ATC 256: Waking Up Hungry At Night, Cortisol Rhythms, Ways To Know You’re Eating Enough, Athletic ‘Sabbaticals,’ and Why We Don’t Like Running Streaks

March 16, 2018


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1/15/18 Calesse

Trouble sleeping and waking up at night hungry

My question is related to sleep and was sparked by your episode several months ago about chronotypes (fascinating!) I took the quiz and determined I’m a dolphin, which makes a lot of sense to me given my tendency to have difficulty falling asleep, awaken multiple times thoughout the night, and sleep most soundly in the wee hours of the morning right before my 5 am wake alarm so I can go run before heading off to teach.

Do you have any strategies I might implement in order to minimize mid-night awakenings? I also often find that I often wake up ravenous in the middle of the night (usually between 12 and 2 am), despite feeling that I’ve eaten enough throughout the day. I’ve been working with a nutritionist to include more healthy fats and increase the protein in my diet and make sure I’m eating enough to account for my activity level (I mostly train for half and full marathons and typically run about 50-70 mpw, marathon PR: 3:10, half: 1:27). We’ve been particularly focusing on moving towards more intuitive eating and listening to my body more. (I’m a 26 year old female, about 117 lb., 5 ft. 3). Have been doing long-distance running since middle school. Ran competitively in high school, college NCAA D1, and now do road races.

 I also often have difficulty sleeping well on the night after I’ve done a long run or hard race, even when I run in the morning (evening races make it extra difficult to wind down, so I try to avoid them).

 Some strategies I’ve tried so far with minimal to no success:

  1. Listening to relaxing music at bedtime/ when I awaken/ reading a book
  2. Taking melatonin 30 min. prior to bed (now also incorporating L-theanine and Magnesium as well).
  3. Having a bedtime snack (cereal, milk, some Peanut butter, or a scoop of Generation UCan or sweet potato w/nut butter)
  4. Limiting screen time in the 1-hr. before bed.

5.Getting natural light during the day whenever possible.

  1. Going to bed/ waking up at regular schedule (usually in bed 9-9:30 pm, up 5- 5:30 am on weekdays, this shifts a tad later on weekends).
  2. Ensuring my room is cool and dark, and quiet.

This has been going on for several years, and I’m sure has a negative impact on my training and recovery in particular. I’m also getting married in 2 months, so I want to ensure that my poor sleeping doesn’t negatively impact my soon-to-be husband.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your great work!


1/5/18 Mark T.

I have a simple question, and hopefully not a stupid question: How do I know I’m eating enough as my training ramps up? I tend to eat clean and lower carb so I’m not hangry, but I also want to make sure I’m not undergoing it. I think I heard Tawnee say that fat adapted athletes still need to eat and sometimes this can be harder with hunger cues.


1/14/18 Frank

I have been nursing a calf injury since September and have taken off running for quite some time, this Thursday January 18 will actually be 9 weeks to be exact.  I’ve been on my trainer and do strength training, but zero running.  Since I started endurance training/racing over 17 years ago, its the longest I’ve ever taken off of running.  I am signed up for two Ironman races this year….IMLP (July) and IM Maryland (Sept).

Do you guys have any advice on how to bring running back into my training?  I feel that I can start running again, but not sure how much volume or intensity to include.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


12/26/17 Filipe dos Reis

Big big fan here, have been listening for a year now, and I finally think I have a question that has not been asked before.


Ex military, since leaving the Air Force, went from my ideal weight of 96kg to 142kg. Started training again after 8 years of neglect due to work (averaged 90hrs a week for a few years) and now I have the lifestyle that allowed me to go back to training. After a few months training on carbs (mtb/cycling background) with very very poor results and no increase in fitness, went looking and found Phil Maffetone and Tim Noakes.

Started on the 1st of May 2017 LCHF and went from 132kg to 116kg before the 1st of October, training only on the bike (too much weight feels uncomfortable running, or so I told myself) and I’m now running again.

I have now free time for consistent training and I’m loving the improvement on my health from real food, real training.

I have no A races, all my races are C races, as in, when I have a weekend off, check online what’s happening, register if possible and wing it! I’m in it for the finisher medals, the camaraderie, and nice pictures. Theses races can be anything from a park run, to a mtb marathon, to a 100k road granfondo, I have absolutely no preference apart from cost versus availability!

I have 2 questions:

My MAF HR using the MAF app, is 149, but I cannot maintain it for the life of me!

If I walk briskly, cannot go above 130/132… If I change for a run, as slow as possible, I go into 154/155!

True MAF is like a black hole, a no man’s land! But On the bike I can pick point exact HR’s and stay there but on the run… Not even close!

  1. Can I make my fitness meet my MAF HR and then make my MAF HR improve my fitness, as in, keep the pace a few more months, so at my minimum speed my HR decreases from 155 to 149 or below, and then, keep the HR and increase the pace???
  2. I listened to Lucho talk about his 20×20 miles and saw it as a challenge for my base training, starting from zero. 20x5k, then 20x10k, then 20×10 miles, then 20×15 miles and finally 20×20 miles. Is this as bad idea as it sounds…? :SmileyFace:

11/19/17 Mat H.

Mat from France/Switzerland.

I am a 60y old female who has been racing and training up to the half marathon for 3 years now.  I am running about 30 km/week on average (3-4 runs), I am very injury prone, especially with my Achilles that I first hurt back in the 70s. I can do only little, if any, speedwork (even though I just love sprinting and really envy Lucho for his 400m racing), so I am very slow – but in my age group it’s easy to podium anyway.

My running is mainly at MAF (about 7 minutes/km at 120, not subtracting the 10 for my Hashimoto – with the T4 replacement that drove up my heartrate it would be double “punishment” and my maximum HR is over 178). I am eating low carb since I jumped on the Atkins bandwagon in the 70s (but adding at least 1kg of organic vegetables per day), I suppose I am quite fat adapted – at least I have no problem to go out fasted for 1-2 hour runs in the morning, even without having had dinner.

This year, I am going back to school in Paris for a week once a month to learn UX Design, have moved houses to train on the job for my new trade in Switzerland (competing with 20-something digital native nerds ;-), On top of that I have a 4 hour commute every day – boat, metro, bus – whereas before I could ride my bike to work (never owned a car) … in short, 60 hours weeks and lots of travelling. Unfortunately it also makes me miss out also on the gym and my customary daily 1 hour bike ride.

To get through this, I decided to take a “performance pause” in 2018: no more racing, just as much running and  strength training as needed to stay healthy, not lose muscle, not put on fat, sleep well, and be able to come back in 2019.

What do you recommend for this athletic sabbatical?

– How many hours of running per week is a “healthy”, stress friendly minimum? (Also to replace my once daily 1h bike ride)

– (What) strength training is necessary?

– Should I stop running fasted and/or having breakfast as late as 2 1/2 hours after getting out of bed?

– Is going out for runs at 5AM a supplementary stress, should I rather try to run at lunch?

– Are there diet tweaks to better cope with stress? I have experienced that some carbs in the evening help me sleep better .. (but I am carb sensitive and put on weight quickly …  however anything that might lead to weight loss seems to trouble my sleep. Actually BMI 20-21)

One Comment

  • MarkAllenGrip says:

    Hi Mat H. from France/Switzerland,
    How much you run is not as important as how fast you run. Generally if you run moderately, anything from 20-50 minutes a day is okay. But this depends on where you body is at. If you need rest, take it! People who are taking a sabbatical from serious running usually run 3-5 days/week and keep the runs averaging around 35-40 minutes but just at a pace where you can look around and not feel like you are training, but more like you are just outside enjoying things.

    Strength training is really good to do. Two days/week doing an overall body strength workout is ideal. It should be sets of 12-15 reps, not a high intensity circuit session with 20-30 reps on each lift. But strength work is a great way to help keep your body in balance.

    Early morning runs are really good. They help set our body into a low stress state. But for sure eat breakfast within 30-minutes of finishing your run. Waiting 2-2.5 hours is a huge stress on your body!

    I would not be afraid of carbs. But just try to get them from sources that are complete with their original fiber. So if you find an evening snack of carbs helps you sleep that is great. Sleep is the best healer of all. Personally I like things like hummus on a whole grain hard cracker with some avocado on top. That gives the carbs that will burn slowly and help you sleep like a baby!

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