The human body is a miracle. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't always be finding ways to game the system to gain a little bit more of an advantage. We've previously shown you how to hack your brain into overdrive and pointed out that your body hides all sorts of secret powers from you. You just have to know how to make it give up its secrets.
#5. Drink a Cup of Coffee Before a Nap -- You'll Feel Better
Imagine you're pulling an all-nighter trying to meet a deadline, or driving all night trying to figure out which warehouse the Joker stashed Harvey Dent in -- whatever the case, you're incredibly tired and sleep is not an option. Traditionally you'd either take a nap or have some coffee (or a urine-staining energy drink), but it's one or the other -- either try to get a quick nap, or power through on a chemical high.
But science, true to form, took these two seemingly contradictory options and decided to merge them together, like when WCW invaded the World Wrestling Federation. And it worked, and not in the order you'd expect.
Researchers found that a cup of coffee followed by an immediate 15-minute nap is a notably more effective method of staying awake and alert for longer than either coffee or a nap alone. Which is a bit odd when you think about it, since you'd expect the caffeine to keep you awake, leaving you teetering on the edge of falling asleep but not quite going over (this is known in the scientific community as the Edward Norton-Brad Pitt boundary). But the trick to the "caffeine nap" is that caffeine doesn't act immediately -- it takes about 45 minutes to be completely ingested, but the effect of the drug kicks in after only 15 minutes.
Which is why we recommend injecting grizzly bear adrenaline into your first cup of the morning.
See, what caffeine actually does is block your brain's ability to respond to adenosine, a chemical that builds up in your bloodstream the longer you're awake. The more adenosine you have in your body, the more your brain tries to get you to sleep. So by drinking coffee (or soda or a nice can of BAWLS) and then diving directly into bed, you can sleep for 15 minutes and get the regular restorative effects of a nap. By the time you wake up, the caffeine you've ingested is swimming in your bloodstream and dulling the effects of adenosine, stabbing your tiredness in the face.
"Eat it, need for energy conservation!"
#4. Don't Stretch Before a Workout
Ever since you were a kid, it's been drilled into your head that if you're about to do anything more active than sitting completely still and farting in a beanbag chair, then you'd better damn well stretch your arms and legs first. That is, unless you enjoy cramps, injuries and an empty trophy case.
Plus, it's a great way to show off your bulge.
But it turns out that what the coaches thought was good for you was actually leaving you worse off. Static stretching -- the kind where you reach down to touch your toes and hold -- before an intense workout or game will not only wear you out quicker but also make you more liable to injury. And that's because when you stretch, your limbs consider the possibility that they're about to be snapped off, so they tighten. Furthermore, you're lengthening the muscles' fibers, which wears them down and leaves you weaker during the actual workout.
A study at the University of Nevada tested participants by having them stretch before running. Results showed that those who stretched generated less force from their leg muscles than those who did no stretching at all. Other studies have found decreases of about 30 percent in muscle strength after stretching. And on top of all this, as we mentioned before, these stretches don't warm you up -- they tighten the muscles, which is about as far as you can get from the ideal state of having them warm and loose.
Which is why most reputable physicians recommend shooting your legs with lasers before starting a run.
So, what, you should avoid stretching? No -- stretching in itself is fine. It improves your flexibility, and experts recommend you do it a few times a week. But it's only fine by itself, like a miniature version of exercise, or at the very most done after a workout. Doing it before the workout is what the research is saying to avoid.
All right, so do you go right from bed to pulling a sled full of rocks through the snow like in Rocky IV? No, the alternative to stretching is to do some warm-up exercising before breaking into your regular Herculean fitness regime. A quick jog is much more effective than static stretching (in both improving performance and reducing injury), but ideally you'd base your warm-up on whatever it was you were about to do -- for example, runners would do things like squats or lunges before the inspirational training montage music kicks in.
That said, squats can be pretty damn inspirational on their own.
#3. Eavesdrop With Your Right Ear, Pick Out Music With Your Left
At some point you've probably seen that spinning ballerina GIF floating around online, the one that supposedly tells you whether you're "left-brained" or "right-brained." We won't go into the details here, but not only is the ballerina test bullshit, but the thing it's testing (that logical people rely on the left hemisphere and artistic people the right) is a fairly large over-simplification. In reality, both hemispheres work together for pretty much everything.
It takes a full brain to make us as gullible as we are.
However, it is true that your two hemispheres aren't identical. In the case of sound, it's long been known that your left hemisphere kicks ass at deciphering verbal information like speech, and the right hemisphere excels with tones and music. It is also known that your left brain controls the right side of your body and vice versa. But because the information between the hemispheres is shared (through the corpus callosum -- yea, Latin), it shouldn't make much difference which ear you use to listen to things, right?
Nope. It turns out that because the left ear is always sending shit (music) to the right hemisphere and the right ear is always sending shit (speech) to the left hemisphere, the ears themselves have actually evolved in the way they process sounds.
Which means you're paying 50 percent too much for headphones.
As a result, your right ear is measurably better at processing speech, and your left ear more so at tones and music. Now, don't go expecting that turning your head to give the appropriate ear will produce a surround sound digitally remastered version of what you've normally been hearing, but there will be an improvement. This is important to remember the next time you're sneaking through the air vents of an evil corporation, or just trying to figure out whether that is in fact a Peter Gabriel song you're hearing in the supermarket.