When you think of a fat loss phase or a fat loss specific program, usually intense exercise and strict nutrition guidelines come to mind. You certainly don’t picture someone sprawled out under the covers and not moving for seven to nine hours.
This is because you’re picturing the hard side of fat loss. The intensity, the killer mindset, the ‘beast mode on’ mentality.
There IS a soft side to fat loss however, and it is often overlooked. Either that or it is placed so far down the list of priorities that it will only occur at the expense of everything else that could possibly be squeezed into your day.
Who is this unsung hero of leanness? Allow me to introduce you to sleep.
Yes, sleep is not just a helpful detail in your quest for abs or a smaller dress size. Sleep is a gigantic piece of the puzzle. If you’re missing it, that puzzle won’t get done. Not only will the puzzle not get done, you won’t even be able to trick people into thinking you finished the puzzle because only a small piece is missing from the corner. Nope, there will be a big glaring hole right in the center of that puzzle.
Have you had enough puzzle analogies? Good. Let’s talk about why sleep is good first.
When you get enough sleep, let’s call that seven to nine hours per day, your body slows down its production of the stress hormone cortisol, and allows for the production of growth hormone.
You want this. You want this and all the fat cell mobilization, strength, muscle and vitality that comes with it.
Alright now let’s talk about why missing out on sleep is bad.
I know, I know, the ‘sleep is good section was so short’. If you read my last article you know that the desire to avoid pain overrides the desire to experience pleasure every time, so I will be putting it to you like this.
First let start at the brain. When you’re deprived of sleep, it dulls the frontal lobe, which is in charge of impulse control. When impulse control goes down, what happens when you see a box of your favorite donuts after a stressful Thursday afternoon? Hulk Smash, that’s what.
Not only that, but the reward centers in the brain get kind of whiny. They want to be pacified, so now you have those little babies crying in your ear for those same donuts. It’s like having two devils on your shoulders and the angel is off taking a nap because someone didn't get it enough sleep.
Aside from that, there are the obvious negative effects of a poor night of sleep. You reach for the big sloppy latte to get yourself rolling in the morning, when you get to the gym, if you even go, your workout is lacking the intensity to create any kind of training effect, and you’re too tired to cook so you order a pizza. What happens next is the worst irony of all. Now you can’t sleep because you stuffed yourself silly.
We already discussed what happens when cortisol levels drop for the night and are replaced with growth hormone. Well here is what happens when cortisol production doesn't get the break it needs and stress hormones keep on pumping.
First off, in light cases, you not only have difficulty losing body fat, you actually are much more likely to store excess body fat.
In prolonged cases of chronic stress, and yes sleep deprivation counts as stress, you can experience adrenal fatigue. Basically, this is when the adrenal glands have been over-worked for so long that they begin to fatigue and function below optimal levels.
In serious cases the individual may find him or herself experiencing crippling levels of fatigue, and may not even be able to stay up and active for more than a few hours at a time. This individual will also have negatively affected macronutrient metabolism , fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system as well as sex drive.
Whatever motivates you more, the need for sleep or the damage caused by lack of it, the message is clear. When you think fat loss, think sound nutrition, intense exercise, and quality sleep.
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