Sleep and Weight Loss
I’m pretty sure that this will get back the attention of the 80% of people that I lost talking about hormones! What if I told you that sleep is more important than diet and exercise combined when it comes to weight loss… (yes, you read that right!).
Weight management is so much more than just the basic idea of “calories in/calories out”. If you’re still going by that rule, you need to pause this, find my phone number and call me! On top of setting yourself up for failure, you’re messing up your health faster than I can count.
Even though our diet and exercise play a major role in weight management, our weight is regulated by our hormones. Yep, them again…
Let me walk you through them:
Our very precious sleep hormone doesn’t just kiss you goodnight and leave you alone until you wake up. Melatonin, among so many other things, will increase brown fat tissues during sleep. Brown fat is a type of fat that burns fat, it’s magic fat! It’s brown is because it’s full of mitochondria (once again, remember your high school biology class: mitochondria are our little energy tanks that produce ATP, our body’s energy currency). When we don’t sleep enough, our melatonin production is impaired, and therefore no more magic fat melting the bad fat!
Cortisol and Insulin
After a night of poor sleep, our cortisol is high, and remains high throughout the day. Cortisol isn’t bad, we produce it for a reason. However, levels are supposed to decrease as the day advances. When it remains high, our blood sugar increases, which is part of the “fight or flight” reaction that I describe here.
Cortisol increases blood sugar by breaking down muscles, which is a process called gluconeogenesis. That is bad for two things : muscles are our fat burning machines! Muscles are the reason we burn fat even when we’re resting, meaning, we’re destroying a very valuable asset for our beach body pursuit!
Second, when blood sugar increases, insulin increases too, and… Insulin is a fat storage hormone! It puts all the glucose away: in our muscles, liver, and fat tissue. After only one night of poor sleep, we become as insulin resistant as a pre-diabetic! A study was made on 9 athletic participants and it showed that after only 3 nights of poor sleep, they became as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic! Luckily, the effects were reversed once they went back to the right amount of sleep. But that shows you how much of a role sleep has in regulating our hormones!
Okay, cool, so now everyone understands that insulin is a fat storage hormone. But, there’s more! Cortisol is actually responsible for the accumulation of visceral fat! Pretty much the opposite of the magic fat… This is the type of fat that grows in the belly and around the organs : the fat we want to avoid at all costs because it is associated with coronary heart disease and all of that fun bunch. It is also a very stubborn type of fat that is very difficult to lose. Visceral fat is also associated with a decline in cognitive function. The size of your brain literally decreases as the size of your belly increases. In other words : as you get fat, you get stupid.
Leptin and Ghrelin
I briefly touched base on these earlier, but here is why they are so important when it comes to weight management. Sleep deprivation will trigger the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which is why when we’re tired, we get hungry (needless to say, I am the last person you want to be around when I am tired/hungry!). And if that wasn’t enough, our leptin, the satiation hormone, is reduced. To put things into perspective and give you a few numbers, after one night of poor sleep, leptin is suppressed by 18%, ghrelin is increased by 28%, and appetite is increased by 23%! We also will be more attracted to high palatable foods (aka processed crap) and therefore make poor food choices. You can have all the will power in the world, but you won’t be able to fight off your biology (unless you’re David Goggins).
To sum things up: blood sugar goes up, insulin goes up (fat storage), ghrelin goes up (we’re hungry), leptin goes down (we don’t stop eating when we should). If you still don’t understand how sleep affects weight loss, I suggest you take some rest and reread how sleep deprivation impacts the brain (no offense 😉).