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Get to sleep!

Many people come to me looking for help with fine tuning their nutrition to reach their goals, whether it be weight loss or to boost performance.  Of course nutrition is important but most people are actually doing a pretty decent job before starting with me.  99 times out of 100 the biggest problem that I actually see is horrible sleep patterns.   Unfortunately, no amount of paleo eating, supplement taking, crossfit doing is going to get you to your goals is your sleep sucks.  Here’s why…

1) People who sleep less than 6 hours a night have elevated markers of inflammation in their blood stream.  If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that inflammation and increased body fat are closely related.

2) Studies have shown that people on calorie restricted diets lose FAT when they sleep the appropriate amount, but lose muscle mass when they under sleep… Less muscle equals a lower metabolism usually.   Also, the same study shows that people who didn’t sleep enough were hungrier throughout the day.  Makes sense since the part of the brain that controls sleep also influences metabolism.  Question: Do you find you make poorer food choices when you’re overly tired?  Thought so…

3) Football, tennis and swimmers were all studied for the effects of sleep on performance.  The athletes that slept more (~10 hours) all increased their sprint times compared to the athletes that did not.

4) Some biochemistry and physiology for you:  Testosterone and growth hormone are elevated when we sleep and these two hormones are critical to have appropriate recovery from your workouts.

Alright, I think you get the point.  Lets look at some things to try to do and things to try and avoid to improve our sleep:

1) A little drink before bed might help you fall asleep but alcohol will disrupt the quality of your sleep as the body as after processing all the alcohol, your brain will switch from deep sleep into REM sleep.  REM sleep is MUCH easier to wake from so you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

2) Try to avoid raising your body temperature too much before going to bed.

3) You’ve got to try and deplug from the phone, laptop, etc for 30-60 minutes before going to sleep.  The lighting from the screens of these electronics can impact your brains ability to sense its internal clock of when to wake and sleep.

4) Last but not least, you’ve got to avoid caffeine in the afternoon if you’re going to sleep appropriately.

A follow-up on vitamin D

Recently a post on “Precision Nutrition” talked about the dangers of high dose vitamin D supplementation.  I wanted to address the post and talk about some of the risk factors that are mentioned.  At the bottom of this post, I’ll talk about what my SPECIFIC recommendations are.

Lets look at the arguments made by the precision nutrition author:

1) High dose Vitamin D3 in rodents is a toxin. The problem I have with this argument is that the amount they give the rats is about 10-20x what a person would actually supplement with.  Also, there’s no discussion about whether the biologics of rodent vitamin D metabolism mimic humans.  Considering that they are nocturnal animals,  the biology could certainly be different…
That said, lets say that based upon these results, you shouldn’t be taking extreme levels of vitamin D (above 30000 IU/day).
2) The Vitamin K/Calcium axis.  This is actually a really important point that many people overlook.  If you have a vitamin K issue, then high dose vitamin D could actually be a big problem.  The problem I have is that the author goes on to basically state that if you’re vitamin K deficient you shouldn’t take vitamin D.  Personally,  if I was deficient in vitamin K, I’d fix my levels of vitamin K and not avoid taking vitamin D completely.  This is like saying, well my car is low on oil so I stopped putting gas in the car to prevent it from overheating.  Should people low in vitamin K avoid the sun?
I’ve looked and while some blogs like to say that vitamin K deficiency is common, the evidence out there to support this is pretty weak.   You cannot just base levels off of food intake because  vitamin K2 metabolism is tied to the microbiome.  Nevertheless, if you are consuming leafy green vegetables, then you should be fine outside of rare genetic diseases.  This leafy green vegetable thing is about to get very repetitive.
3) Magnesium: You’ll notice that in my supplements page, I list a magnesium supplement.  Also, the same leafy green veggies I listed above are also really high in magnesium.  I think the authors point is a good one, but again, I think the take home message should be to get your other nutrient levels to appropriate levels and NOT to avoid vitamin D if you are showing signs of deficiency.
4) Vitamin A:  So vitamin A deficiency is a real problem but mostly in third world countries.  In the United States, you’d be shocked at just how many foods are fortified with Vitamin A.  As a result, people here are typically not vitamin A deficient.  Now, if you eat an all natural organic diet, you aren’t getting any of those FORTIFIED vitamin A fortified foods of course, but the good news is that leafy green vegetables, grass fed beef and many other paleo-type foods which you are likely eating have TONS of vitamin A.
Now, there are in fact some really interesting new observations about vitamin D levels and health.  One of these is a study with over 1 million people showing that the lowest mortality from a multitude of causes correlated with vitamin 25D levels between 20 ng/mL and 36 ng/mL.   That’s somewhat surprising because the medical community says that the LOWEST your levels should be is about 30 ng/ml and that your better off with levels closer to 50 ng/ml.  Interestingly, there are a couple other studies showing just the same thing… that optimal levels are around 30-35 ng/ml.
Now, there are a couple things to remember.
1) This data says that A correlates with B, not that A causes B… very important difference.
2) It does not mean that we should be avoiding vitamin D supplements, just that perhaps we don’t need to be driving levels so high by supplementing like crazy with 10000-50000 IU or more.  Doctors are DEFINITELY doing this in some patients for 4-5 weeks.  Not sure I’d want that much…
Ultimately, my recommendation is still pretty much the same as before.
1) GET IN THE SUN when possible.  The body is (for the most part) capable of limiting its vitamin D levels much better when we use sunlight as our source.
2) If you live in the middle of winter for 6 months, I still think some supplementation is a good idea.  1000 IU/day is probably still pretty safe but I also would advise having your levels checked annually to make sure you’re in that ~ 35 ng/ml range.
3) You’ve GOT to be eating green vegetables for reasons that go way beyond anything to do with vitamin D, but also to mitigate any potential risks with the vitamin D supplementation.
Hope this helps.



The world we live in has certainly become a confusing place when it comes to figuring out how to make healthy decisions.  Every week it seems like there’s a new fitness craze, dietary revolution, etc that completely contradicts what you were told the week before.  I’m here to try and help you sort through all the BS thats out there so you can achieve your health and fitness goals.

While no topic will be off-limit, I’ll focus mostly on topics related to gastrointestinal health, systemic inflammation and autoimmune disease, how to eat for health, longevity or athletic performance, and supplements that can help you achieve your goals.

Looking forward to getting some ideas out there!