On the paradigm of “fat less” principles we often focus on nutrition and exercise as the most important. However, we often forget about the recovering aspect, more specifically sleep and its important on muscle growth, fat loss and overall health. In fact, 30% of Americans sleep less than the recommended amount (7-9 hours). Pair that statistic with the obesity rate of 35.7% and you have something worth looking at.
A study done by Brigham Young University found a trend between amount of hours slept and body fat percentages with females. The study found that having too little sleep, 6.5 hours on average per night and having inconsistent sleep/wake times contributed to higher body fat percentages than those you slept 8 hours per night on average and had consistent wake/sleep times. Conclusion of the study, which you can read here http://www.ajhpcontents.com/doi/abs/10.4278/ajhp.121012-QUAN-500 found that quality sleep and consistency of sleep contributed to lower body fat percentages in women. I imagine the same would be for men.
So why does sleep matter when it comes to our body fat percentages? Here is how:
Sleep is important because of the recovery aspect of it. When you work all day and workout 2-6 days per week you must have sound nutrition and sleep to repair the damage done. If not, your body fights you by breaking down and becoming injured. While you sleep your body releases growth hormone from the pituitary gland to help repair you muscles so they grow and it also helps in breaking down fat stores and releasing them into your system to be metabolized. Essentially growth hormone reduces your body fat percentage by growing your muscles and breaking down your body fat. If you didn’t sleep adequately, this process would be interrupted and could actually back fire on you.
I have talked about cortisol many times, as it does the exact opposite of what testosterone and growth hormone do. It stores body fat because the body becomes overstressed (increased training, life stress, lack of rest) and increases your body fat percentage. If you don’t sleep this guy kicks in, instead of growth hormone and your body fat percentage goes up and you wake up tired and groggy.
Our lives are busy and it is not feasible to get the required amount of sleep EVERY night. However, as with most things, it is a cumulative effect over several weeks, months, years that has the most effect on our bodies. By trying to be consistent every night and getting adequate rest and sleep we can see a dramatic difference in our bodies. This is a must!
What can I do if I didn’t get enough sleep?
Naps are great for getting in extra sleep you may have missed. Even if it is a short 20 minute nap on the couch at your lunch break, anything to increase the amount of rest you get is important to your physical goals.
This topic deserves multiple entries as I believe it is that important. Even thought I do not have statistical data to prove my claim, I would say the best results I get with clients are due to them being able to control stressors of life and getting adequate rest. I would also like to add reducing the amount of alcohol in the diet does impact sleep patterns and helps reduce body fat. Moral of the story is sleep lots and drink alcohol sparingly if at all.