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Rearranging Furniture, HRV, Ashwagandha-Anxiety, Cortisol & Belly Fat, Music and Exercise

Issue 182

Good afternoon Nikkola Newsletterers!

Every once in a while, my wife Vanessa gets the urge to move our furniture around, trying to see if there’s a better way to set up our home. Sometimes she comes up with something that works great. Other times, the furniture ends up where it was at the beginning.

I’ve been doing that with the newsletter lately.

You might have noticed that over the past couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with the layout of the newsletter, trying to make it as engaging, useful, and share-worthy as possible.

While I try to stick with three main sections: (1) my longer-form blog posts, (2) recent news and research summaries, and (3) other interesting articles from around the web, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to present it all to you.

I want it to be easily scannable, readable, and memorable so that if you’re talking with a friend or coworker later in the day, you’ll be able to share something you learned.

So, if you open it up and it doesn’t look quite the same, that’s why. Eventually, I’ll land on a final layout, which might be something just like I used six months ago. Then again, it might end up being much better.

Enjoy this week's carefully curated newsletter!

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🏋️‍♂️ From My Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Though heart rate variability (HRV) isn’t a new concept, its application in fitness devices, Sleep Number beds, and lifestyle trackers has made it a mainstream health and fitness measurement. But what is heart rate variability? How does your lifestyle affect it? Why is it such a valuable measurement to track over time? Read: The Ultimate Guide to Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

Can Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety? What the Research Shows. This ancient medicinal herb, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, primarily for its stress-relieving properties. Because it’s used so often, and is a part of so many supplement formulas, it’s inevitable that a small percentage of people will react in the opposite way they’d expect when taking it as part of a formula. They might take an ashwagandha-containing and feel more anxious. But is it the ashwagandha, or is it something else? Read: Can Ashwagandha Cause Anxiety? What the Research Shows.

The Best Supplements to Reduce Cortisol and Belly Fat. All of us face heightened levels of stress today. And it’s not just hard on your brain. It’s bad for your body, too. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of belly fat. Fortunately, there are ways to fix the problem, which is why we’ll cover the best supplements to reduce cortisol and belly fat here. Read: The Best Supplements to Reduce Cortisol and Belly Fat.

👨‍🔬 News & Research

🎶 Music enhances physical performance. In a study that could be music to the ears of athletes, researchers have found that pre-task music with different tempos can influence performance and psychological states. Forty young adults were exposed to no music, slow-tempo, and fast-tempo music conditions before undergoing a 30-second maximal rowing test. The study, designed to isolate music tempo as the sole factor, revealed that both slow and fast-tempo music increased arousal and positive affective state compared to silence. However, only fast-tempo music significantly boosted mean power output during the rowing test. While peak power and perceived exertion remained unchanged across conditions, the findings suggest that a pre-game playlist could be more than just hype—it might actually enhance anaerobic performance.

🍻 Another study shows why drinking alcohol before bed is a bad idea. REM sleep, which constitutes about 20% of a typical night's sleep, is crucial for emotional stability, mental acuity, and memory. The study involved 30 adult volunteers who spent three consecutive days and nights in a sleep lab on two occasions. The researchers found that consuming just one alcoholic beverage led to an increase in slow-wave sleep but decreased the duration of REM sleep. The volunteers fell asleep faster after consuming alcohol, but their sleep quality suffered due to shortened REM periods. The study concludes that even a small amount of alcohol before bed can adversely affect sleep quality.

💩 Improving mental health improves inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers discovered that interventions aimed at improving mood can significantly reduce inflammation in individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Spanning 28 randomized controlled trials with 1,789 participants, the analysis found that psychological therapies, in particular, were more effective than exercise or antidepressants. The study highlights the potent role of the gut-brain axis, suggesting that enhancing mental health could directly influence immune responses and inflammation.

💤 This was a surprise…people stay up later in the winter than in the summer! This counterintuitive behavior is due to reduced daylight exposure, which nudges our internal clocks to delay sleep onset. Research involving over 500 students found that while sleep duration remained constant year-round, winter brought about a 35-minute delay in bedtime and a 27-minute later wake-up time compared to summer. This seasonal shift is linked to our circadian rhythms, which run slightly longer than 24 hours and are highly sensitive to light exposure. To keep our internal clocks ticking on time, it's crucial to soak up some daylight, especially in the morning. Even on overcast winter days, outdoor light is more effective in syncing our body clocks than indoor lighting.

🌲 Need to better your brain? Take a walk in nature. A recent study found that immersion in nature can enhance neural indices of executive attention. The study, which involved 92 participants, used electroencephalography to explore three aspects of attention - alerting, orienting, and executive control. Participants completed the Attention Network Task before and after a 40-minute walk in either a natural or urban environment. Those who walked in nature reported their walk to be more restorative and showed an enhanced error-related negativity, an event-related brain component that indexes executive control capacity. The findings suggest that a 40-minute nature walk can enhance executive control at a neural level, providing a potential neural mechanism for attention restoration in nature.

🏊‍♀️ Dealing with menopause symptoms? Go for a cold swim. In a study involving 785 women in menopause, almost half experienced reduced anxiety and a third had mood and hot flash improvements by going for a cold water swim. The recommendation is to use water below 60° F, which is much warmer than a cold plunge but a lot colder than your Epsom salt bath.

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🌎 Other Interesting Reads

A ‘Well-Funded Cabal’ Influenced the 2020 Election—What Lies Ahead in 2024? (The Epoch Times). While former President Donald Trump appears to be cruising toward the GOP nomination, and with a polling lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in key swing states, Republicans will likely face a much steeper climb in the general election than they realize. Keep reading…

When the Invaders Outnumber the Army (American Greatness). In the past three years, we’ve had upwards of eight million people slip into our country, both detected and undetected. We are being invaded, and our government is failing to do anything about it. Keep reading…

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In faith, fitness, and fortitude,
Tom Nikkola, CSCS

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.2

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