You’d think as an Exercise Physiologist with 17 years experience I wouldn’t need a health coach. In fact I thought I had a pretty good handle on my health. As Max wrote about his experience in a previous blog, we’ve had the opportunity to use a Whoop band. So we thought we’d use the opportunity to learn more about our exercise, sleep and recovery. What I discovered both surprised and motivated me!
Apart from being a great accountability tool to help guide me on my sleep and exercise intensity, what I found most interesting was Whoop’s recovery metric. You see the Whoop band monitors both your heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV). It then gives you a score as to how well you’ve recovered.
HRV is a marker of “internal” stress
Now in a previous blog, not only did I describe what HRV is, but I also explained that it is a biomarker that responds to stress, inflammation and even food! You see, because HRV is a measure of the balance between our fight or flight response and our rest and digest response, anything that our body finds “stressful” or “inflammatory” has the potential to be picked up by a drop in your HRV.
What your body finds stressful is extremely individual. This depends on a multitude of factors including our genetics, immune function and the environment we live in. You see it can be almost impossible to work out, and I’ve spent many years exploring what works for me.
Using HRV as a marker, which is obviously only one of many potential health markers, can be a really useful way to work out what MY body finds stressful and impacts on my recovery.
So within a week with Whoop, I’ve already learnt (or reaffirmed) something about my diet that my body finds stressful.
So what did my 24/7 health coach reveal?
Here’s a screenshot of my recovery levels using the Whoop Dashboard. When your in the “green” zone you’re regarded as fully recovered, while the red zone indicates that you’ve got to tread carefully. This could be an indicator of training too hard, you’re recovering from an injury, or you might be coming down with sickness. For me it was none of these.
You see on the Saturday night I chose to have fried food and a couple of alcoholic drinks. Now I’ve had a few nights where I’ve had similar alcohol consumption and while it definitely affects my recovery it’s usually not enough to push me into the red zone.
So my thoughts are now directed toward the fried, fatty “pub meal” that I chose to eat that Saturday night. In particular how I felt that Saturday (and even Sunday) night! And as I explained in a previous blog, saturated and trans-fats are something has has been shown to affect your HRV.
What a good night’s sleep looks like for me
Just so you can see things a bit more visually I’ve included a graph or my heart rate on a “good” night, as well as my heart rate during the night after that meal.
Now my HRV on this “good” night was around 130, and thus far it is consistently between 100 and 140. This number varies with age, fitness and genetics so the score means very little. However it’s the change that matters.
So what did the bad night’s sleep look like?
On the bad night my HRV had dropped to 36, a very low score. You’ll see in the graph that my recovery score was only 13% as compared to 98% in the previous one.
What you’ll also notice between the two graphs is the difference in the heart rate overnight. You can see that it took most of the night for my heart rate to drop. My average resting HR is normally around 46, that night it was 63. This is 37% higher!
Now subjectively I woke up feeling bloated and very lethargic. This can happen from time to time and I often don’t think about it twice. But in my gut (pun intended), I’ve known that there are certain foods that don’t agree with me and I need to moderate.
Why Whoop is my 24/7 health coach
So now I’m extremely motivated as I now have a tool to help quantify my recovery. I can use this to work out my individual response to the multitude of factors that life throws at all of us! I’m seeing the Whoop band as my 24/7 health coach. Guiding me to make changes to my Food, Exercise, Sleep and Stress which at the end of the day will help make me fitter, healthier and improve my energy!