I am sure most can relate to waking up and feeling either still groggy from your nights sleep or finding yourself having a hard crash mid-afternoon. Many would attribute these feelings to their lack of caffeine intake early on, and or the fact that they just need to "eat more". Well, I am here to tell you perhaps these things may be the cause of some instances of feeling tired in the morning or your afternoon crash...however there may be a way to mitigate these feelings and perhaps even avoid them all together!
In today's world we have a bunch of self proclaimed "biohackers" making claims on how to sleep and awake the most efficient way, and I am guilty as well of listening to the "DON'T MAKE EXCUSES" group.. these are the charismatic individuals who claim you need to wake up at 4 AM and drink battery acid and stop being a b**** to achieve the best wake up possible. Once again, perhaps these groups could solve your problem.. but personally I want to keep it as simple as possible.
First off, I would like to say my field of expertise is not in neurobiology and I am only going to offer suggestions based off of what I know and believe to be the most beneficial within my scope of understanding.
We will focus on two neurotransmitters and one hormone and how to use them to a benefit: Dopamine and Acetylcholine are our neurotransmitters in the spotlight today, and Cortisol is the hormone. Totally understandable if you can't pronounce or care about these things but just know they matter if you care about waking up and feeling good throughout the day.
- Early in the morning Cortisol production naturally surges and transitions you into wakefulness. Once you've woken up, this morning cortisol surge continues for about 45 min, then returns to baseline after an hour or so.
- Acetylcholine (ACh) plays a role in REM sleep, while also having an important role in the process of waking you up and keeping you awake. ACh also helps to support the functions including attention, memory, and sensory processing.
- Dopamine plays an important role in waking up and keeping you awake during the day. In particular, Dopamine helps motivate you to take action and seek out rewards, this may promote a wakeful and active state of mind.
Protocol Without Supplements for a More "Efficient" Wake up:
- Get natural light ASAP and begin "forward ambulation" (walking, jogging, bike riding). If you cannot get natural light because you wake up before the sun.. then its ok to turn on bright lights (Do not sit and scroll on the phone), and your first walk should be to the fridge and begin hydrating.
- Hydration will be key shortly after waking up because for essentially 8 hrs you have had no fluid intake and may have awakened in a dehydrated state. Adding a dash of Sea Salt and lemon or your favorite electrolyte powder could also aid in the rehydration protocol
- Food is next after proper hydration. The foods you should aim for should be complete protein sources due to amino acid contribution to neurotransmitter function, and adding foods adequate in zinc, choline, and magnesium. Eggs, Certain Nuts (Walnuts, Macadamia, Pistachio, Almonds), Blueberries, Liver, and Fish (Cod, Salmon, Tilapia) are all options to have early on in the day.
- Exercise. The sweet spot is about 60 minutes, 3-5x per week.. anything beyond 60 min in a session will elevate cortisol and additional carbs may be needed intraworkout.. this time the cortisol spike may not be as beneficial as it is first thing in the morning to help us wake up and get things going. The type of training does matter.. and perhaps resistance training may be the better option early on in the day than doing strictly cardio, although you should squeeze in both during your week.
But wait, what about coffee? ... well,
Protocol With my Top 5 Supplements (including caffeine) for a More "Efficient" Wake up.
First off, everyone's favorite caffeine (Coffee, Energy Drinks etc.). A very simple explanation of how caffeine works is that essentially it blocks adenosine binding sites. Adenosine gradually builds over the day and along with other things results in the sleepy feeling at night. Well, When caffeine blocks where it binds to in the brain you get a delay in fatigue.. It's suggested that if you hold off your caffeine intake for 90 min upon waking up.. you could avoid the afternoon crash since you allow the adenosine to be naturally cleared out by light hitting your eyes.
- Zinc, avoiding forms ending in "oxide". Helps to increase acetylcholine levels and reduce adenosine levels. natural sources are: Pumpkin seeds, Spinach, Eggs. Can also be taken at night with magnesium for a more restful sleep
- Choline, precursor of acetylcholine.. natural sources are beef liver, eggs, and some dairy products.
- Magnesium/Vitamin D go hand in hand because Magnesium is needed to move vitamin D around in the blood and therefore activate vitamin D. deficiency in magnesium can also reduce active vitamin D.
- L-Carnitine will help boost acetylcholine, as well as aide in healthy mitochondria function (more energized healthier you).
- Fish oil, quality matters here.. I recommend Nordic Naturals.
Putting it all together:
I recommend a healthy combination of getting the things you need from whole food, however it should be understood that supplementing is a means to help in areas you may need it in. For example certain food allergies or intolerances to foods may lead to a person having to supplement to get the required nutrients:
- Wake up, Get Healthy Dose of light
- Hydrate with electrolyte enhanced water
- Prolong caffeine intake for about 90 min after waking up
- Consume Caffeine and Food, supplement as necessary.
Rule the Day.