Friday, July 19, 2013

Aaand I'm back. Paleo and stress.

Hello dear readers. I apologize for my extended absence. Life has been a whirlwind of changes in the recent past and there's more on the way. First off, paleo baby is coming along nicely! He's tall and lanky like his daddy and remains very lean. He has great language skills and is cute as all get out! We continue to feed him more of a primal approach, meaning we give him some fermented dairy in the form of full fat greek yogurt every now and then. He's almost 2 now and it's great fun to watch him feed himself chunks of meat and vegetables! Like all almost-2-year-olds, he has his own opinions on what foods he does and doesn't like and he balks on things occasionally. My wife and I are of the school of thought that sometimes it takes quite a few exposures to a food before kids will eat it. So, we keep serving him foods that, at first glance, he doesn't appear to like.

                                                (helping daddy with a little weight lifting)

Me, well, there's been a lot going on. Since last we talked I've had 2 jobs. I left one and was recently let go from the other. It's been a stressful time and, since I find myself unemployed and having some free time, I thought it a good time to discuss stress and the paleo lifestyle.

Stress. We all have it. Our bodies are hardwired to respond to stress in several different ways. And the duration and intensity of stress count. Most in the paleo community believe that our genes expect us to live relatively low stress lives with occasional bouts of brief, but extreme stress (like running from a saber toothed tiger). It's thought that in general our caveman ancestors spent a lot of time hunting and gathering at a slow pace with occasional sprints. Social life was expansive there was a lot of support from family and neighbors. Some even believe that outside of making a living, life was pretty relaxed.

Stress causes hormonal changes in the body. These are natural responses meant to aid us in responding to the stress. When faced with a charging bear, we make adrenaline. Heart rate goes up, respiration increased, the liver releases glucose to fuel. The body is getting ready for fight or flight by giving muscles what they need to perform. On an occasional basis, this is not unhealthy (in the case of the bear, it would keep you alive!).

However, on a chronic basis, there are problems. When we see this stress response over and over, daily perhaps, the benefits become liabilities. When the liver secretes glucose to provide fueling for muscles, there's a corresponding secretion of insulin, if this happens often enough and sharply enough, some fat storing can happen. Another consequence of being under stress is that your insulin sensitivity declines. This means that it's going to take more insulin to process blood sugar. More insulin means fat storing.

Finally, chronic stress can suppress your immune system. It's easier to become sick and recovery is much slower. Coupled with the kind of fatigue that chronic stress induces, your workouts can become more harmful than good. It's in these times that your body may be telling you it needs less, not more. In other words, rest!

When I find myself under stress like this, I scale down the carbs as I know that my body won't be handling carbs well, and I'll scale back both the intensity and duration of my workouts. Seriously hard workouts are stressful enough in and of themselves to the body so killing myself in workouts is probably not necessary. Workouts get a little slower and heavier and I eat a bit more low carb in other words.

So these are my thoughts on stress and Paleo. Because paleo generally keeps insulin levels low it's a good way of life to help handle stress.

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