So the time has come and you’re more than ready to drop some body fat. You’ve made a commitment to the gym, planned to stick to your diet this time, and you’ve set all of your fat-loss goals. You’ve figured out a way to get to work, get to the gym, and spend quality time with your family and friends. Congratulations!
One problem though; in order to do all of this, you have to get less sleep. Little do you realize how this actually affects your body, besides the obvious – being tired. When we talk about fat loss, sleep is another factor that can’t be overlooked when setting out to achieve your fat-loss goals. “Oh, great, not only do we need to worry about diet and exercise, but now we have to find time in our crazy schedule to sleep?” YES!
Studies are showing that adults are getting less and less sleep and getting more and more obese. So how are sleep and obesity related? One of the ways they’re connected is through the relationship between two important regulatory hormones – leptin and ghrelin. These hormones are known to help regulate appetite. Leptin, produced by fat cells, tells your body that you’re full. Ghrelin on the other hand, a hormone made by the stomach, tells your body you’re hungry. When sleep hours fall, the regulation of these hormones is skewed. Studies have shown that those who sleep less than four hours per night have ghrelin to leptin levels elevated as high as 71%. So, what that means is that ghrelin levels climb and leptin levels plummet, and as a result, your body starts to whine about being hungry when you really don’t need the food.
Not only are you hungry, you’re hungry for the worst kinds of foods. People dealing with this deregulation of appetite hormones forgo the nutritious choices of food and head straight for items like candy, cookies, chips, breads and pastas. So here you are trying your best to get nice and lean, you’re on the go, you’re getting your workouts in and you’re trying to eat right and only getting four hours of sleep? Not enough.
Another impairment that comes from a lack of sleep is your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, ultimately leading to elevated levels of blood sugars, which increases the production of insulin. Insulin is the body’s main energy storage hormone. When you eat, insulin levels rise and the body stores the energy from the food to be used later. However, research has shown that sleep deprivation causes an imbalance in insulin levels which impairs your body’s ability to break down stored fat for energy. Again, body fat storage is not what we are looking for in a fat-loss plan.
Sleep deprivation can also cause a change in you basal metabolic rate. This reduces how many calories you are able to burn just doing basic life-sustaining activities. Less calories burned means more excess calories available to be stored as body fat. Between your hormone-driven desires for chips and chocolate, your higher insulin levels turning your body into a fat-storing machine, and your dropping daily caloric burn, your lack of sleep is wreaking havoc on your well-intentioned, fat-loss plans.
So now you know the importance of sleep and how it can negatively affect fat loss. What do you do? First and foremost you need to make an attempt at getting a little bit more shut-eye. Yes, I do realize that to fit in work, family, training, and leisure that often you find it cutting into your nightly rest. But you’ll need to make this a priority.
Another helpful idea is that knowing that you’re going to miss out on some sleep and knowing that you’re going to be reaching for those chips and candies, be prepared. Plan, plan, plan. Prepare your meals ahead of time so that when you do reach that point you have a healthy option to grab instead of a fat-laden one. This has proved to be the key for many. When you’re planned and prepared you’ll have far less problems staying the course. When people find themselves behind on their planning and preparation, they’re more likely to run the risk of getting into trouble. Planning is a huge key to anyone’s fat-loss success. And last but not least, overall time management – in the gym, at home, at work – this will lead to less stress and typically more time for rest.
Sleep is an often overlooked element in a healthy lifestyle, but, as the research shows, it is a critical component to any fat-loss plan. Proper training and nutrition are still the building blocks of good health and fitness, but sleep provides the foundation. You’re to be applauded for you fat-loss goals and your dedication to proper diet and exercise, but remember, there is one more key aspect to this fat-loss tool – sleep. The good news is now you have an excuse to sleep in a little on the weekends.