Many fitness enthusiasts are fanatical about their diets - spending hours comparing and contrasting the benefits of different exercise systems or weighing up the research on the latest supplement, yet most ignore one vital ingredient of health and fitness - SLEEP!
If you are serious about getting in shape, losing weight, improving your fitness and strength, or simply just want to be healthier, you really need to take sleep seriously.
WHY DO I NEED MORE SLEEP?
Exercise takes a lot out of your body; regardless of whether it’s cardio or strength training. Food is vital for recovery and so is rest between workouts, but the majority of the recovery process happens when you sleep!
When you are sleeping, your body gets busy repairing the damage caused by your workouts. Anabolic substances such as growth hormone and testosterone are released, increasing protein synthesis which is essentially how your body repairs your muscles.
Amino acids derived from the food you eat are used like building blocks to restore your muscles to their pre-exercise state and ensure they are ready to handle another workout.
Lack of sleep will reduce the amount of time your body has for growth and repair and that means that not only will you experience less-than-optimal results from your training, you will also be unable to train as intensely or as long which will further limit your results!
REDUCED WILLPOWER AND MOTIVATION
You’ve got a tough workout planned for tomorrow morning and everything is in place; your gym bag is packed, you’ve set your alarm and confirmed with your gym squad that they’ll be there.
But, instead of getting a good night’s sleep, you sit up half the night watching TV and when zero hour rolls around, you wake up with a severe bout of “I can’t be bothered”, hit the snooze button and end up skipping your workout.
There is no denying that lack of sleep can severely undermine your motivation and willpower.
Sleep is vital for hormonal optimization; hormones being chemical messengers that tell your cells, organs and bodily systems how to function. Two of the most important hormones relating to weight gain are leptin and ghrelin.
Lack of sleep can elevate ghrelin levels while lowering leptin levels – a hormonal recipe for increased fat storage. Leptin is produced by your fat cells and tells you when you are full while ghrelin is produced by cells in the gastrointestinal tract and tells you when to eat.
Disruption of your leptin/ghrelin balance will cause you to eat more and that inevitably leads to weight gain.
Too little sleep also increases insulin resistance which means all those carbs you’ve been eating to keep your energy levels high are far more likely to be converted to and stored as fat.
It’s clear that a lack of sleep could be derailing your fitness efforts but many people either do not know or have forgotten how to get a good night’s sleep. Like any skill, getting more sleep can take practice and effort- but, as sleep can enhance virtually every aspect of your health and wellbeing, your efforts will soon be rewarded!