Do you have your training and nutrition dialed in, but can’t seem to lose that last bit of belly fat ? The answer to your problem likely has nothing to do with exercise or nutrition.
There is a crucial component of fat loss that is often neglected and is the biggest limiting factor for people who get stuck in a plateau.
The argument could be made that this fat loss component is just as important as nutrition and exercise. What I’m talking about is SLEEP!
By now everyone has heard that we all we need to sleep more. However few people actually explain why we need to sleep for fat loss, and how sleep deprivation brings stopping fat loss to screeching halt.
In this article I will be explaining the top three reasons you need to sleep to reach your fat loss goals. Those who are looking to increase muscle mass or maximize performance will also benefit.
1. Sleep and Food Choices
When you want to lose fat you will need to makes changes to the foods you are eating. These changes typically could come in the form of calories, macronutrients of food quality or starting a “diet”
Diets rarely help people long term, and usually end in a vicious cycle that can be damaging physically and psychologically.
Regardless of the fact that diets are not sustainable and ineffective many feel they are the only option for fat loss.
When you add in a lack of sleep diets only becomes more difficult for people to maintain, and an eventual food binge is only around the corner.
This makes sense though because the body has a harder time regulating blood sugar without adequate sleep. This means you will be seeking dense sources of energy to boost low blood sugar levels.
Lack of sleep and low levels of blood sugar trigger the stress hormone cortisol to be released. This stress hormone helps you to raise blood sugar, but also increase impulsive behavior, especially around foods!
Studies have shown that those who are chronically sleep deprived will eat a greater volume of food, and make less healthy choices.
2. Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
When you are in a constantly behind on sleep the system that controls whether you burn or store body fat works less efficiently.
The body has a harder time stabilizing blood sugar without adequate sleep, meaning cells have a more difficult time using the sugar in your blood.
Because the body has a more difficult time delivering this blood sugar to cells, your blood sugar stays elevated for a longer period of time.
Lack of sleep reduces insulin sensitivity, which means your body will require more of the storage hormone insulin to store the sugar in your cells.
More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to insulin. With reduced insulin sensitivity your capacity to use carbs for fuel and store them will be diminished.
This insulin resistance translates into more calories being stored as body.
It takes just under a week’s worth of poor sleep to induce the of blood sugar levels similar to that of a prediabetic, in healthy test subjects!
3. Hormones (Ghrelin and Leptin)
Leptin is widely known as the satiety hormone that is made by our fat tissue that helps us to balance and regulate the metabolic rate and calories burned.
Leptin is like your body’s dipstick that lets the brain know how much stored energy we have available.
Leptin helps us to recognize when we have enough energy and inhibits hunger. It works opposite of the hormone Ghrelin which stimulates hunger, and lets us know that we need energy.
Leptin and ghrelin work together to help keep us in an energy balance, and prevent us from eating too much or too little
When trying to lose fat leptin is a very important hormone to address because you don’t want too much or too little.
Leptin has an influence on the production and secretion of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 which control the metabolism and whether it slows down or speeds up.
The level of leptin that we have in the body controls the amount of calories we burn.
Lack of sleep has been shown to decrease leptin, and increase ghrelin, and increases body fat. This combination leads to greater hunger while feeling less satiated with foods, and a lower energy expenditure.
Because of sleep deprivation you will have an increase in appetite leading you to overeat. However because your metabolism is slowed those calories will turn into body fat.
As you can see from hormones all the way down to your appetite and food choices, sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to moving towards your fat loss goals.
If you struggle with getting to sleep and having a good night’s worth of sleep check out my blog post: 10 Tips For Better Sleep
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These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.