There’s no denying the human body is a miraculous thing, but that’s not to say we can’t take advantage of ways to make it more efficient.
Five suggestions to help you get more from mind and body
In the past there have been articles on how to hack your brain into overdrive, and how your body hides all sorts of secret powers from you. Well, you just have to know how to make it give up its secrets. Here are five suggestions to help you get more from mind and body.
5. Drink coffee BEFORE a nap — you’ll feel loads better
Imagine you’re working all night to meet a deadline, you’re incredibly tired and sleep is simply not an option. Ordinarily you would either take a nap or have some coffee, but it’s usually one or the other — either try to grab a quick nap, or power through on a chemically induced high.
But science has taken these two seemingly contradictory options and decided to merge them together, and it worked! And not in the order you’d expect, either.
Researchers found that a cup of coffee immediately followed by a 15-minute nap is a markedly more effective method of staying awake and alert for longer than either coffee or a nap alone.
That’s quite strange when you think about it, since you’d expect the caffeine to keep you awake, leaving you on the brink of falling asleep but not quite going over. However, the trick with the "caffeine nap" is that caffeine doesn’t act immediately — it takes around 45 minutes to be completely ingested, but the effect of the drug kicks in after only 15 minutes.
What caffeine actually does is block your brain’s ability to respond to adenosine, a chemical that builds up in your bloodstream the longer you’re awake. The more adenosine you have in your body, the more your brain tries to get you to sleep. So by drinking coffee and then going directly to bed, you can sleep for 15 minutes and get the regular restorative effects of a nap. By the time you wake up, the caffeine you’ve ingested is fully active in your bloodstream and dulling the effects of adenosine, effectively eliminating your tiredness.
4. Don’t stretch before a workout
Ever since childhood, it has probably been drummed into your head that if you’re about to do any kind of physical activity, then you had better stretch your arms and legs first; unless to want to look forward to cramps, injuries and defeat.
But it turns out that all that sage advice could be wrong after all. Static stretching — the kind where you reach down to touch your toes and hold — before an intense workout or game will not only wear you out quicker but also make you more liable to injury.
That’s because when you stretch, your limbs ‘consider’ the possibility that they’re about to be snapped off, so they tighten. What’s more, you’re lengthening the fibres of the muscles, which wears them down and leaves you weaker during the actual workout.
A study at the University of Nevada tested participants by having them stretch before running. Results showed that those who stretched generated less force from their leg muscles than those who did no stretching at all. Other studies have found decreases of about 30 percent in muscle strength after stretching. And on top of all this, these stretches don’t warm you up — they tighten the muscles, which is about as far as you can get from the ideal state of having them warm and loose.
So you should avoid stretching?
No. Stretching in itself is fine. It improves your flexibility, and experts recommend you do it a few times a week. However, it’s only fine if done by itself, like a miniature version of exercise, or at the very most done after a workout. Doing it before the workout is what the research is saying to avoid.
A quick jog is much more effective than static stretching in both improving performance and reducing injury, but ideally you’d base your warm-up on whatever it was you were warming up for, i.e., runners would do things like squats or lunges before setting off for a run.
3. Eavesdrop with your right ear, pick out music with your left
To say that logical people rely on the left hemisphere and artistic people the right is a massive over-simplification. In reality, both hemispheres work together for almost everything.
However, it is true that your two hemispheres aren’t identical. In the case of sound, it’s long been established that your left hemisphere is vastly superior at deciphering verbal information like speech, and the right hemisphere excels with tones and music. It is also known that your left brain controls the right side of your body and vice versa.
But because the information between the hemispheres is shared (through the corpus callosum), it shouldn’t make much difference which ear you use to listen to things, right?
Not true. It turns out that because the left ear is always sending music to the right hemisphere and the right ear is always sending speech to the left hemisphere, the ears themselves have actually evolved in the way they process sounds.
As a result, your right ear is measurably better at processing speech, and your left ear more so at tones and music. Who Knew?
2. Hurt your back? Just keep moving
The New England Journal of Medicine (supported by other research) came to the conclusion that, "As little as two days of bed rest may lead to a slower recovery than the avoidance of bed rest, as well as to longer sick leaves."
That’s right — they say just to walk it off.
There’s also the frightening notion suggested by some studies that, "Bed rest alone may make back pain worse and can lead to secondary complications such as depression, decreased muscle tone and blood clots in the legs."
All this research is in reference to acute lower-back pain.
To recover from your wrenching back agony, scientists say that you have to earn it. Standing up and moving around, doing exercises, even just going about your regular day-to-day business is all much better for the recovery process than simply staying bedridden and allowing the damaged tissue in your back to stiffen and atrophy.
1. Reset your sleep cycle up with a hunger strike
The chances are, when summer vacation or the holidays come around and you’re given time off work or school, your sleeping patterns falter a little bit.
You could do the responsible thing and gradually set your alarm earlier and earlier each day until it’s just right, giving you a smooth and healthy transition back to work-life. Or, you could use one of your body’s cheat codes and readjust your sleep cycle by starving yourself for about 16 hours.
You might know that the main way our body regulates its biological clock (and circadian rhythm) is through light. So when your brain is detecting light, it has your body behave as it should in the daytime (higher energy, greater strength, more bowel movements, etc.), and when the brain notices that the environment is dark after an extended period of brightness, then it imagines you’re about to go to sleep, and it releases hormones (like melatonin) that make you sleepy.
What you might not have known is that scientists recently found a second clock, and instead of depending on light, this one is food-based.
Imagine you’re a predator out hunting for food, but all the regular animals you would eat are nowhere to be found. You spend the entire day looking for food and find nothing. About 16 hours later your brain starts freaking out. It knows that if you can’t find food, the game will most certainly be up.
So at this point, your brain just wants you to find something to eat, and fast. You stay up well into the night and eventually find some nocturnal prey, devouring it desperately. Your brain (through the food-clock) makes a note of this time and declares it to be your new biological morning.
It makes sense — your brain is now under the impression that if you want to survive, you can only go hunting at night. So it decides you should sleep during the day (to conserve energy for the hunt) and boom, your sleep-wake cycle has been reset.
Congratulations! You’ve tricked evolution!
From an article by Sam Irwin for Cracked, first published July 2012
More mind and body hacks below
At the start of this piece we mentioned articles on how to hack your brain into overdrive, and how your body hides all sorts of secret powers from you. Well, below are links those articles, all courtesy of Cracked.
5 Superpowers You Don't Know Your Body Was Hiding: Classic
Those motivational speakers are right: You are capable of amazing things. You wouldn't know it though, because 99 percent of the time your body or brain hides these superpowers from you. Well here arew five of them revealed.