We need to combine diet and exercise to lose weight in a healthy and permanent way. We also need a third and secret ingredient to make the weight loss recipe work like a charm — sleep.
That is right. You need sufficient sleep in order to get the most out of your fitness routine. Without it, you will lack the energy to stick to a workout routine. You will also lack the mental strength that you need in order to stick to your diet plan.
At the end of the day if you do not sleep enough, then you probably will not reach your weight loss goals.
You Are On A Diet Plan. You Are On The Move. And Still Nothing!
Take two people who are on the same diet and exercise plan. One loses weight at the desired rate, while the other does not seem to make much progress. Presented with this information, most people will come to one of the following conclusions:
- The person that is stuck is not making enough of an effort.
- It all comes down to genetics in the end, so the person may just have one of those bodies.
- The person that is stuck has some kind of condition, like a thyroid problem.
- The person that is losing weight is going the extra mile.
Of course, a fitness expert will suggest a fifth reason, namely sleep. It seems strange that staying off your feet for a couple of hours each day can help you lose weight. Are you not supposed to be active for as long as you can?
The Link Between Sleep And Weight Loss: The Science Behind It
When we sleep, the body goes into repair mode. Muscle tissue grows and regenerates, the brain gets to rest and the hormones that keep the body working perfectly are regulated.
Let us unpack each of these functions of sleep and see how they affect your diet and exercise plans.
A well-rested mind will be able to make good dietary choices. A tired one will not.
When the body does not get the amount of rest that it needs, you wake up groggy and irritable. There is no amount of coffee that can get your brain to work like it got to rest for seven hours.
Your tired brain will put you in a bad mood and lower your cognitive abilities, including memory, concentration, problem-solving skills, and decision making. When your decision making is poor, you will choose to eat that large slice of delicious chocolate cake. Or to indulge in a juicy cheeseburger for lunch, because you feel kind of awful and could use a little ‘goodness’ in your day.
If you keep losing sleep, then these bad decisions will become a habit. Effectively, you will have fallen off the wagon.
Sleep Regulates The Hormones That Stimulate The Feeling Of Hunger
Sometimes, those cravings are not simply a lack of willpower. They are the effects of hormone levels that are out of whack.
There are two hormones that tell your brain if you are hungry or full. The first is ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. The second is leptin, which tells your body that you are full.
A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that test subjects that slept for six hours or less produced more ghrelin and less leptin.
In the end, the hunger caused by these unbalanced hormones will make it hard for a person to exercise portion control or eat the right foods.
Lack Of Sleep, Hormones, Stress And The Craving For Comfort Food
Sleep deprivation triggers the body to produce higher than normal levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is thought to trigger stress-related fat gain. It also activates the reward centers in your brain, which activates your cravings.
Suddenly you want a cheeseburger of a pack of chips so badly you can taste it. Such a craving will not leave you alone until you indulge it, then your pleasure center will light up and leave you feeling great. That is how the burger and fries will turn into comfort food.
If you keep sleeping less than you should, then you will keep indulging that craving. And your diet plan will go on the back burner.
Sleep Changes How Fat Cells Work And Messes With Insulin Production
When you wake up feeling dazed and groggy, know that your cells feel the exact same way. Including your fat cells, whose cooperation you need if you are going to shed those pounds.
When your fat cells feel sluggish, your metabolism also slows, sometimes to a crawl. Here is one example of how this happens:
- After only four days of insufficient sleep, the body becomes less sensitive to insulin.
- When this happens, the fatty cells stop removing fatty acids and lipids from the blood.
- As a result, the blood will have a buildup of fatty acids and lipids.
- The buildup will cause the body to produce even more insulin.
- The excess insulin will trigger the body to store fat in all the wrong places, meaning places, where the fat is stored, will not be easily reachable for burning.
- In the end, the person gains fat and therefore, weight.
This makes weight loss more difficult, even if you stick to your fitness plan.
Sleep Deprivation Slows Muscle Growth And Regeneration
The more muscle a person has, the higher their metabolic rate becomes. Which is why exercise is such an important part of weight loss. When we exercise, our muscles sustain little tears. The tears cause the muscles to repair themselves and increase in mass. In the end, exercise improves the body’s metabolism even when we are at rest.
That said, your muscles need you to sleep for at least seven hours before they can repair themselves and grow at a good rate. Meaning that if you follow your fitness plan but fail to factor sleep into the mix, you will get average results for maximum effort.
Sleep Deprivation Will Rob You Of The Will And Energy To Exercise
When you feel groggy all day long, the last thing you want to do is hit the gym. This is just another way that a lack of sleep can totally derail your fitness journey.
A Good Night’s Sleep Really Is Medicinal
Sleep is not just good for weight loss. Your body needs it to keep you healthy physically and mentally.
If you want to sleep like a baby, then you should know that a brisk workout is nature’s own sleeping pill. So make space for your fitness plan and make time for sleep. You will love the results.