How to Make Hormesis Work for You

In our last segment, Jonathan Hoskins introduced us to the idea of ‘Good Stress’ link to last blog and the resulting biochemical response known as Hormesis. Today we’ve asked Jonathan to go into even greater detail and give us the nuts and bolts of exactly how we can make this beneficial process best work for us in enhancing our overall health and fitness.

Q. Jonathan, we received a huge response to your last segment on Hormesis. It seems like so many people had no idea about this biological process and how beneficial it is for them. As much as I like to keep things on the simple, can you give us a little more information on the process from a scientific standpoint?

A. Sure, let’s take the heat therapy that I mentioned previously. Heat shock proteins (or HSP’s), as the name implies, are induced by heat and are a prime example of Hormesis. Intermittent exposure to heat induces a hermetic response—or protective stress response—which promotes the expression of a gene called heat shock factor 1 and subsequently HSP’s involved in heat resistance. HSP’s can prevent damageQby directly scavenging free radicals and also by supporting cellular antioxidant capacity through its effects on maintaining glutathione (the body’s primary antioxidant molecule). HSP’s can repair damaged proteins, thereby ensuring proteins have their proper structure and function. Moreover, hyperthermic conditioning can be used to increase anabolism through a massive indication of growth hormone. Without getting too scientific, repeated exposure to whole-body hyperthermia (hyperthermic conditioning) through sauna use has an even more profound effect on boosting growth hormone immediately afterward. This is a bit extreme, and more than anyone could realistically do, but two one-hour sauna sessions a day at 176 degrees for 7 days was shown to increase growth hormone by 16-fold a couple of hours post sauna. While this is an extreme example, it does illustrate the powerful positive effects of the process.

Q. In you last segment, you also talked about cold therapy. Can we do hot and cold therapy back to back to speed up the process?

 A. It sounds good but I don’t recommend this. After exercise and doing the sauna most bio techs feel you should wait at least an hour before cold water therapy. Simply put, exercise, green leafy vegetable and sauna are all inflammatory processes resulting in the body producing powerful hormones and anti-inflammatory agents to aid in recovery. Cold water therapy may interfere with this process because it is on the opposite end of the spectrum by being anti-inflammatory.

Q. Okay, so tell me what that means to us on a daily basis as we live our regular lives doing the best that we can, ha?

A. Right. The good news is that it is actually really simple to incorporate this into your life, if health and longevity are important to you. I have learned through my many years in this industry that people are only going to do what they really want to do. Despite how much their minds may want them to be “fit” and “healthy”, if their whole being is not into the process—it’s just not going to happen for them. So, if you are ready to take to plunge into a healthier lifestyle (no pun intended), the following steps will walk you through how to use Hormesis to your advantage:

  • Try increasing the intensity of your workouts. If you have been comfortable during your exercise routine, increase the intensity by adding a little more weight, decreasing the rest intervals and adding more challenging movements to your routine. Also, do high intensity, sort duration cardio one to two days a week.
  • After your workouts jump in the sauna for 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure the temperature is 120 to 160 degrees. I know—HOT. It is okay to ease into it by building up in 10 minute increments, but a longer duration in the dry heat is your goal. I realize that this is not readily available to everyone, but if you have access to a sauna use it!
  • Now, sit down and eat an antioxidant meal. Yes, that means eat a full meal and a healthy meal. A good place to start is to eat a protein rich meal with a lot of green leafy vegetables. You cannot get around this—you cannot out-exercise a poor diet! Salmon and a spinach salad would be a fantastic choice. If you are vegetarian, get your essential protein in there with beans and lentils, quinoa or tofu.
  • If you are adventurous, try a cold water bath or shower for 5 to 15 minutes.

Any one, or a combination of these things will create and enhance a positive biological stress reaction.

Q. In your last segment, you alluded to the extreme importance of recovery in the Hormetic process. Can you elaborate?

A. Good point—this piece is absolutely critical to making Hormesis work for you, and it is probably the most overlooked aspect of any program—not just what we are talking about today. You cannot experience the full benefit on any fitness activity—be it a general workout or a more targeted approach like Hormesis—without adequate recovery. Frankly, this seems to go against the mainstream approach to western lifestyles, but this frantic, never stop approach may possibly be causing people the most damage. You must take time to recover. I give all of my clients the following step-ladder approach:

  • Manage your chronic everyday stressors. Get a massage. Do mobility work at least one day a week—stretch. Try meditation. It works wonders in aiding recovery and brain enhancement.
  • Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. This is how your body heals itself. Shoot for at least 6-8 hours a night. If you have trouble turning off the engine—in my case my mind—meditate, breathe, and supplement with magnesium before bedtime.
  • Try taking an Epsom salt bath to ease sore muscles. This will also help you to relax and might go a long way in helping to enhance your sleep.
  • Cut down on your simple sugar intake. Simple sugar is a killer, and science is just now starting to realize the full implications to our health. Make it your goal to limit your sugar intake to 25 grams a day. Believe me, it is not as easy as you might think.
  • Eat well and make sure you are getting a balance of protein, complex carbs and essential fatty acids. No fad diets please! They don’t work—and they are never healthy!

Bottom line—make incremental changes that inspire you to make more changes. My clients hate this but I parcel out information and eating plans slowly over a period of time. While most people think they want to dive in and change everything at once to get the body they want and/or to become healthier, they rarely stick to an overly aggressive eating, exercise or supplementation plan. But when they change one thing—the idea that strikes a chord with them—then they are inspired to make another change then another change. Before they know it they are turning negative behaviors into positive behaviors and, more importantly, they are sticking with it. They see their bodies changing, their energy levels rising, their skin glowing, AND they are having fun. After all, finding happiness and joy in life is what healthy living is all about!

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