10 Rules Of a Healthy Lifestyle
Lenka Havlíček, nutritional coach, yoga instructor and fitness trainer in one, will explain how the most effective observance of ten simple rules, which are naturally the best lifestyle for our body, can manifest in practice.
Our ancient ancestors naturally followed the rules of a healthy lifestyle that were in accordance with the "programming" of the human body. These rules worked perfectly for people tens of thousands of years ago, and they still work just as well today, with some adaptations for modern times. You will most likely plan your running training yourself, unlike our ancestors who had to run to escape a predator or catch dinner. Even today, you have to avoid poisonous things, but while our ancestors had to be careful of poisonous berries, in the modern world we buy poisons nicely packaged in supermarkets.
The diet of our ancestors before the period of civilization (ten thousand years ago) was, from today's point of view, low-carb and consisted mainly of meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. It caused minimal insulin production throughout their lives. The main source of carbohydrates for them was fruit, but even that was available very rarely, practically only a few weeks a year during the ripening period.
In order to perform at their best, our genes expect a healthy diet, frequent exercise, regular intense running, optimal exposure to the sun, time for play and intellectual work, and enough sleep.
With today's knowledge, we can easily formulate rules, thanks to which we will lead a healthy and satisfied life.
In order to completely transform our bodies into mechanisms that support long-term health, we must practice these 10 rules as conscientiously as possible. The change does not happen immediately, but on average, it takes at least 3 weeks for the body to create new enzymes that burn fat, for it to get used to the new way of diet, and exercise and for start to transform. After 3 weeks of following these rules, your body will be used to a new lifestyle. You won't have sweet cravings or energy fluctuations. In addition, you will burn fat as a primary source of energy.
1. EAT PLANTS AND ANIMALS
Our homo sapiens genes do great when we eat plants and animals. The consumption of protein and fat from meat allowed the development of our brains, and humanity gained a stable position at the top of the food chain. We have evolved to use fat as our primary energy source through natural selection. This includes fat from food but also our own stored fat. But a nutritionally perfect diet based on plants and animals (as our ancestors ate) is in stark contrast to our modern diet full of frequent doses of refined sugars, processed vegetable oils, and perishable and genetically modified foods that are harmful to the human body. Our genes are simply not used to this diet yet. Realize that humanity has been around for 4.2 million years. In short, 10 thousand years is not long enough for our bodies to adapt to a completely different diet. The only manifestation of adaptation is the negative and, from the point of view of evolution, short-term - i.e. weight gain and diseases. This is very liberating information from a certain point of view - you don't have to follow any strict diet and eat every two hours. As long as you eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds primarily, you will be satisfied with your food, and your body will be healthy.
2. AVOID POISON
Most of the calories in the so-called SAD (Standard American Diet) diet come from foods that did not even exist before civilization (ten thousand years ago). These are mainly carbohydrate foods (pasta, cereals, corn, rice, whole grain products, pastries and others), sweet drinks (juices, raspberries, etc.) and chemically modified vegetable fats (margarine, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, etc.). These foods are basically slow-acting poison for our bodies. They gradually destroy our health, we gain weight after them, make us tired and sick, and age faster. These foods are poisonous at the cellular level, meaning they literally change our DNA. Their consumption sooner or later leads to systemic inflammation, which is the main cause of all modern epidemic diseases.
3. MOVE OFTEN AND AT A SLOW PACE
Hunters and gatherers in the Paleo era spent several hours a day walking, climbing, and other types of natural movement at a pleasantly slower pace. But hunting for food has disappeared from our modern lives and has been replaced by sitting. Some people try to compensate for their sedentary lifestyle by exercising regularly for an hour a day, then sit in a chair or in the car for the rest of the day. You will probably agree with me that sitting is unhealthy. However, you will be surprised that even the most dedicated runners and participants of various group lessons do not support their health anymore. Frequent cardio training that lasts a very long time and leaves you exhausted and full of endorphins can actually harm you. This so-called "chronic cardio" leads to exhaustion, sweet cravings, high cortisol levels, muscle breakdown and eventually burnout. I'm not even talking about zero results in trying to burn fat and gain muscle. However, there is nothing to be surprised about. All our lives it has been drilled into our heads that persistence is the key to success, and the more we sleep, the better. The main thing is not to miss cardio to burn all those fats. But, frankly, this is nonsense from a physiological point of view. It's not just about how many calories we eat and how many we burn. It's about where we get these calories from and how easily we can use them as fuel.
4. LIFT HEAVY THINGS
Short and intense exercises involving functional training and whole-body movements promote muscle mass growth and slow down ageing. You can become a really fit person only thanks to ten to thirty minutes of intensive training with dumbbells or your own body weight per day. Add to that frequent walking and once in a while running, and you are an exceptionally good-looking healthy individual :) All these movements and activities are similar to those practised by our ancient ancestors in common daily activities such as hunting for food, running away from a predator, building a dwelling, and playing... They never just went jogging for an hour or two to burn more calories. Their movement was either very short and intense or slow at a pleasant pace and longer. When they could, they rested - sleeping on their backs. Not in a chair by the TV. Exercising at too intense a pace and for too long (both cardio and strength training) disrupts the natural expression of our genes. During too long intense exercise, e.g. when running over ten kilometres or two hours in the gym, our body is flooded with too much cortisol, and this has a catabolic effect on our muscles (muscles are converted to glucose as a quick source of energy during exhausting long training sessions). Cortisol further suppresses certain hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, which are important for muscle growth and regeneration.
5. SPRINT OFTEN
In the paleo era, the lives of our ancestors depended on how quickly they could escape from a predator or how quickly they could catch up with their prey. When we sprint and mobilize our body to the maximum, we activate our autonomic nervous system's so-called "fight or flight" reaction. At the moment, our body will do everything to function at 100% and succeed in our endeavour (remember, it was life before). Cortisol and other adaptive hormones are released into the bloodstream. But only for a short while. It is not stimulated chronically. After a short sprint to the maximum, the hormones return to their original values, and our body reacts by "preparing better next time" - that is, it returns stronger and faster. A workout lasting just a few minutes can have a truly incredible effect on your overall fitness, promoting the production of hormones that help build muscle, promoting endurance and turning on genes that promote fat burning, recovery and muscle building not only during the workout, but also for hours to days after. If you need more proof, compare the bodies of professional sprinters to those of marathoners. Who looks healthier and stronger?
6. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE SLEEP
Sunrise and sunset have always determined the circadian rhythm of all life forms on Earth. In practice, this means that our bodies are programmed to wake up at sunrise and fall asleep at sunset. Soon after sunset, our body naturally starts to flood with the hormone melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone, in response to more darkness. When the cells of our eyes and skin detect light in the morning after sunrise, the body starts producing serotonin, the happy hormone, and cortisol, and suppresses melatonin. This process is to ensure that we feel fresh, happy and full of energy in the morning. What was taken for granted in the life of our ancestors, like the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, is more of a utopia today. Our natural circadian rhythm is constantly disrupted by digital stimulation after dark, artificial lighting, late meals, stress and the inability to relax. This leads to a chronic increase in the level of cortisol (the body wants more energy, even though it should already be sleeping), to a sweet tooth, to irregular sleep and feeling exhausted in the morning. By limiting artificial lighting and the use of electronics after dark, we achieve better synchronization of our body with the natural circadian rhythm. If you can't or don't want to avoid blue light stimulation (using a computer, phone, tablet or TV) after dark, I recommend at least blocking blue light with special glasses. Or fall asleep with a book instead of a movie. In addition, try to go to bed earlier in the evening and get up earlier in the morning (closer to sunrise). You'll see what a difference it makes in your energy levels, hunger pangs and sweet cravings.
Play and other socializing was a common part of our ancestors' lives. But it practically (with some exceptions) disappeared from our modern lives with puberty. The game helped our ancestors to unwind from otherwise very intense and harsh living conditions, but at the same time they learned new skills and built social connections. It is scientifically proven that play increases work productivity, helps manage stress, supports creativity, intelligence and deepens social relationships. We can consider a game anything from a five-minute break when you get up from the desk in the office to talk to a colleague, through practicing handstands, fetching with the dog, a volleyball session, fishing, doing a crossword puzzle, to an adrenaline-filled weekend of camping and rafting down a wild river or rock climbing. In our modern world, paradoxically, disconnection is a huge problem. I don't just mean disconnecting from the network, but quite the opposite - from our tangible world, from nature, from people, from instincts and normal social interactions. Maybe this rule will inspire you to do a little experiment and introduce a day without a phone (TV, computer, social media) into your life, try a digital detox or at least put your phone down at the table together with your family.
8. EXPOSE YOURSELF TO THE SUN
Nowadays, we see the sun as a big scarecrow that will give us skin cancer. But we forget about all the benefits that the sun brings us. Exposure to the sun is by far the best method of getting an adequate amount of vitamin D into the body. Vitamin D is a key micronutrient for humans, but paradoxically, few people have enough of it. Although dietary supplements are one of the alternatives to replenishing vitamin D, our body can only store vitamin D obtained from the sun. In this way, we can draw supplies from the sun in the summer in the winter, when we cannot be exposed to the sun as often. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body. It helps regulate growth in every cell of the body and prevents disease. Its deficiency causes cardiovascular diseases, strokes, kidney problems and increases the risk of cancer. So the goal is to expose as much body surface as possible to the sun for an adequate amount of time (it varies for everyone, but it is generally recommended to be in the sun without protection for about half the time that would normally be enough to get sunburned. So if you know that in half an hour on the sun without the UV factor will burn you, give yourself no more than 15 minutes to get vitamin D. Half an hour in the sun supplies the human body with 10,000 IU (units) of vitamin D, while the standard diet (SAD) supplies only 300 IU per day on average. Not even foods rich in vitamin D are not able to compete with the sun.Fish, leafy vegetables or, for example, shitake mushrooms can supply around 1000 I.U., also only in case of optimal conditions. If you are afraid of pigmentation in sensitive areas, use a protective factor on them or simply cover them up.
9. AVOID STUPID MISTAKES
While a moment of inattention in our modern lives is unlikely to result in a tiger attack like our ancestors did, texting or talking on the phone while driving can be just as tragic. Our ancestors always had an overview of their surroundings. They were always aware of the potential danger and were prepared for it. In our modern society, people are desensitized to danger due to constant distraction, stimulation and a false sense of security (traffic lights, warning signs and signs, crosswalks, etc.). Basically, we go on autopilot without realizing it, without enjoying being present. We don't pay attention to anything and often have our heads down on our phones. We are not social enough and try to handle too many tasks at once. Instead, we should try to slow down and start paying more attention to our surroundings. We should focus on one quality performance at a time rather than doing ten things at once with questionable results.
10. USE YOUR BRAIN
Engage in creative and stimulating activities that support your mental health and intelligence. Get out of your daily routine and responsibilities and have some fun. Paint a picture, read a book, learn a new language, invent a recipe, write a journal... People should be versatile, not specialized. We should have a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience. Always challenge your brain to perform better. Train him. Only then will it serve you well and for a long time.