I’m a data guy. So when I see data that tells an exciting story, I get excited to share it. Hence my Shift guest post today. What am I seeing, tracking, and interested to share? The impact alcohol can have on sleep and recovery. Some of my favorite performance tools for tracking effort and progress toward goals are Strava and Whoop. The data today comes from my Whoop.
Good sleep is essential to good health. And poor sleep can be made much worse by stress and anxiety. We all know that. But what really happens when stress, anxiety, and a few glasses of wine intersect? The results can be, well…shocking.
According to the APA (American Psychological Association), 2020 Stress in AmericaTM survey, 84% of adults reported feeling at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress recently. The most common were feelings of anxiety (47%), sadness (44%), and anger (39%). Additionally, 2 in 3 adults (67%) have recently felt overwhelmed.
So what do we do when we are stressed? More often than not, we drink. And of late, a lot of us are drinking more. Reasons for increased alcohol consumption include increased stress (45.7%), increased alcohol availability (34.4%), and boredom (30.1%). Participants who reported being stressed by the pandemic consumed nearly more 3x more drinks over a greater number of days. This isn’t healthy and it isn’t sustainable.
Is a week of stress, exhaustion, or anxiety something you want or look forward to? Doubtful. So why engage in behaviors that amplify it or cause it to persist?
Like everyone, I experience stress and occasional anxiety. This past weekend was one of those times when something happened to increase my level of stress. While I was able to manage it well throughout the week, it was still there, lurking. Saturday night we had some friends over for dinner and drinks. When the last guest left around midnight, we threw away the wine bottles and cleaned up, then headed for bed. But some of those worries from the week crept back in and I tossed and turned for a while, even after a couple glasses of wine.
I had a training ride scheduled the next morning. It wasn’t really a hard ride as I was coming off two months of some grueling races and my body needed a break. As I lay in bed, trying to fall asleep my brain drifted back to the heaviness from the week. Somewhere around 2 am I fell asleep.
Saturday morning, I felt terrible. Still tired, fuzzy, and dehydrated. The ride didn’t go well. I couldn’t finish my workout and even cut my ride short. I felt rubbery and gassed the entire time on the bike.
Saturday and Sunday night, I tried something different. I skipped the wine and went for Pellegrino instead. I also enjoyed a Shift Dark Chocolate with Icelandic Sea Salt D8 Edible. We chilled on the couch and binge watched the show ‘Manifest’.
A beautiful Sunday morning came, and I was up quick for a coffee on the deck before heading out for another early am ride. I remember thinking how much better I felt that morning as compared to just the day before. Sunday’s performance was better. My endurance had bounced back but my power numbers were still off by about 35%.
By Sunday night, I was bouncing back and ready to put a supreme effort in on the bike the next day. Monday morning came and I woke early, feeling great. I made some coffee, fed the dogs, and headed out to get three hours of training in before the day got busy with family activities. Monday, I finished my workout with time to spare and covered the 50 miles in the same time I had covered just 38 miles the day before. Both endurance and power numbers were exactly where they should have been.
Saturday night and Sunday nights were alcohol-free Shift D8 Edible nights. I was still working through some of the stress, but the physical activity coupled with the absence of alcohol made a big difference.
How much of a difference?
To find out, let’s dive into some of my data from Labor Day weekend…. If you look at the image on the left below, you will see my sleep performance:
I went from 92% to 54% in a matter of a few days. This is a BIG drop and for me. I personally need just over 8 hours of sleep but was getting less than 7 and was spending 8 hours and 42 minutes in bed. Not a very efficient way to sleep.
The image to the below right shows exertion levels and recovery over the same period of time. There are two lines, the yellow/red show exertion and the blue shows recovery. This chart tells me if my body has regenerated enough to meet a specific threshold of effort. Again, take a look:
I was exhausted mentally and physically and the wine from Saturday night had only made the bad worse. When I looked at the data, the proof was staring me in the face.
This is the third time I have tried this experiment with virtually identical results each time. It’s clear to me no matter what anyone tells me or what I want to believe, alcohol has material and negative physical impact.
If I want to really relax, clear my mind, sleep well, and be 100% the next day both physically and mentally, I choose to ditch the drink-or at least the last drink- and instead reach for a world class bite of Dark Chocolate with Icelandic Sea Salt.
If you are like me and want to balance relaxation, better health, quality restorative sleep, and better mental and physical performance, change things up. You will not regret it.
After all, the numbers don’t lie.
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