When trying to lean up everyone focuses on training more and eating better. And these factors are major players in fat loss. However the biggest mistake people make is not making sleep the number one priority. This is the biggest factor that holds people back.
If you are not receiving adequate good quality sleep, you are setting yourself up for fat loss failure. Lack of sleep increases stress. Stress is the nemesis of fat loss. When your sleep is terrible or just not enough and you find yourself incapable of leaning up. So you train harder, cut your calories further and put your body under even greater stress. Stress on stress on stress. Weight goes up.
Sleep is the time the body rests and recovers. It is the time it regenerates new cell, repairs damaged ones, heals muscle tissue that has been damaged in training, breaks down fat, and synthesizes hormones. If you are not allowing your body enough quality time to perform these functions these functions will remain incomplete. You will find yourself extremely sore after training, your inflammation will elevate, as will your cholesterol (cholesterol increases to fight inflammation), your resting heart rate will elevate, your blood glucose will elevate. All of these factors stressing the body further creating a vicious circle of feeling crapola and unsuccessful in fat loss.
When the body is stressed it thinks it is in fight or flight mode. In other words it needs to either run away from a tiger to survive or chase one for food. The immediate response to stress is to continuously releases glycogen out of the cells in the form of glucose, into the blood stream. It does this as a burst of quick energy so you can fight or flee faster and harder. But if there is no tiger, just life stress, this glucose then gets transported to the liver for metabolism, so it can convert it back to glycogen and re-stored. However in today’s day where food is abundant, the moment glycogen is secreted out of the cells, new stores are already formed. As such, when the glucose returns to the liver, it cannot be returned to the cells as glycogen. The cells are already full. Therefore the liver converts the glucose into fat and stores it around the abdomen as visceral fat (the dangerous fat around the organs). Lack of sleep is a major stressor for the body. Lack of sleep increases visceral fat.
To add to this process, the fact that so much glucose is constantly being secreted into the blood stream overworking the pancreas, it increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes type 2. Too much glucose in the blood stream can kill you. What’s too much? Anything more than 5 grams. As such, the pancreas secretes insulin to remove the glucose from the blood stream and transport it to the liver for metabolism as discussed above. When this is happening around the clock the pancreas eventually fails to be able to function efficiently resulting in the insulin resistance or diabetes type 2. So not enough sleep stresses the body, and as a result increases your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes type 2. The end result, is it reduces your longevity in life.
In case this wasn’t enough, lack of sleep causes sugar cravings. If the body is going to secrete glucose as a response to stress it means it needs to maintain high levels of glycogen stores to be able to keep up this process. So it makes you crave sugar to replenish glycogen stores. Here comes another vicious circle. Consumption of sugar triggers the Ghrelin ‘I am hungry’ hormone and suppresses the Leptin ‘I am full hormone’. The more sugar you consume therefore, the more you will crave. Consumption of sugar also triggers the Dopamine hormone in the brain (this is the hormone that causes addiction), leading you to become addicted to sugar, requiring higher and higher dose over time.
Here you are wanting to lose fat training hard and eating better and you have all this going on in the background, not realising that the simple solution is NOT to train harder and eat less; it is to just sleep more and sleep better! Sleep will combat all of these issues, or at least reduce them all to a dull roar and get your fat loss moving again!
To improve your sleep here are a few tips:
- Create a bed time ritual. Start to wind down an hour before bed time. turn off overhead lights and turn on a lamp. This triggers the brain to think that the sun has set and the moon is up, secreting melatonin your sleepy hormone. Turn off all electronic devices, phones, iPads, laptops etc. These omit a blue light that prevent the production of melatonin. They can also excite the brain or make it anxious based on what you are absorbing from social media, emails or other technical content, reducing the ability to fall asleep. Instead watch TV, read a book, have a bath, do anything that will relax the brain.
- Calculate what time you need to wake in the morning and go to bed at least 8 hours before that every night. Your body likes routine and consistency. The more consistent your routine, the better your results.
- Sleep in pitch back
- Sleep in a silent room
- Maintain a good room temperature to avoid being too warm or too cold. The ideal is between 15°-19° Celcius
- Keep all electronics at least 5 metres away from you. The frequencies omitted by mobile phones can interfere with the body’s D3 receptors which enable it to rest and recover. The best option is to keep your phone in another room. This will also reduce the temptation to check your socials or email. Get an alarm clock instead, if you need it to wake you in the morning.
So if your fat loss has stalled, review your sleep habits. Always start there as your first point of call when trying to shift that fat. The order of priority for fat loss is always sleep, stress, nutrition, water then exercise.
- Coach Terri