You’ve done everything right. Your diet is impeccable. You’ve put in the work at the gym. You’ve done it all, and yet – the scale isn’t moving. No matter how hard you try to get those numbers to go down, they just won’t. So what’s the issue? Well, if you really have stuck to your diet and your exercise regimen, there may be something else you haven’t considered – your sleep.
Maybe you have everything down in the nutrition and exercise department, but have you taken a second to analyze your sleep patterns? Have you been staying up late and not getting enough rest? Has your sleep been restless and interrupted? Maybe you’ve lost a few nights of sleep worrying about why your diet isn’t working. Unfortunately – that lack of sleep may just be what’s getting in the way of your weight loss goals.
How Sleep Affects Weight Loss
Research shows a relationship between how well you sleep and how efficiently you lose weight. There are many factors in play. Some relate to how sleep deprivation interferes with the natural body processes of fat loss, and others have to do with the psychological effects of sleep deprivation. Getting enough rest is just as important for your weight loss goals as is eating right and exercising regularly!
Not Losing Fat… But Losing Muscle?!
The first way in which sleep may alter weight loss is by directly affecting the amount of fat loss. To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means consuming less calories than you burn every day. With enough sleep for your body to go about its natural processes, this would translate into consistently losing more weight, particularly fat. However, sleep deprivation interferes with the body’s complex system of hormones, neurotransmitters, and metabolism. Improper sleep may cause your body to adapt to the calorie deficit differently, making weight loss difficult. It also changes how you oxidize fat. This oxidation process is how your body “burns” fat by converting into energy. If you’re not able to properly oxidize fat, you’re not able to lose it.
Furthermore, not getting enough sleep during a calorie deficit can make you lose lean body mass – such as muscle. You want to lose fat not muscle. However, when your body is not recovering with sleep during a calorie deficit, your muscles are the first to suffer. Getting enough sleep is important to lose fat and preserve or improve your lean body mass.
Sleep Deprived and Hungry
Have you ever woken up exhausted and felt like you could eat your bodyweight in pancakes? That’s fairly common, and it has to do with how your brain reacts to the stimulus of food when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can make your reaction to food stimuli higher, which means you’re more likely to be hungry and react by eating more food. It’s easy to see how this sabotages weight loss. If you stick to your diet most of the time, but consume more food after not sleeping well, you’ll find yourself stuck at best and gaining weight in a worse case scenario.
Sleep (and Hormones) Out of Whack
If your sleep schedule is messed up there’s a good chance your hormones and neurotransmitters are messed up too. I don’t just mean the ones that make you a little grouchy and likely to hiss at anyone who approaches you before you have some coffee. I mean ones like ghrelin and leptin. These are important when it comes to losing weight because they’re the neurotransmitters in charge of managing your hunger. Ghrelin tells your body that you’re hungry and need to consume calories. Leptin lets your body know you’re full and statieted. When you don’t get enough sleep, these neurotransmitters work against you. Ghrelin shoots up which makes you feel really hungry and craving food. Leptin decreases, which means you’re very likely to overeat. The result? You might find yourself eating more than your calorie deficit requires, which means you won’t be losing any weight. In fact, you might even gain weight.
Sleepy Bad Decisions
Now if sleep deprivation made you want to eat more kale, then maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s a lot harder to eat too many calories in kale than it is, say, in ice cream. Unfortunately, a sleep deprived brain doesn’t want leafy greens. It wants delicious, sugary, high carb/high fat comfort food. Because you’re tired. When you’re sleep deprived you’re more likely to consume foods high in calories, undoing the work of your dieting.
Sleep deprivation also disturbs focus, motivation, and decision-making abilities. While you might think you’d never break your diet just because you’re tired, well… the odds aren’t in your favor. The brain is programmed to seek something to make up for not resting, since that means it’s working with low energy. High energy means high calorie content. When sleep deprived the foods that seem most appealing carry a lot of calories.
Resisting Insulin Resisting Weight Loss
Not getting enough sleep can trigger something called insulin resistance, which can lead to weight gain. Insulin resistance means that cells of the body aren’t receiving well the glucose that insulin carries. This glucose then stays in the bloodstream and causes blood-sugar to rise. The liver is in charge of managing blood sugar, so it has to step in. The excess glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream reaches the liver where it’s converted into fat. That fat exits the liver through the bloodstream and thus can lead to weight gain. Even if you’re eating right and exercising, not getting enough proper sleep will put your body in a state where it cannot efficiently oxidize fat. If the body can’t oxidize fat it can’t “burn” fat.
Midnight Sleepy Snackers
Those who go to bed late at night are more likely to eat more calories during the day. This might be because you’re awake longer, and therefore more likely to react to a slight bit of hunger, or maybe just snack on something because you’re bored. It’s best to have an earlier bedtime and an even earlier dinner in order to best help your weight loss journey.
Treadmill Vs. Couch
Face it, after not sleeping, exercising is the last thing you want to do. You would rather stay in your warm comfy bed than get up to workout. This is something else that can hinder losing weight. When you’re tired, you’re just less likely to want to workout. That, combined with the likeliness of eating more, and eating more high calorie foods, can easily wreak havoc on your weight loss plans.
What Can You Do?
The key to optimizing weight loss is eat, train, and sleep right. They all play a role in healthy weight loss and proper body function. If you know what you’re doing in the kitchen and the gym, the next step is to work on improving your sleep. Some things you can do in include:
- Watching Your Sleep Schedule: I know – it’s so tempting to just sleep all day during the weekend. This may be especially true if you had a couple rough nights during the week. However, research shows that changing your sleep schedule too much on the weekends can make things worse. Drastic changes in your sleeping patterns may result in metabolic changes that lead to reduced insulin sensitivity. As mentioned, reduced insulin sensitivity can easily lead to weight gain, especially when paired with the other effects of not sleeping well. If you need to squeeze in another hour of sleep, that’s not such a big deal. You’ll just want to avoid staying in bed until noon. This not only affects your metabolism but it can also make it harder to fall asleep that night!
- Create a Sleep-Worthy Environment: For the best sleep, make sure your room is dark, cool, and quiet. Some research suggests that exposure to artificial light while sleeping, like leaving a light or the TV on, may increase the risk of obesity. This may have to do with the fact that these things interrupt quality sleep.
- Have Dinner Earlier: Eating earlier in the evening allows your body enough time to start winding down before the night. It won’t be working hard to digest the food you ate, but the natural processes that take over at night can do so with less trouble. Research suggests that those who eat later at night may find it harder to lose weight.
- Chill Out! If you’re stressed out and anxious, no amount of tossing and turning will get you to sleep. Think of your sleep routine as equally important as your exercise routine. Make plans to unwind and relax in the few hours before bed. Maybe that’s doing some yoga or meditation, reading a good book, taking a warm bath, or journaling your thoughts. Whatever helps you get better sleep!
- Get Moving! Of course exercise helps you to lose weight, but it can also help you sleep better! Maybe try going for an afternoon walk to wind down for the night.
How FK Can Help You
If you’re trying to lose weight, but have no idea where to start… we’ve got your back! FK Online Meal plans are designed to optimize your nutrition, transform your health, and achieve your fitness goals. Whether that’d be maintaining your weight with healthy nutrition, building lean muscle, or losing weight – our online meal plans can help YOU.
We offer three different online meal plan options:
Each of these options can be customized. Once you’ve decided on your meal plan, you’ll have the opportunity to input your current health status and what your goals are. We take all of this information and create a program that works for you. For example, if you’re someone who’s looking to lose weight, your diet program will put you in a calorie deficit. This way, you’ll lose weight while still giving your body the nourishment and care it needs to function properly!
FK Online Meal Plans are sent to customers via email. We do not send out the actual meals, but we give you an in depth guide to help you through the process! Your customized meal plan will include a calendar view of meals with the nutritional content so you know exactly what you’re getting each day! Plus, you’ll have step-by-step preparation instructions, ingredient lists, shopping lists, and everything you need to transform your health right from the comfort of your kitchen!
If you’re interested in seeing how FK can help YOU reach your weight loss goals, check out our FK ONLINE MEAL PLANS!
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NOTE: Fran’s Kitchen offers two different meal plan services. Our Delivery Meal Plans are delivered to customers on an agreed upon schedule. Our ONLINE MEAL PLANS are NOT delivered. These online meal plans are sent to customers via email to be cooked, followed, and enjoyed from the comfort of their own kitchens! Please be mindful of these differences when registering for Fran’s Kitchen services. Thank you!