Let me just throw this out there, if you aren’t clocking at least 7.5-8 hours of good, restorative sleep every night then you are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to weight loss. If killing it (or yourself) in the gym or training for that marathon isn’t getting you the results you were expecting, then it’s time to take a step back and examine why.
Sleep is an integral part of the weight loss journey that many people aren't aware of. Giving your body the proper recovery period is a crucial step. Not just recovery in the sense of 1-2 days off during the week from training, that’s necessary too. I’m speaking specifically to the recovery that our bodies undergo when we sleep. Sleep allows our bodies to actually grow, because it’s during the different sleep cycles that we experience a surge in HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which allows us to build muscle cells that repair damaged muscles and heal cuts or abrasions, just to name a few of its benefits.
So what is HGH? It’s a naturally occurring hormone in humans and animals that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration. It’s what’s responsible for growth in young children through adulthood. The interesting thing about HGH is that the primary secretion of it happens during sleep. Not naps or a quick slumber, but more so in the 3rd NREM stage of sleep (different stages and phases of sleep are explained more in depth here). The takeaway is to have a routine where you go to bed nearly the same time every night and aim for 8 hours of sleep. This will ensure that your body will cycle in and out of the 3rd stage of sleep several times throughout the night. What happens when you shorten your sleep duration window by not getting enough sleep or not allowing your body to get into these patterns due to poor sleep hygiene? HGH levels drop, your ability to recover and rebuild also drops and the incidence of major chronic disease like Type II Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular disease skyrocket. I should also mention, HGH has lots of data behind it as an anti-aging hormone so why not increase your own NATURALLY! I know, I know we are talking about weight loss, but I had to throw this in to make it well rounded.
As an aside, do you know anyone that works the night shift or a swing shift? Are they the picture of health or are they overweight (or struggling to lose weight) and suffer from a diagnosed health condition? It’s all about the SLEEP! This is just to illustrate the importance of good quality sleep that follows your natural circadian rhythm. Just going a little deeper here, this means getting to bed by 10pm not 12am or later. Don’t fool yourself and think that as long as you get 8+ consecutive hours you are in the clear. If you’re not following your circadian rhythm and going to bed too late too frequently then you are missing the boat on your natural HGH secretion as well.
Sleep is also believed to play a large role in resetting our hunger hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin. These 2 hormones can easily get dysregulated, not only as a result of poor inadequate sleep, but also as a result of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) that's laden with processed convenient foods that are too high in sugar and processed flours and grains that leave our bodies starving for real nutrition.
So this could be a double whammy for you because your sleep is compromised lowering your HGH secretion while also allowing your current SAD diet to mess with your hunger hormones sending you on a rollercoaster without an exit strategy.
Just to recap, improving your own HGH production through good quality sleep can increase your exercise capacity, bone mineral density, and muscle mass while decreasing body fat. All this while allowing you to hit goals in the gym that you may have previously been unable to attain or allowing you to start dropping the weight and seeing the body composition that you are looking for. Sign me up!
1. Get a handle on your sleep, planning for 8 hours a night. Consistent bed times and rituals 7 days will be the best way to approach this staring out.
2. If you are having sleep issues that would keep you from getting 8 hours/night look to work with a practitioner that can help you navigate the terrain of better sleep quality and quantity (Contact me for Health Coaching). If you need to take sleep aids to accomplish this, it’s worth investigating why they are needed.
3. Eat the good stuff: veggies, nuts/seeds, meat, eggs, fish and beans along with some fruit on a daily basis. This can help break the cycle of sugar cravings that keep you running on empty as you run for your next sugar fix. Just perpetuating the viscous cycle.
4. Accountability? Do you need help mapping out a plan and sticking to it? Look to work with a practitioner that can help you achieve your health, wellness and fitness goals.