Visit SiteAddendum: This article was posted a few months ago, but I felt it was necessary to update the science a bit and add why sleep is absolutely relevant to the fat loss game.
Before we press into the science, I am going to assume that everyone knows how to fall asleep. Crazier things have happened so I can’t take anything for granted anymore these days. Ok, bad joke. My bad. More science, less jokes. Got it.
While sleep is a regular constant facet in each of our lives, most people don’t know how to sleep well. Why? Because our culture breeds horrible sleeping habits.
When you were younger what’d your parents tell you? Carpe diem, right? Seize the day. Don’t sleep your life away. Blah Blah Blah. You’ve heard it all before.
If you’re a 9to5er, I’m going to be a little harsher and say that you definitely could get adequate sleep, but the priority isn’t there because most don’t understand the integral importance of it.
You can have the best diet plan from Jenny Craig (-_-) and the best workout from Jillian Michaels (-_-)(-_-) and you still won’t get any results if your sleep schedule isn’t in check. Ok, fine you won’t get any results from them anyways because well you know. But that’s another post for another time.
From Brad Pilon’s informative book on intermittent fasting Eat Stop Eat, we learn that there are only two fundamental absolute truths to nutrition and fat loss:
There are a multitude of diets out there that will work. For me to sit here and tell you that there is one absolute way to lose fat is a scientific fallacy.
A bunch of inadequate nutritional strategies can and will make you lose fat as long as you hold to principle #1. You absolutely have to maintain a caloric deficit to lose fat. There is no debate here.
Here’s a brief primer on why the two different physiological states are relevant (a future article will explain this in more detail): You can’t lose fat while you’re in the fed state. It is a physiological impossibility.
Why? Because while you’re in the fed state, likely 2-6 hours post meal consumption, your body is metabolizing the food you just consumed for fuel. Glucose is being oxidized for energy and no fat loss is occurring.
What is the fasted state? For simplicity purposes: the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food and in some cases drink for a pre-determined period of time. After a certain period of fasting, our body begins to switch from glucose oxidation to utilizing fatty acids for energy. In other words, you burn fat when you fast. The longer the fast (without going to physiological extremes), the greater the concentration of fatty acids being oxidized for energy.
We store a little when we eat and burn a little when we don’t eat. That’s how evolutionarily our bodies were designed to work. The problem is that Americans spend as much as 20 hours a day in the fed state, leaving little to no opportunity for your body to utilize any stored fat for energy. What follows is that people get fat because all they do is store calories.
Why is sleep relevant to these physiologically truths? Because without adequate sleep, you will likely be unable to maintain a prolonged caloric deficit and there is increased probability that you’ll be in the fed state more often than you currently are.
Not that I think BMI is a relevant tool for assessing a person’s health, but for non-athletes, I’d say the majority of 9to5ers, there is a linear relationship between average hours of sleep and your BMI.
The major reason why you should care is that sleep debt, or an acute or chronic lack of sleep, results in harmful effects on glucose tolerance and endocrine function. So what’s that mean?
When a person eats any sort of food, your blood sugar rises, which causes an increase in insulin resulting in either the food being stored or used as energy. Healthy individuals do this much more efficiently than diabetics for obvious reasons (insulin insensitivity, chronic high blood sugar, etc).
What’s chronic sleep loss do? It severely reduces basic metabolic functions such as the ability to process and oxidize glucose for energy.
In a study published by the Lancet, people, who after only a few days of being reduced from 8 hours of sleep to 4, showed the effects of advanced aging or early diabetes on their metabolic functioning. Glucose metabolism, what happens when you consume any food, mimicked that of type II diabetes patients. On average, it took 40% longer to regulate blood sugar levels.
Let’s think back to the two states now: fed and fasted. Remember that no fat loss can occur when you are in the fed state. What happens when your ability to break down meals and utilize glucose takes longer than is physiologically normal? You spend more time in the fed state, meaning lipolysis will not happen.
Fat loss occurs because of lipolysis, or breaking down fat for energy. When you have chronic high blood sugar, lipolysis will not occur because your body will continually try to metabolize or store the glucose, which can be oxidized for fast energy. Your body will not break down fat stores when energy is readily available from glucose. Read more…
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