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Fun Workout Activities for Couples: Strengthen Your Bond While Getting Fit Together!
7 Expert Gym Tips to See Faster Results at the Gym
From the Bedroom to the Gym: Is Your Sex Life Affecting Your Workout Performance?
The relationship between sex and workout performance is one that’s long been debated by scientists and fitness fanatics alike. It’s complicated and multifaceted, so answering the question of whether your sex life is affecting your training is difficult. That said, today we’re going to take a look at a variety of evidence, both academic and anecdotal, as well as several different scenarios and at least try to reduce some of the mystery around the subject. First, it helps to understand what’s actually happening to the body, both physically and psychologically, during both activities.   The Effects of Sex on the Body Sexual activity causes several changes to occur in the body:   Physical Changes That Occur During Sex During sexual activity and the lead up to it, the human body undergoes a process known as the sexual response cycle. This is the case for both males and females, though the cycle can be highly individual and may not be the same each time for each person. Describing the full sexual response cycle is beyond the scope of this article, however it consists of 4 phases: Desire Arousal Orgasm Resolution Factors such as elevated heart rate, increased blood flow and pressure and heightened muscle tension all come into play. If you’d like to read about the sexual response cycle in more detail, check out this great article from Cleveland Clinic.   Psychological Changes That Occur During Sex Several psychological changes occur both during and after sex. Most notable are the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which are associated with improved mood and a better sense of wellbeing. These are also responsible for reduced stress levels, which brings a multitude of additional benefits that are of particular interest to those of us participating in regular training and exercise. Cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, is catabolic in high levels, meaning it can cause the breakdown of lean tissue. So, whilst it is unclear whether sex itself affects workout performance, the reduction in stress levels it may bring is definitely beneficial for preserving our results!   The Effects of Exercise and Training on the Body Exercise and training also cause the body to undergo a number of changes. These occur both during and after the physical activity. There are in fact a number of similarities in changes that happen during exercise and sex:   Physical Changes That Occur During Exercise The physical changes that happen in the body vary based on the type of exercise being undertaken, however, there are some that are common to exercise in general: Increased heart rate Increased blood flow, especially to the muscles Faster, deeper breathing due to additional oxygen needs Heightened activity within the circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal and endocrine systems A full summary of the changes that occur within these systems can be found here. More aerobically demanding exercise will, of course, place greater emphasis on the circulatory and respiratory systems as well as causing fat to be metabolised as an energy source. Resistance training, which often relies more heavily on the lactate and creatine phosphate energy systems, instead promotes greater muscular and endocrine (hormone) activity. Note the common physical changes between sex and exercise here, as they do crossover!   Psychological Changes That Occur During Exercise The psychological changes that occur during exercise are similar to those experienced during sexual activity and are mostly related to the release of endorphins and other ‘feelgood’ hormones. These help to regulate mood, and it is common knowledge that frequent exercise and leading an active, healthy lifestyle promotes a feeling of wellbeing.   Does Sex Affect Our Workouts? This is where things become complicated. Though extensive studies have been done on the subject, the results of these have varied massively. We must also take into account the experience of individuals, and this anecdotal evidence again has huge variance. Let’s look at both:   Sex and Training: What the Science Says Scientific studies on the relationship between sex and training are contradictory at best. There’s no denying the positive benefits of both activities, particularly from a psychological perspective, but as for the effect of sex on actual performance in the gym the results are inconclusive. A study, published in April 2021, by Kirecci, Albayrak and co. examined the effects of sexual activity of 50 men in the 24 hours prior to training on lower body strength. The study measured effects by having the men perform 3 separate squat sessions, each at the same time of day. Each of these sessions occurred after participating in or abstaining from sexual activity the night before. The men performed 5 sets of 5 repetitions of their maximum squat weight during these sessions and the difference in weight lifted was observed. The study concluded that ‘sexual intercourse within 24 hours before exercise [has a] detrimental effect on lower extremity muscle force, which suggests that restricting sexual activity before a short-term activity may be necessary.’ Aside from this study, most others found either no notable relationship between sex and athletic performance. A meta-analysis of 9 crossover studies, conducted by Zavorsky and Brooks and published on 16 September 2022, confirms this. The analysis concluded that ‘The results demonstrate that sexual activity within 30 min to 24 h before exercise does not appear to affect aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal endurance, or strength/power.’ This is perhaps more notable, because these studies incorporated different types of exercise and were not restricted purely to a strength/power based activity like squats.   Anecdotal Evidence: What About the Experiences of Real Gym Goers? The anecdotal evidence is, as expected, highly individualised. However, there tends to be a bias against the results of most studies, particularly in those participating in sports involving strength and aggression. For example, many fighters claim that they perform better when they abstain from sex in the days leading up to a contest. Similarly, bodybuilding forums are full of debate on this topic and many claim they note a significant decrease in motivation to train at maximum intensity after sexual activity. It has been hypothesised that this may be due to a downregulation in testosterone production after sex; during orgasm the mineral zinc is released in the body and this is also a precursor for natural testosterone production in the body and may, therefore, provide some reasoning as to the experience of many trainees.   Key Takeaways The relationship between sex and workout performance will always be a complicated one. The effects of one on the other in terms of physical fitness and, in particular, mental wellbeing, are clear, but when it comes to actual performance this appears to be highly individual. We’d advise doing what feels best for you but not worrying too much about it. Instead, prioritise your nutrition and make sure you’re fuelling your workouts properly. While you’re here, why not take a look at the Innermost range? We’re proud to be completely transparent about the ingredients in our products and we always ensure they’re of the highest quality. Check us out, and be sure to get in touch if you have any questions!
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How to Boost Your Sleep Hygiene for a Better Night’s Rest
Can’t sleep? You’re not the only one. Research shows that more than one third of adults sleep less, on average, than the recommended seven hours or more per night, with another study suggesting 10% to 15% of people experience chronic insomnia that impacts their day-to-day life.  Sleep struggles can feel isolating, lonely and like a never ending challenge, but just a few simple changes to your routine to boost your sleep hygiene could make all the difference and have you snoozing in no time.  To help you improve your sleep hygiene for a better night’s rest, we spoke to Sleep & Health Coach Annika Carroll. Here Annika shares her top tips for building healthy habits that will help you to sleep better. What is sleep hygiene?  Sleep hygiene refers to the environment you sleep in and your behaviours. This includes, for example, how hot or cool your bedroom is at night or what you do in the hours before bed. Poor sleep hygiene can include the likes of answering emails in bed late at night or having a bedroom that’s too bright and impacts the production of your sleep hormones. Drinking caffeine late in the day or eating a heavy meal before bed can also have a negative effect on your sleep.  But, it’s not just about what you do in the hours before bed that determines how healthy your sleep routine is. In fact, everything you do from the moment you wake up contributes to your sleep hygiene and will determine how easy you find it to fall asleep each night. “Everything we do throughout the day either adds to our ‘sleep account’ or subtracts from it. What we do one or two hours before bed is important, but it is just one piece of our sleep puzzle,” Annika explains.   How to boost sleep hygiene  Set a wind down alarm  This is your sign to put your phone away and start winding down for the evening. When you’re stressed your nervous system activates your fight or flight response. This causes your stress hormones to be released and your heart rate and breathing rate to increase. Not quite how you want to feel before bed! Instead, focus on calming activities like reading a book, practising a sleep meditation or relaxing under a weighted blanket. These will help to activate the nervous system’s rest and digest response (aka your relaxation response). If you can, avoid using your phone as you start to wind down. “Our phones emit blue light, which can interfere with the release of our sleep hormone and make it more difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep,” explains Annika. “Also, the content we consume (think: work emails and social media) can trigger the nervous system and raise our stress hormones, which will then make it more challenging to fall asleep.”  If you find it difficult to wind down and switch off, consider incorporating a sleep supplement into your daily routine. Our Relax Capsules contain research-backed ingredients that help reduce stress, promote relaxation and help you get a great night's sleep. An easy way to get a little more chill into your life.  Keep your bedroom dark and cool Natural light regulates our body clock and signals to our brain when it’s time to wake up and time to sleep. Melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, is released in the absence of light, so it’s important to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. “You should also cover up lights on smoke detectors, TVs, air conditioners or anything that might disturb your sleep,” Annika says. It’s also recommended that you keep your bedroom around 16-18°C for the optimal sleep conditions as if you’re too hot or too cold you’ll not only feel restless, but it will impact your body temperature and make it harder to fall asleep.  Take breaks throughout the day   Now you know that everything you do from the moment you wake up until the moment you lay your head on the pillow will impact how you sleep, consider getting outside within the first hour minutes of waking up for a dose of natural sunlight. This will help to regulate the circadian rhythm (aka your sleep-wake cycle) and signal to the body that it’s time to wake up. “This helps your body set its inner clock, so it will release cortisol - our awake hormone - and set the timer to release melatonin - our sleep hormone - in 14 to 16 hours. That way, you will have more energy throughout the day and fall asleep easier at night.”  It’s also important to take regular breaks throughout your day to regulate your stress hormones and give yourself the opportunity to reflect. “If we don't give our brains a break throughout the day, we start processing experiences and emotions from the day as soon as our head hits the pillow,” Annika explains. “Taking small breaks throughout the day to enjoy the sun or sit for a moment in silence is really helpful.” You don’t have to meditate to take a moment to relax (although we recommend it!), instead you can pick an activity you really enjoy whether that’s reading, walking or stretching.  Cut caffeine after lunch  We know you’ll have heard this one time and time again, but hear us out, reducing your caffeine intake can do wonders for your sleep. And there’s a science to it. Let us explain: when you drink a cup of coffee or an energy drink with caffeine, it will help you to feel more awake and alert because it blocks adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical that builds up in your body throughout the day to ensure you feel sleepy in the evening. However, caffeine has a half-life of around five hours, that means that it takes five hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off and leave your system. “If you have a cup of coffee at 3pm, about half of that cup could still be in your body at 8pm and a quarter at 1am,” Annika explains. “Moving caffeine intake to earlier in the day is a good idea to help improve your sleep as it will allow its effects to wear off before bed.”  Want to go caffeine-free but still boost your energy throughout the day? Check out our five top tips for naturally upping your energy levels. You can thank us later…  Keep your blood sugar stable  If you find yourself waking up in the night, it could be down to what you’re eating during the day. “Night wakings can indicate your blood sugar is too low,” explains Annika. “If your blood sugar drops too much overnight, your body releases cortisol to wake you up.” To avoid this happening, make sure you eat balanced meals throughout the day. “Ensure your meals include whole foods, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables, and avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar,” Annika advises.  If you struggle to meet your daily protein targets, try our range of protein blends. Each one contains a different combination of research-backed natural ingredients, nootropics and adaptogens. They're also free from soy, gluten, fillers and GMO nasties. Whatever your goal, we have a protein blend to help! What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night  We’ve all been there, lying awake at 3am counting down the hours until the alarm goes off. So, what should you do if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? Well, it might sound counterproductive but it’s best to get out of bed and leave your bedroom so you can re-set.  “Do something that’s not too stimulating, such as reading a book, journaling or watching a little TV,” suggests Annika. “Avoid turning on bright lights; keep them dim and once you feel tired again, go back to bed. This way, your brain doesn't associate the bed with worrying and being awake.”  If you find getting out of bed makes you feel even more awake, try a visualisation meditation to help your mind relax and help you drift back off to sleep. Instead of counting sheep, Annika suggests visualising a place that brings you joy in great detail. “For example, you could see yourself walking on the beach, think about how the sun feels on your shoulders, and how the sand feels on your toes. The more detail, the better. This can help you relax and fall back asleep.” 
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