of hot water may offer all of the benefits of a cold shower, and also provide the additional benefit of improved blood flow and circulation. Here is how to pull it off like a B.A.:
- Turn the shower onto full COLD. Choose a song to play that is 5 to 6 minutes long. (I prefer Take the Power Back by Rage Against the Machine) or, for an upgraded experience, use one of the Tabata music timers, available on YouTube.
- Jump into the cold flow of water. Be sure to get the back of the neck, armpits and anywhere else that it hurts to have cold water (hint, hint) for the next 20 seconds.
- After the cold interval, switch the water to HOT for a 10 second “recovery” period. The hot water causes the blood vessels to dilate, which had been constricted from the cold, improving systemic circulation.
- Continue for at least five minutes, but no more than seven minutes.
So there they are! Incorporate these lifestyle hacks into your morning routine and transform yourself into a Spartan Badass.
Joe DiStefano, BS, CSCS, SGX is Spartan’s Director of Training. Learn more about Spartan training and find a certified Spartan SGX coach.