I bought a Whoop strap several months ago to help me better track my sleep and fitness performance.
Most of the data has been in the realm of “interesting but not super useful”. How much sleep I get per night (7:11 minutes generously measured), my resting heart rate (~48 bpm down from ~62 bmp), and so on. Of course we want a lower heart rate and more sleep, so while it’s nice to know these are things we all would want more of any way so it’s not very actionable.
What has been supremely useful is the short survey I get every morning regarding behaviors from the previous day. Whoop takes this data and, once it is statistically significant, presents the results back to you. Here are the most surprising lessons I’ve learned:
- I always assumed that reducing my alcohol intake to zero was healthiest. But it turns
out the optimal alcohol intake for me is “about one small serving of red wine, early in
the evening”. This not only corresponds with my Whoop heart rate, HRV, sleep, and
other data, but my subjective sense of how I feel in the morning. If I have more than
one drink or drink too close to bedtime, the results turn strongly the other way (most
likely because alcohol deprives us of valuable REM sleep).
- I always thought the occasional sugar binge wouldn’t impact me too much. But binging
on sugar is pretty much the single worse behavior I engage in. A sugar binge on a
Tuesday will impact my sleep, mood, and recovery until Friday, and the data show it.
See here for a case study, no good academic studies yet.
- I always thought that meditating was the best way for me to de-stress and find
peace….but in fact, slow breathing exercises (like box breathing) are much more
effective at relaxing me. I haven’t stopped meditating (a 27 year daily habit), but I have
incorporated some basic slow breathing techniques, and they help a lot.
- Swimming in cold water is the single best exercise for my emotional state and physical
recovery. I mean cold like 65 degrees or less. I happened upon this when I lived near
Deep Eddy in Austin – I’ve reincorporated it by swimming in the Bay. My achy shoulders
feel great, I get a fun outdoor workout, and my calculated recovery the next day is
phenomenal. Surfing gets at a lot of this too.
- Taking extended-release Tylenol (ERT) before bed is the best way to improve my
recovery. Specifically, ERT improves my sleep duration by 12 minutes, and my recovery
score by 19%.
- Even if I’m eating the same amount of food, eating it in a shorter time frame seems to
be much easier on my body than spreading it throughout the day. I usually eat in about
a 7-8 hour window now and my stomach and general sense of well being are vastly improved.
After initial skepticism, Harvard Medical School now thinks there is something to this. They re-published their article on it earlier this year.
Does this mean that everyone should drink a bit of wine, avoid sugar like the plague, intermittently fast, do deep breathing, and take Tylenol at night? Not really. These things surprised me because they are not backed up by a lot of studies. They may in fact be entirely personal to me. But I would not have discovered them without systematic experimentation, which was not a chore but rather quite fun.