In August, we challenged you to cut one monthly bill. In September, we challenged you to read a self-improvement book and take action as a result. Now, the challenge is back for October, and we challenge you to…go to sleep?!?!
That’s right. October’s challenge is based on two things that have repeatedly come up in my listening, reading and in my personal experience in the past month or two. They are sleep and sugar.
We’re going to combine these both into one single challenge for October. As such the October mini challenge will be:
1a. To consume less than 60g of “sugars” each day; OR
1b. Consume anything with “added sugars” in at most 3 times per week.
2. Follow the following sleep rules: don’t look at any screens before bedtime, write your next day’s to-do before bed, never hit that snooze button & drink a pint of cold water as the first thing you do when you wake up.
So, you can choose either 1a or 1b as your challenge, but everyone also has to do 2. Let me explain a little more why I’ve come up with these two parts to the challenge.
Consuming Less Sugars
Whilst dietary advice changes like the wind, one thing that seems to be a consistent given is that sugar is bad for you. There is a lot of debate around whether fructose is bad for you, and hence why we’ve let you decide on your option between 1a and 1b.
Option 1a should be chosen by people who believe that excessive sugars (whatever their source) are unhealthy. As such, these people will be attempting to keep their sugar intake down below 60g every day for the challenge.
Option 1b is for those who believe that certain sugars are healthy. Therefore, these people will be following the challenge which says that they cannot eat anything with “added sugars” more than three times a week.
Let’s look at some examples to see how hard this might be and where sugar can easily sneak into your diet. Let’s imagine that someone has the following diet:
- Breakfast: 45g Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with 200ml of skimmed milk, 8 strawberries, 1 fat free vanilla yoghurt, 250ml glass of orange juice
- Morning Snack: 1 Small Box of Yoghurt Raisins, a banana, 1 Small Skinny Starbucks Latte
- Lunch: 1 Tin of Weight Watchers Tomato Soup, 1 white bread roll
- Afternoon Snack: 1 Can of Coca Cola
- Dinner: Weight Watchers Sweet & Sour Chicken Ready Meal, 250ml glass of orange juice
This diet is something that a lot of people would consider to be generally “healthy” although there’s clearly elements like fizzy drinks that people know aren’t good for you. What I’m trying to say is that this diet would not be unusual as someone’s standard daily diet.
And, I think you’d agree that you’d probably be pretty hungry if this was your daily diet.
For calories, your day would break down into the following:
Breakfast: 572 calories
Morning snack: 325 calories
Lunch: 205 calories
Afternoon snack: 139 calories
Dinner: 428 calories
Total Calories: 1,668 calories
Therefore, this diet would be a huge calorie deficit for the average man (2500 calories) and a sizeable calorie deficit for the average woman (2000 calories).
However, when we take a look at the sugar content, we see a very different story:
Morning snack: 45g
Afternoon snack: 35g
Total Sugars: 210g
The RDA is 120g for men and 90g for women. I personally believe (and supported by a lot of medical research) that these are currently too high. However, both are blown out of the water by our diet. Even if we remove the can of coke which everyone would guess is a sugar offender, we are still left with 175g of sugar consumed in the day.
So, I challenge you to cut back on sugar, consuming less than 60g a day.
After reading the 4-hour body, I did this in August and September in an attempt to shape up a little for a cycling event I’m doing in the first weekend of October. I ran a very, very slight calorie deficit on most days, and actually gorged one day a week (usually combined with high amounts of exercise on that day). In 8 weeks, I lost 8kgs which is 17.5 pounds, and managed to slash 5 minutes off my 5km PB at the same time.
The best bit about it was that after the first horrible hump of getting myself off sugar, I felt like I had higher, and more consistent, energy levels.
So, give it a try. Cutting right back on sugar for the month is going to be tough. For 1a, what I’d suggest is that you try to do as many days as possible under the 60g target and then report at the end of the challenge saying that you succeeded on X/34 days (until 7th November – the first Saturday in November). For 1b, I’d recommend aiming for that 3 times per week (which would be three meals per week where any/all of the meal has added sugars) and recording if you go over/under and adding that in your results.
Also, for counting your sugar intake, I would highly recommend the MyFitnessPal app: very easy to use and you can enter all your foods you’ve consumed for the full day in less than a couple of minutes.
Here’s a video currently doing the rounds (in Dutch so subtitles will be useful). He only cuts out “added sugar”, so still consumes fruits, yoghurts, etc and so would probably have to do the 1b challenge. I’ll personally be doing the 1a.
Sleep is a VERY powerful (and I must say, wonderful) thing. However, it’s very different for each person. Therefore, I’m very hesitant to set a challenge of “wake up before Xam”, “get Y hours of sleep every night” or sleeping in certain ways.
However, we’ve tried to set three easy actions that will lead to better sleep for everyone. We’ve chosen these for the following reasons:
- Don’t look at screens before bed – It’s very counterproductive for good sleep to stimulate our brains just before trying to get down for the night. Therefore, we are going to ban screens (TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones, kindles, etc) within 15 minutes of going to bed. Instead, read a book or talk to your partner – I’m sure you can find something to do! ;)Here’s the science: the pineal gland in the brain releases melatonin a couple of hours before your regular bedtime. This reduces alertness and make sleep more inviting. However, light (particularly blue light from electronic devices) keeps the pineal gland from releasing melatonin, thus warding off sleepiness.
- Set your to-do for the next day before you go to bed – There are two reasons to do this. Firstly, by writing everything down that you need to do the next day, it helps you come to terms with it and means that you can relax when you are trying to get to sleep rather than worrying about what’s coming the next day. Also, as Hal Elrod (author of The Miracle Morning) says, you never have trouble getting out of bed on Christmas morning, or when you’re going on holiday. So, by adding things in the following day that you are excited to do and to tackle (especially earlier in the day) then you’ll find it easier to wake up every morning.
- Don’t snooze – after you hit snooze button and drift off back to sleep, you start a sleep cycle again. When the alarm goes off a second time, you’re probably now in an even deeper sleep than you work the first time because you are in an earlier part of a sleep cycle. As a result, you’ll feel even worse than you did the first time.
- Drink a pint of water – the moment when you wake you are incredibly dehydrated (probably the most dehydrated you’ll be all day). Therefore, by pounding a pint of water as soon as you wake up, you rehydrate your body and brain and gets you ready for the morning ahead.
So, who’s in?
Who’s going to join the mini challenge for October?
I’m doing 1a and 2. Let me know in the comments below if you will be participating and, if so, whether you’ll be doing challenge 1a or 1b.
Can’t wait to catch up with you all later in the month to see how the challenge is effecting your daily energy levels and overall health. Let’s do this!!