I wanted to start this week’s article with a hat tip to Dr. Eric Helms for the inspiration.
I was listening to Eric speak recently on a podcast for some continuing education I was doing.
In the conversation, he referenced a tool he uses for his clients (and in his example it was more for clients competing on the bodybuilding stage). I was so impressed by the simplicity of it that I’ve been using it more recently with clients of mine as it pertains to fat loss.
Each of these three areas are routinely evaluated to understand the efficacy of your diet beyond what the scale says. This can give some insight into potentially the need for a diet maintenance break or to decide if a caloric deficit is just right or too aggressive.
Rate yourself, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest) on these areas:
If you find that one (or more) of these areas is lower than you’d like it to be, determine what needs to change for that area to improve.
Sleep Quality: We know that higher quality, more restful sleep can not only help you recover better from your workouts but can also help with dietary adherence. Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room and keep your sleep/wake routine as consistent as possible. Eliminate the use of electronics (phones, laptops, tablets, and television) at least 30 minutes before bedtime so your mind isn’t stimulated. Keep a notepad by your bed to write down anything that is pressing on your mind before going to bed. This can reduce the potential of you keeping yourself awake stressing about things that haven’t happened yet. If you consume alcohol, you may have to reduce the amount you consume or consume earlier in the evening for more restful, uninterrupted sleep (some people report that alcohol helps them fall asleep). Having a dinner with some carbohydrates may help with the release of seratonin and tryptophan to improve sleep as well.
Libido: If you find that your libido is not where you’d like it to be, one contributor could certainly be stress. However, if you’ve been dieting too long (chronically dieting without a break), this can have a negative impact on hormones and, ultimately your libido. Try utilizing a diet maintenance break for a period of days/weeks and see if your libido improves as well. You may also need to seek the help of a doctor in case something more concerning is happening with your body. Bear in mind that if you are constantly trying to keep a very low body fat percentage, this may also contribute to a drop in libido.
Irritability: Stress can affect sleep quality and libido and, of course, certain types of stress can make you feel more combustible or have a shorter fuse than you want. My clients dealing with perimenopause and menopause may be nodding their heads as well. As with libido, some of this may be directly associated with fluctuations in hormones (and can be regulated with the help of a doctor). However, you may also need to look at areas that are constantly setting you off: relationship stress, a hostile work environment, little ability to practice self-care, etc.) Keeping your calories too low for too long or eliminating carbohydrates can be two areas that might be suspect as well.
It also bears mention that you may want to ask a loved one if they agree with your rankings. An outside perspective may help you understand if there are areas that need more attention than what you think. I should also remind that it may be difficult to consistently achieve a 5 in all three areas but be aware that what you’re doing with your diet and your training can have a direct effect on how you sleep, what your libido is like and how irritable you might be.
Sometimes, it helps to put the breaks on aggressive methods to see other areas of your life improve. As you can hopefully see, dieting and training not only affect your body, they can have a correlation with how you perform outside of the gym and in the relationships that matter most to you.