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Could this be the best time to be alive if we want to be healthy?
I was speaking to my bodybuilding brother about the times we are living in I pointed out that there is no better time to be alive than right now if we want to take control of our health and wellness.
The cynic that he is, he pointed out that people would have said that 10 years ago and will say that 10 years from now.
Not sure if he was trying to point out that I was wrong or if he was just debating for debating’s sake!
So to eliminate any ambiguity, I’ll restate…
There is no better time to be alive, past or present, than right now if we want to take control of our health and wellness.
Hopefully, that’s clear!
But why is now better than any other point in history?
Because we are in a position to finally be able to quantify our health.
Why the hell are we even contemplating quantifying ourselves?
We’ve known for a long time (roughly) what it takes to get healthy.
The most obvious area is losing weight.
You know the old adage…
Calories in, calories out.
Make sure you in a calorie deficit of 500 calories to lose weight.
That’s all fine.
But how do YOU work that out?
How do you know how much you’re consuming vs your actual activity during the day, both resting calories burned and active?
What about recovery?
Sleep is incredibly important to not only our overall well being but our recovery as well. There is a lot of exciting studies and information coming out about sleep and how to get better sleep but in general, it’s not just the length of time that you sleep that’s important.
What’s important is the quality of your sleep, specifically deep sleep.
But how do you know (other than how you feel when you get up) if you’ve recovered and whether you should tackle the day or give your body a rest?
You can’t understand the stages of sleep you’re going through, you’re asleep!!
How technology has changed the game
We’re living in a time when the wearable and fitness technology market is starting to boom and we can take advantage of this to make informed decisions and choices regarding our wellness.
Depending on what you want to monitor and achieve, you can choose a service or piece of tech to help you achieve your goals.
Below are categories of wellness and the services or gadgets available to you to help you in your quest for wellness.
With regards to diet, I’m going to focus on what you should be eating and what you aren’t so good at consuming (calories will be covered in activity trackers).
This is really exciting stuff! There are SOOOOO many bloody diets out there that even I’m confused about what you should and shouldn’t be following!
If you’re looking to lose weight, that’s easy and you could do that with anything. Keto, Paleo, Low Carb, Atkins…there isn’t one diet that does it and the others don’t.
I personally hate the term diet as it assumes you’re just looking to lose weight, instead of trying to focus on what you eat and drink as a way of being healthy, keeping performance and energy levels high.
For me, the only way to eat that makes sense is to follow some form of metabolic typing, which focuses on your genetic makeup and what you personally should be eating for your body to remain in tip-top shape. However, it has been really hard to quantify that in the past.
Thankfully, there are a number of services available to you that can help you decipher what your personal body should be consuming.
DNAFit - A complete guide to your overall wellness and needs
XCodeLife - You can buy individual reports (fitness, nutrition etc) depending on which area interests you the most.
23andMe - Doesnt specifically tell you your dietary needs but you can use this to get an idea of genetics and then upload the raw data to somewhere like XcodeLife
If you can use the data you get from any of these services, you can then monitor what you are eating, look at the breakdown of ratios and marry this up to the data you got from whatever service it was that you chose.
Sleep and Recovery
This is a very exciting area to analyse as it’s not been that easy to do.
One of the key areas of focus that is now available to us is how long we are spending in each stage of sleep, how many cycles of REM sleep we’re getting and, thanks to now being able to track our HRV, how well our body is recovering from the stresses of our day to day. Whether that’s workouts, work or the kids!
Apple Watch - Thanks to various apps, the Apple Watch can now help track our sleep.
Oura Ring - An underground piece of kit in the biohacking world (mines ordered but I have to wait until Xmas day!), this wearable sits on your finger and can accurately track HRV, sleep cycles and readiness. Over time, it will learn your routine and start to make suggestions on your predicted circadian rhythm. Insane!
AutoSleep - this is the one I use and can link with your Apple Watch. Insane level of data provided. The geeks' choice!
Weight for weight's sake isn’t a good barometer of whether you are healthy or not. The makeup of that weight will give you a clearer indication of how healthy you are.
For example, having a good level of muscle mass is clearly important so chopping the weight off your body at the detriment of muscle weight is not a good idea.
We also need to keep an eye on bone mass and water levels. Water levels are hugely important for electrolyte balance, muscle and hormone function, as well as keeping you hydrated. But for bone mass, being able to monitor this and see a potential dip will allow you to catch a potential problem early on, as low levels of bone mass indicates weak and brittle bones…which aren’t good.
Then the final piece is your body fat percentage.
Scales now can help you make sense of how your body is made up and your percentages.
Whilst the scales uses bioimpedance as a way to track body fat, I would treat this as an estimation and a way to track trends, rather than an exact figure. The most accurate way to track this is with either body fat calipers or underwater weighing (I’m assuming your bath isn’t big enough for this!). However, bioimpedance is good for measuring hydration which is massively important.
Withings Body + - I've just got these ones and (even though I've been using it a week), it seems pretty accurate.
Good health starts with our genes and every body is different. Understanding the little pieces that come together to make you you will go a long way to helping you understand your own body.
I personally used 23andMe. The cool thing is I then took that raw data and uploaded it to XCodeLife for a one-off nutritional report.
Not only do I have the data around my genetic makeup and if I am at risk of certain diseases but I can now put together a personalised diet and supplement program based on what I can or can’t metabolise.
The most common type of tracker. These have exploded in popularity in recent times and, although they encourage you via steps, there is a lot of awesome data to be had behind it all.
Coupled with the MyFitnessPal app, you can now start to look at whether you’re in a calorie deficit or not.
Fitbit - the daddy of fitness trackers, it’s hard to find someone without one of these on their wrists.
Apple Watch - a plethora of apps here to turn your Apple Watch into a hub of data. For workouts and activity, I use FITIV. Linking this up with MyFitnessPal, I have a dashboard right there on my phone with all the activity and calorific data I need.
I believe we are living in an awesomely quantifiable age that allows us to take control of our health and wellness, not just by gut feel, but with data to back that up.
Select the tools you need to help you achieve your personal goals and make those improvements.
In a bit.