Sleep: Needed? Miracle? Overrated?

 

“All you need is more sleep, and you will lose 10 pounds, easily” – Overheard at the airport.

Yes, I was eavesdropping. I can’t help it. Every time I’m in a public place, and hear people talking about fitness or nutrition topics I become intrigued. How do you think I come up with half of my blog topics?

I ESPECIALLY tune in where I hear people talking about fads, guru logic, and quick fixes. Part of me wants to interject and save them from their own demise, but more importantly, it is essential as a fitness and nutrition professional to know what the average person is hearing about health through the pop media sources.

When I heard this person say the previously mentioned sleep line, I started instantly internally debating the topic. Can more sleep, in itself, lead to fat loss? Maybe…but highly unlikely from JUST adding more sleep.Image result for sleep

However, sleep IS very crucial to optimal fat loss, performance, and well-being. It can often times be a missing piece of the puzzle when everything else seems to be in check.

Will Getting More Sleep Alone Lead to Fat Loss?

Short answer, NO. A caloric deficit will lead to fat loss. However, there may be some less obvious added benefits of getting enough sleep…

From a hormonal standpoint:

Studies have shown that when sleep is deprived, less than 6 hours per night, the bodies levels of ghrelin increase. Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, plays a huge role in how much we eat, and thus overall caloric consumption. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin and thus makes us want to eat more.

From a Captain Obvious Standpoint:

This may be a no brainer, but we also cannot eat when we are sleeping – thus less time for caloric consumption. We have all had those nights, drunkenly mindlessly eating popcorn, chips, ice cream…just because. Or is it because we are tired, but really need to see how the re-run of “Naked and Afraid” ends? (spoiler – they get out okay 90% of the time, still naked, lose 10-20 pounds, and get some arbitrary number increase in Primal Survival Rating (PSR))

By staying awake 2-3 hours longer than we probably should, we are leaving the door wide open for more mindless caloric consumption.

From a body composition standpoint:

In a very interesting study done in 2010, researchers found that when overweight participants were put on a hypo-caloric diet (only 1450 calories per day) for 2 weeks, they lost the SAME amount of WEIGHT (6.6 pounds!) regardless of sleep (Group A averaged 7.5 hours, Group B averaged 5.25 hours).Image result for sleep for fat loss

HOWEVER! The adequate sleep group lost 3.1 pounds of fat and 3.3 pounds of muscle, while the sleep deprived group lost 1.3 pounds of fat, and 5.3 pounds of muscle.

The take aways of this small study are:

  • Losing 6 pounds in 2 weeks is very fast, and will likely result in some muscle loss… (no bueño)
  • More importantly to this article, sleep deprivation can inhibit fatloss, and lead to more muscle loss.
  • This may be due to the importance of sleep, and it’s relation with growth hormone production, and thus muscle protein synthesis and muscle anabolism aka #GAINZ

From an exercise standpoint:

To be blunt, when you are sleep deprived, you can’t perform at your best during workouts. When you can’t perform your best you run into:

  • Fewer calories burned
  • Increased risk for injuries
  • Increased risk for even more burnout

When you aren’t getting the most out of your workouts, you aren’t stimulating your muscle to maximal potential and thus priming it for development. More muscles = higher metabolic rate = more fat burning at rest, and throughout the day (see above in regards to GH, muscle protein synthesis).Image result for sleeping in the gym

From a short-term standpoint, it’s just harder to get amped up for a workout when you are tired and feel like napping instead!

So going back to the line, “All you need is more sleep, and you will lose 10 pounds, easily”.

Is this true? Maybe.

Is sleep important for fat loss and reaching your desired body composition. Heck yes!

While it may not be as simple as JUST getting more sleep, it may be the missing piece of the puzzle, that will lead to more pieces nicely falling into place (less mindless snacking, more intense workouts, more muscle gain…)

Get your sleep, make it a priority, and no, coffee is not one of the main food groups 🙂

 

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Stay healthy my friends,