Diet vs. Central Nervous System
I’d like to explore how when we eat affects the amount of attentiveness and mental acuity we experience throughout a typical day. Well I may be wrong but, I think almost everyone has heard the term “fight or flight.” This is a reference to our physiological responses to environmental stimuli. These physiological responses shape our prospective of our reality. Are we feeling energetic and vital or are we feeling relaxed and tranquil. Each time an adequate amount of calories enters our bodies, we are indirectly making the choice to which physiological response we employ.
This could be possible mugger in a poorly lit parking lot or a project deadline that is quickly approaching and you’re working at a pace that would dizzy the busiest of busy honey bees. If we are presented with some sort of threat or stressor our natural reaction is to null this issue by taking one of two basic actions.
Fight OR Flight. Fight is a general term which merely describes staying in your present situation and “combating” the stressor. This would be fighting back against your possible assailant or continuing to progress with every intention of meeting your deadline in our previous “stressor” examples, respectively. Flight, is the elimination or relinquishment of the issue by removing oneself from the situation by literal or other means. Flee the assailant, or trying to have your deadline pushed back. These actions both remove yourself from the immediate response instigating stressor. In modern times we are faced by more and more stressors. No longer are the days where we had to watch out for lions and other humans alone. This is an over simplified explanation of outdated daily stressors but financial, societal, and time oriented stimuli are at an all time high. Now, more than ever, our senses are bombarded with more environmental cues that must be received, processed, and acted upon. To be adequatelly prepared for whatever life throws our way we can be ready by being in the most adequate mode of nervous system function.
The purpose I include a brief description of the fight or flight response is not so much about the possibility of encountering these stessors as much as it is to explain the fact that there are very concise “styles” of bodily function. One does not have to expect to encounter any stress whatsoever to want to utilize the biproducts such as increased energy levels, ability to concentrate, or winding down a day. This is the reason I think fine tuning our nervous systems’ plays such as an important role in being able to adjust and thrive in today’s world.
Why are you telling me this and how does it apply to an IF fitness blog?
Well I believe this topic has substantial importance to fitness and psychological well being. The endocrine system’s (HGH & insulin) role in all our daily personal pursuits has been explored in previous posts and I will delve into it more at a later time. Enter the Central Nervous System (CNS) -the main controller of environmental responses, alertness, and relaxation. No matter if you’re addressing a board of trustees, or navigating a car full of passengers on a dangerous turnpike the need and requirement to be alert and mentally agile is an ever important quality. This is especially true in today’s fast and hectic world. The two modes dictate how you will respond to issues, not necessarily that you will be in a stress abundant or stress limited environment.
CNS: understanding it’s role in everything from financial consulting to fitness goals.
The CNS is broken up into two “modes” if you will.
this mode is prevalent in the morning time upon waking or until you eat a large, or carbohydrate prevalent meal. The biologically adaptive reasoning for this mode is to be alert and energetic, put simply. You can imagine why this response is employed when you have not eaten. The case for almost every human for the majority of our existence was we had to dedicate a lot of time to hunt or gather for food. Being lethargic and undergoing that full feeling you get after eating a large meal, would be quite disadvantageous to the taxing pursuit of you and your social group’s next meal. Imagine back to the last time you remember thinking “I need a nap after that meal.” Remember how you felt. That remote control is three feet away but it feels three miles. You’re eye lids are connected to your cheek bones by rubber bands. Now imagine your food was not already sitting in the fridge and your life is now similar to the times long ago when our physiological responses and functions were shaped. With your belly full and feeling satiated, you see some sort of game cross your vision. Are you more likely to pursue it for a meal which requires a substantial energy expenditure, or sit there with your butt in the dirt and let your food digest? There were no deep freezes to put that antelope in. Food surpluses were also a major risk considering other predators would be attracted. Obviously you have eaten your meal already and after all we as humans are programmed to survive. I know what I’d do. Survive. That is it. Your survivl is not in question.
I realize we are not living as cavemen and women. I realize a short drive is the only energy expenditure that is required to get car loads of food. The knowledge of how our physiological responses to what and when we eat are as relevant as ever. I believe it’s key to imagine and evaluate the long periods of time in which our bodies adapted to better understand the way we are today. The access and quantities to modern day foods is unreal considering how we lived even 60 years or so ago. Just because we do not live in caves and draw stick figures spearing buffalo (I assume), the realization that we have not evolved much since these times is paramount. Some experts argue we have not had enough time as the modern human species to evolve any more than a negligable amount. So, with that in mind, the use of the knowledge we posess can be applied to our everyday lives by maximizing what we get out of ourselves. Some people call this way of thinking as “primal”. This is a good descriptor, but it is as simple as knowing how to maintainence your automobile based on how it was manufactured to perform.
Don’t want to be sitting at your desk wondering if that janitorial closet has enough leg room to get you a quick nap in before your punch out? Well implore your knowledge of the CNS and its natural responses to environmental stimuli. Literally put, don’t eat that big greasy burrito or life preserver sized bagel first thing in the morning! When you fast, the temptation to eat poorly and over-eat is greatly alleviated. Once IF becomes your norm you will be amazed at the lack of desire to eat breakfast at all due to the unmistakable internal phyiological response that this is how we are designed to function.
Our bodies naturally respond to this large breakfast, or any substantial meal with the application of the second of two CNS modes. Keep in mind that these two modes are not binary. In my extensive experience the two modes are usually both “present”. They are proportionate however to the amount of input they get from your diet. For example, eating a piece of chicken and a salad is not going to cause you to be para-sympathetic mode (explanation in following paragraph) dominant near as much as a frozen bean burrito, bag of Doritos, and a 32oz Coca Cola. The latter scenario is also true for healthy but very large meals.
I initially thought, “well if the sympathetic mode is giving me energy and the ability to stay alert,” what could be the biological benefit to the para-sympathetic mode. Well, just as our circadian rhythm rises and falls, the need for the para-sympathetic response to “bring down” the afore mentioned response is necessary for adequate relaxation and sleep patterns. Ever have a hard time falling to sleep? Lie there feeling like your mind is twice as active as it was during the day? I had this issue. Not at all since I began intermittent fasting though. Since the majority of calories are eaten later in the day or even evening, this action is interpretted by your body as the accomplishment of the days survival and the need to wind down in preparation for the next trial-the following day. It is completely natural to feel lathargic after eating a big meal. It is not common however to use this knowledge to your benefit. Once you do, your body works on you schedule, not the other way around.
- After all, we are programmed to survive.
- The purpose of fat is to serve as a survival storage or back-up energy supply.
- What could be more efficient than to sleep right after a large meal?
Let me be clear here. I am no proponent for fat storage but I use this breakdown to illustrate how our bodies naturally get sleepy and restful after consuming calories and how delaying the vast majority of our calories later into the day is how we are designed to consume. This optimization in essence insures we remain in maximal energy level during the day and get relaxed and under restful sleep.