On this week’s podcast, our VP of Performance Kristen Holmes visits the Nuun Hydration headquarters in Seattle, Washington. If you’re not familiar with Nuun, they make drink tablets to replenish your electrolytes without the sugar and carbs of a typical sports drink.
Kristen sat down with Nuun’s CEO Kevin Rutherford and Director of Product Development Vishal Patel to discuss the intersection of endurance sport, sleep and recovery.
Their conversation focuses on the role sleep plays in performance for endurance athletes, including how working out affects your sleep, what to do from a hydration and nutritional standpoint to improve your sleep efficiency, as well as steps you can take to wake up feeling energized and recovered the next day.
For our regular listeners, Kristen also reveals some new sleep and recovery tips you haven’t heard in previous episodes.
2:57 – “Chief Eternal Optimist.” That’s what Kevin likes to call himself as Nuun’s CEO. He’s also a triathlete and self-described “endurance geek.”
3:35 – Kristen’s Role at WHOOP. “I work primarily with elite and tactical athletes to help them optimize their use of the platform, a lot of it involves interpreting and actioning their WHOOP data to help drive performance.”
5:15 – Performance Optimization for Everyone. Kristen says that matter who you are, “You still need to understand your body. We want to live as long as we can, we want to be healthy and happy and we need to understand what helps achieve that.”
6:11 – Nuun’s Mission. “We want to inspire people to move more,” Kevin states.
6:17 – Vishal’s Role at Nuun. “I get to take my passion and my background for science and innovation and put that into practice in helping develop products.”
7:44 – Endurance Athlete Performance & Sleep. “In endurance exercise in particular you get a lot of little micro tears in your muscle, that’s why you get tired,” Vishal says. Kristen quotes Dr. Mathew Walker: “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancer in sports.”
10:07 – Sleep is a Skill. “Sleep is a skill that you have to develop, and you need to understand what you sleep architecture looks like in order to understand what type of behaviors to assume during the day in order to optimize your sleep at night,” Kristen explains. “You can’t capitalize on the day’s workout without the proper amount of sleep. … If I don’t get the requisite sleep, what I did today is for naught.”
11:21 – Stages of Sleep. Awake, light, slow wave and REM. “You really want to try to spend roughly 40% of your total sleep time in these deeper stages of sleep,” Kristen notes.
12:47 – Exercise Too Hard to Fall Asleep? Kevin mentions he often has this issue. Vishal agrees, adding “I feel like when I have a really hard workout and I go into bed it’s almost that I’ve psyched myself up for that event of finally recovering and calming down–and then I can’t fall asleep.” He also shares what he does to combat that, including taking magnesium and tart cherry.
18:11 – What is Sleep Performance? “It’s what you got vs what you need,” Kristen says.
19:31 – How Does WHOOP Calculate Recovery? An algorithm that combines heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate and sleep performance. “Now we really can understand your capacity for the day.” Kristen cites a study with the Korey Stringer Institute that found “No single metric is independently more valuable that they are together.”
21:33 – Working Out When Tired. “There’s functional adaptation and there’s nonfunctional,” Kristen explains. “More is not better, more is just more. Pushing through pain shouldn’t be the norm. … One thing that we have seen with endurance athletes is that they don’t rest enough. There’s way too much going on in terms of chronic workload.”
23:42 – Nutrition for Recovery. “It’s all about the long term,” Vishal says. Kristen adds “You want to reduce glycemic variability. You don’t want to have these huge spikes in your blood sugar.”
26:51 – Blue Light. “It will prevent you from staying asleep and getting into the deeper stages,” Kristen says. “You should block it 3 hours before bed.”
28:51 – Sleep Consistency. Kristen states that “There are things you can do that will enable you to spend less time in bed, but allow you to have more efficient sleep.”
29:56 – Needing 8 Hours of sleep. “That’s arbitrary. It’s relative to how much load your putting on your body during the day,” Kristen says.
30:44 – Be Comfortable when you get into bed. Vishal points out the value of this simple idea. “I read before I go to bed.”
33:43 – Do You Wake Up Energized? Kevin wonders if it’s really possible. “I do. I really do,” Kristen says. “There are just a few things you need to stabilize in your life and try to be consistent with.”
34:02 – Avoiding Negative Stress with Mindful Breathing. “Take micro rest cycles throughout the day,” Kristen advises. “Breath for a minute every 90 minutes. … It’s passive mindfulness,” similar to meditation. She says to inhale greater than you exhale, and also recommends training and sleeping with your mouth closed, “You want that journey to be through your nose.” Check out The Oxygen Advantage to learn more.
36:43 – Hot Shower Pre-Bed. “You can’t actually fall asleep until your core temperature decreases,” Kristen says. “The process of a hot shower decreases your core temperature because all the blood gets pumped to the outer extremities, it’s called vasodilation.”
37:57 – Naps. “If I take a nap I feel like a million bucks when I wake up,” Kevin says. Kristen is a big fan as well, but warns “You’ll spend up to 50% less time in the deeper stages of sleep [at night] if you take a nap after 3 pm.”
39:22 – Sleep Fasting. “I hear you shouldn’t have anything food-wise for 12 hours, and I’ve seen some data that suggests closer to 14 is optimal,” Kevin notes. “I don’t encourage the intermittent fasting,” Vishal counters. “I feel like a more balanced intake of food and eating the right foods at the right times is going to provide more overall health.” Kristen describes how it works well for her.
42:04 – Hydration. “The fundamental basis of hydration is it helps circulate oxygen to your working muscles,” Vishal says. Kristen agrees, “It’s the lowest hanging fruit. … If you go to bed under-hydrated, your HRV will be in the tank.”
44:27 – Resting Heart Rate. How low is too low? Kevin’s is 37. “I didn’t realize my resting heart rate at night was that low until I used WHOOP.”
47:06 – Window to Fall Asleep. “Really pay attention to when you natural pressure for sleep is,” Kristen says. “When you push past it you release hormones that stress the sympathetic branch of your nervous system, things you need for race time, not for bed time.”
48:39 – Sleep Pods in the office at WHOOP? Not yet, but Kristen hopes someday soon.