I had a birthday this past June and a couple of my clients decided to go above and beyond and give me a Whoop 3.0 strap. Now, if you’re not familiar with a Whoop strap or what it does, it’s wearable fitness device that tracks sleep, recovery, heart rate variability, and cardiovascular strain (to name a few things). The major difference between Whoop and most other wearable fitness devices is that Whoop is much more detailed than your typical Fitbit. So much so that it actually requires a monthly subscription to keep track of everything.
And while this might be overkill for some people, it did allow for some pretty cool insights into my health and daily routines that went unnoticed in months prior.
Ask a regular person how much sleep they get per night, and they’ll figure out how many hours passed from when their head hit the pillow until they woke up. Went to bed at 10:30pm and woke up at 6:00am? Well, obviously thats seven and a half hours. Duh. Don’t need to be a Nobel Laureate to figure that out.
But hold up there, slugger.
Just because you went to bed at 10:30, does not mean you were sleeping from 10:30 until 6:00. Take a look at this screenshot from my Whoop data on December 19th. You can see in the bottom right, I spent over 8 hours in bed… but look up top and you’ll see that I actually only got a little over 7 hours of true sleep. That’s a sizable difference.
A vast majority of people don’t account for the time it takes to fall asleep or the little bouts of restlessness you may experience throughout the night. All of these things take away from your total amount of sleep.
Takeaway: To really get your full amount of sleep, go to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than your planned bed time. These 20-30 minutes don’t count towards how much sleep you get because… well… you’re not asleep!
If you think what you eat doesn’t affect how you perform, feel, and recover, you’re more wrong than the Oakland Raiders when they picked Jamarcus Russell first overall. If you’re not a sports fan, let me put that in terms you’ll understand. The Oakland Raiders went to a 5 star restaurant and ordered frozen chicken nuggets.
Take a look at these readings from a Sunday after a particularly bad cheat meal(s) on Saturday.
My recovery sucked on Sunday despite getting pretty good sleep the night before. This is because Saturdays are the one day per week I let my hair down and treat myself to a meal or two thats more geared towards taste than it is nutritional value. Aaaand you can bet your bottom dollar that I ate something jam packed with sugar and/or fat the night before this reading.
And shockingly, my body hated me the next day. Who woulda thunk that excess sugar and crap food would adversely affect my body?!
And while I already knew this, it wasn’t until I had actual evidence and tracked metrics telling me just how negatively it affected me. My recovery plummeted on days after less than ideal meals compared to when my diet was on point. And truth be told, I felt it in my workouts too. Weights moved slower, my body felt less mobile… overall everything sucked just a tad more than usual.
The same goes for alcohol as well! While I am myself not a big drinker, alcohol will absolutely destroy your recovery efforts and overall physical performance. Even a single glass of red wine has been shown to negatively affect recovery. And if you don’t believe me, Whoop did an entire podcast about it. Give it a listen.
Takeaway: alcohol and sugar have a much larger negative impact on your health and physical performance than you realize. Make the consumption of these a sparse occurrence in your diet.
The start of my 6 month experiment wearing the Whoop strap also coincided with two of the most stressful life events you can probably experience: a newborn and a new business. Either of these things is enough to cause a decent amount of stress, but smash ’em both together and you’ve got yourself one tasty stress sandwich, with your tears and and several premature gray hairs as the filling.
Dealing with these things simultaneously caused my sleep to suck a big one for basically 6 straight months.
It was not uncommon to have several consecutive red (poor recovery) or yellow (moderate recovery) days because of my poor sleep. And to all those who are unaware, sleep is by far the best thing you can do to repair, heal, and rejuvenate your body. So, it makes sense that when you don’t sleep well, you can’t expect to perform well. And this affects all aspects of performance… not just physical. Your cognitive abilities suffer as does just about everything else.
On days like this, my Whoop recommended to take it easy because it’s got the bigger picture in mind. Pushing yourself when your body just doesn’t have the juice to do so is a great way to run yourself even further into the ground. So instead of harnessing my inner meathead and pushing myself through a workout that I knew would probably suck, I backed off and did what my device recommended.
And you know what? While I certainly didn’t crush any workouts for basically 6 months, I also managed to not regress in any manner. I didn’t gain weight, I didn’t get injured, and my strength levels stayed where they were at (for the most part).
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last few years from reading, attending seminars, and wearing the Whoop, it’s that less tends to be more. A lot of people think they need to do way more than what’s necessary to see results.
And while I understand that lots of people enjoy pushing themselves and training hard (myself included), you’ve also got to be smart about it. You’ve only got one body and you can’t go upgrade it for a new one… I mean, unless you’re on the Jersey Shore.
Takeaway: Your body is smarter than you. Listen to it. Focus more on training to feel good over the course of the year, not so much on training to feel good for two hours.
Ah, and one more thing I noticed after seeing my recorded metrics.
Don’t overestimate the impact non-exercise activity has on your goals.
Just being on your feet and moving more, even if it’s very low intensity and exertion, will definitely add up over time. My highest recorded cardiovascular strains were often on days where I was just on my feet coaching clients instead of lifting hard and heavy. If you’re not seeing the type of fat loss results you’d like to be seeing, just try moving more and moving often. It’ll make an impact!
It was very interesting to actually see all this data over the course of six months. Obviously given the line of work I’m in, I’m aware that things like sleep and diet impact your health, but it was kinda fun (and sad) to see just how much donuts negatively impact things like performance and recovery.
And what’s that you ask? Would I recommend Whoop to folks looking to take their training to the next level? Absolutely. If you’re really serious about tailoring your training based on how your body is feeling and responding to life, the Whoop strap is worth a try.