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    ICON Meals Blog — sleep

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    Sleeping 101

    Sleeping 101

    In today's society the physical and mental demands of our responsibilities don't leave enough hours in the day to get everything done. When we get overwhelmed with deadlines, errands, studies, and projects, proper sleep is unfortunately one of the first casualties.

     

    Sleep is a crucial part of keeping ourselves healthy. As much as we try to "burn the midnight oil" and grind out extra hours to get things done, neglecting proper rest puts our bodies, minds, and emotions in a state of imbalance. This affects more than muscle recovery or mental clarity — it can even distort our sleeping patterns, hunger, and hydration signals.

     

    What can we do to ensure we get proper rest when the world doesn't stop turning? Create a good wind-down or pre-bed routine that relaxes and de-stimulates our senses.

    Sleep Strategies

     

    1. Natural Light & Morning Activity

    Getting light exercise in the morning can help regulate your body's circadian rhythm and improve circulation. Getting outdoor activity promotes better oxygen intake and blood flow, positively impacting our health.

     

    2. Caffeine Cut-Off

    I love a strong brew or tasty energy drink to get the gears turning just as much as anyone else, but did you know caffeine can last in your system for up to 8 hours? This can easily cause sleep deprivation. Avoiding it after the morning hours ensures your body flushes it out long before you attempt to sleep.

    3. No Snacks Before Bed

    There's no question proper nutrition centered around unprocessed, whole foods helps your body get the nutrients it needs. Studies show opting for carbs before bed can improve sleep, but how do you expect your body to focus on rest when it's busy digesting food? Try to have your last meal at least 2 hours before you plan on sleeping to avoid digestion issues or sleep disruption.

    4. Turn Off Screens

    Blue light from screens suppresses our natural melatonin production, which can easily mess with our sleep. Certain devices and apps have implemented “night mode” to reduce blue light,  but it's still a good idea to minimize your screen time at least an hour before bed.

    5. Cool Dark Space

    Our body temperature needs to drop to get a good night’s sleep. A cooler room promotes deeper sleep, and for most people about 65 degrees is the sweet spot. Light coming through windows can prevent your brain from winding down, so keep your bedroom completely dark with blackout shades/curtains and eliminate all forms of light when trying to sleep.

    6. Meditation/Yoga

    Our minds are constantly thinking, focusing on tasks that need to be done in the future. This can keep us tossing and turning when we truly need rest. Relax physically and mentally with a stretching/yoga routine and a mental stillness practice like meditation. This ensures we transition to a state of rest. Alternatively, writing down tasks you need to complete the next day can potentially remove anxiety about them.

    Supplements

     

    Quick fixes are often our first instinct, rather than taking the healthier route — simple lifestyle changes. Even something as widely accepted as melatonin supplements can be detrimental. In very small doses (0.5mg) melatonin may be beneficial. However, people often take up to 10mg which seriously derails their natural melatonin production, especially when taken habitually.

     

    Taking drugs to counteract poor sleeping habits is like eating fast food every meal and taking a fat burner to lose weight.

     

    That being said, there is one supplement I highly recommend: “Lunar” by Legion Athletics. I’ve been taking it for years and it always helps give me a good night’s sleep. It helps me fall asleep faster, easier, and deeper. Lunar’s dosage has been formulated by scientific research and has minimal impact on natural sleep patterns. For me, taking it 3x a week maximizes its effectiveness while allowing my body to maintain its natural chemical balance.

    How to Increase Muscle & Minimize Fat Gain

    How to Increase Muscle & Minimize Fat Gain

    Originally published on nutrabio.com


     

    You clicked on this article because you want to put on slabs of muscle, right?  Here’s the part that scares people… You need to put yourself in a caloric surplus in order to accomplish that. Yes, the same surplus that causes so many to gain dreaded body fat.  The question becomes, can you effectively increase muscle mass while minimizing fat gain?  To put it simply, yes.  You can increase muscle while minimizing fat gain.  However, there is a balancing act that needs to take place.  So, put your arms out, steady yourself, and let’s jump in. 

    Below in this article will be some of the best tips and tricks to keep your body fat under control while trying to increase muscle mass.  But first, let’s discuss the difference between bulking cycles as they differ significantly. 

    Clean Bulking Vs. Dirty Bulking

    If you’re trying to increase muscle and minimize fat gain, you will want to focus on clean bulking.  What does that mean?  It means keeping your nutrition in check while in a caloric surplus and filling it with healthy macronutrients – clean sources of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  Notice how all three macronutrients are included in the previous sentence?  That’s because they are all going to fill a role when trying to increase muscle mass. 

    On the opposite side of the spectrum is dirty bulking.  This approach is where you eat anything and everything in an effort to put on weight (including fast food) – which can lead to massive increases in fat gain. 

    The tips below will fall under the clean bulking method as the last thing you want to do is put on a ton of body fat (you will gain a little during a clean bulk, though) and then spend the next several months on a treadmill trying to lose all of that weight which in the process could strip away some of your hard-earned muscle. 

    Track Your Nutrition

    The goal when trying to increase muscle mass while minimizing fat gain is not allowing your caloric surplus to get away from you.  While you need to eat more than you would to achieve your maintenance level, that doesn’t mean taking a 2,000-calorie maintenance and jumping up to 4,000 calories per day, thinking the almighty Gainz God is going to shine down on you. 

    Take it slow and increase your calories by around 10% and see how you fair after a week.  If you notice you’re gaining weight, but when you check your body fat it’s gone up, back it down a little bit to around a 5% increase in your calories.  Remember, slow and steady will help prevent fat gain.  Strive for 0.5-1.0lb of weight gain each week.  Anything more and you’re potentially adding body fat. 

    At the same time, track your nutrition with something like MyFitnessPal.  You don’t know what you don’t know, and while you may think you’re at a sweet spot with your nutrition, you could either be drastically over or drastically under your calories, which will not provide you the results you’re looking for. 

    Prioritizing Protein

    Protein is your friend.  You need protein in order to help increase muscle mass.  Strive for around 1g per pound of body weight.  Make sure you have protein in every meal and each snack.  Things like steak, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beef, nuts, seeds, legumes, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt, to name a few. 

    Achieving 1g can be difficult for some who aren’t used to eating a lot of protein.  Therefore, it may be wise to consider a protein supplement to help you increase your protein intake without force-feeding yourself. 

    NutraBio 100% Whey Protein Isolate would be a fantastic and clean protein source that is extremely low in carbohydrates while containing zero fat.  This allows you to enjoy a delicious treat while easily increasing your protein intake.  With more than a handful of flavors to choose from, you’ll always have a wide selection to choose from, regardless of what you’re craving. 

    Leverage Your Carbohydrate Intake

    Where a lot of people go wrong is thinking they need to drastically increase their carbs in a bulk.  Not so fast. Instead, what you should do is be specific about when you are consuming your increase in carbs.   

    Leveraging your carbohydrate intake around your training will be your best bet.  Have a carb-filled meal pre-workout (around 60-90 minutes prior) to benefit from the added glycogen and then also post-workout (with a protein powder) to help replenish glycogen and kickstart the recovery process. 

    Keep Healthy Fats In Your Diet

    People tend to shy away from fat as they believe eating it will cause them to experience fat gain.  That’s not always true.  Consuming healthy fats will not only help you feel satiated, but it can also help balance hormones and even boost your testosterone levels (which you would greatly benefit from while bulking). 

    Look at natural sources like fish, steak, nut butter, seeds, and whole nuts.  Add those to your meals and reap the benefits of healthy fats. 

    Train Hard And Heavy

    This is pretty straightforward and one that we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on.  If you want to increase muscle, you need to lift heavy.  Now, that doesn’t mean maxing out each workout.  What it means is, using a weight you can achieve 8-10 repetitions with where the last few reps you’re really pushing yourself.  Going to failure on every set of every exercise is not going to be beneficial. 

    If you wanted to hit some isolation exercises at the end of your workout where you lighten the weight, go for it, but make sure if you’re hitting 15 reps where your muscles are on fire before you put the weight down (you want to make sure you are going to failure if using lighter weights to really break down those muscle fibers). 

    Back Off On The Cardio

    Now is not the time for marathon cardio sessions.  For health and heart benefits, you can still keep some cardio in your routine, but do not be obsessive with it as you’ll be burning off the calories you need to increase muscle mass – which will only force you to eat more food in order to make up for the reduction. 

    That being said, at least keeping some cardio in your plan will further help you minimize fat gain while you bulk.  Just make sure your calories at the end of the day are still around 10% higher than your maintenance. 

    Get Enough Sleep

    This section is incredibly important.  If you want to see any changes to your physique, you need proper rest and recovery.  You should strive for a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.  Should you fall short, it could dramatically stall your progress.   

    Make sleep a priority and change around your schedule to allow for proper rest if you truly want to increase muscle mass.

    5 Tips For Better Sleep by Taeler De Haes

    5 Tips For Better Sleep by Taeler De Haes

    Struggle sleeping through the night? Or maybe, even getting to sleep is a challenge? 

    With so much emphasis on morning routines, I’ll be the first to say a bedtime routine is even more important to ensure great sleep. 

    You need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Any less than 6 and fat loss becomes harder, cravings increase and your brain feels foggy, leading to impulsive decisions, like running through the McDonald’s drive-thru instead of packing a wholesome breakfast.  

    Here’s how I turn my brain off and wind down for bed, starting an hour before I hit the pillow: 

    Set boundaries. Listen, I know how hard it is to see those email notifications pop up on Sunday night from your boss, but you are off the clock. Act like it. The same thing goes for families looking to spend a little more quality time together. Put your devices on the chargers an hour before bed, and don’t grab them until the morning. Tell your friends and family you’ll no longer be available ahead of time so they hold you accountable. 

    Put your phone away. The most important might be the hardest, especially if you are winding down, catching up on social media or sharing memes with your friends (we all do it). I like to set my phone on the charger an hour before bed to prevent blue light near bedtime. If you work late at night, I recommend buying blue light blockers. 

    Turn off the TV. I’m the first to admit I love watching Riverdale before going to bed, but reading or listening to a podcast will allow you to drift away from the “present” and relax. 

    Drink something warm. I find cozying up with a warm cup of tea or decaf coffee makes me feel nice and relaxed. This also helps with late night snacking. If you struggle with stress in the evening, I recommend taking Natural Calm, which is just magnesium, which helps keep cortisol levels under control. 

    Set yourself up for a calm start. My mornings start with 5:30 a.m. spin classes, bootcamps and personal training, so I don’t have time for a “routine”. I like to lay my clothes out the night before, get my supplements in order, Keurig on and ready so I can wake up, grab and go. 

    Taking the extra time to ensure a proper night’s sleep makes for a more productive tomorrow.

    Stay connected with blog author Taeler De Haes:

    Want to be featured by ICON Meals? Submit your stories to info@iconmeals.com or send us a DM on IG or Facebook!



    How To Sleep Better? Tips/Tricks/Supplements

    How To Sleep Better? Tips/Tricks/Supplements

    Struggle sleeping through the night? Or maybe, even getting to sleep is a challenge?

    With so much emphasis on morning routines, I’ll be the first to say a bedtime routine is even more important to ensure great sleep. 

    You need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Any less than 6 and fat loss becomes harder, cravings increase and your brain feels foggy, leading to impulsive decisions, like running through the McDonald’s drive-thru instead of packing a wholesome breakfast.  

    Read more

    Recovery: An Essential Part of the Growth Equation

    Recovery: An Essential Part of the Growth Equation

    Story by Mike O’Hearn
    Written by Asha Belisle, CSCS, BPE, CEP

    People always talk about how hard they go in the gym. They push so hard and so fast and it’s so intense. Don’t get me wrong - I love the warrior mentality. That’s how I’ve lived for the past four decades. But if you are 100% intent on only getting better and training smarter, then you have to put just as much effort into the recovery as you do the work.

    I train like a warrior. I’m very intense. But I’ve spent my entire life learning my body, and I know how to correct whatever needs to be corrected in order to fix myself. I train like a savage, yes, but I know how critical it is to pull back sometimes. After 12 weeks of getting ready for anything – photo shoot, guest posing - I drop back to 60%, starting over with foundation work. I’ve done this my whole career.

    Here’s the thing: You can only train as hard, as well as you can recover. It’s that simple. If you’re not recovering properly – and enough – you’ll do harm before you’ll see any progress. If you’re training so hard that you can hardly move the next day or two, you’re defeating the purpose. Training and tearing down the muscle is only 25% of the equation. Proper recovery nutrition and rest make up the other 75%.

    There are five things that are essential to full recovery:

    1. Sleep

    I recommend aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Life is hectic. We need this time. I know it’s hard and I know you’re busy, but try your best. If your goal is to get a better body, or to compete, or simply to get active to get in better shape, then sleep is KEY.

    2. Proper Nutrition

    It’s all about taking in the right number – and type – of calories for the level of intensity at which you’re training. Everyone is different and responds differently to macronutrients but the bottom line is this: feed your body what it needs to do what you’re asking it to do.

    3. Massage / Stretching

    Flexibility is what has kept me injury-free over the last 40 years. Regular massage and stretching is very important, especially as we age. As we get older our bodies want to tighten up, which puts us at a higher risk of injury. Contracting the muscles is half the process. Make sure that you take the time to stretch and relax daily.

    4. Supplementation

    This could be an article of its own. But there are five supplements that I never go without because they are essential to recovery:

    • Glutamine
    • BCAAs
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin B complex
    • Vitamin D3

    5. Mental recovery

    This is so often overlooked. It’s great to be focused and driven and to have heightened mental awareness when you’re in the gym. But your mind also needs to rest. You need to complete the whole process: train hard – physical recovery – mental recovery – repeat. Only then will you optimally succeed. Think about your workout: what you were happy with, what you’d change next time. Give yourself a mental pat on the back. Then put it out of your mind until it’s time to hit the weights again. Over-obsessing is like overtraining – it will stifle your results.

    We are all only human. We need to back off sometimes. I recommend setting up your training in twelve- week periods. Go hard for that 12 weeks. Push hard. Then back off for the next four weeks. Pull back to about 60% intensity. Have fun. Take a couple extra minutes of rest to chat with your training partner. Goof around. Enjoy the decreased workload. But when that four weeks is up, it’s time to turn it on again for the next 12 weeks. You CAN’T go hard 100% of the time. And you shouldn’t. Look at NFL players. Sure, they train hard and play hard all season, but they take an offseason. Because they need it. And so do you.

    If you train like this, you will keep progressing. You can do this forever. And taking that four-week break will increase your motivation and your passion to train, which will push you even harder.

    So, train hard, warriors; but remember to recover just as hard. I want you to succeed and be healthy not only in the gym when you’re young, but in life – for the long haul.