Why Lack of Sleep May Be Affecting Your Fitness Goals

Why Lack of Sleep May Be Affecting Your Fitness Goals 

You’ve increased your step count. 

You’ve been working out three times per week without fail. 

You’re eating more protein and backing it up with lots of vegetables. 

You’re mixing up your cardio and weights so you get the best of both worlds. 

You’re doing everything right (or so you think!). 

But you’re still not making any progress with your fitness goals and you’re confused and frustrated. 

The real problem may be nothing to do with your fitness routine or nutrition and everything to do with poor sleep. 

We all have those nights – the ones where sleep is elusive and you wake up feeling irritated and nothing like yourself. But if this is a regular occurrence, it can be secretly sabotaging your fitness. 

Working on your sleep can be your secret weapon for helping you make gains in your fitness journey!

Does a lack of sleep cause weight gain?

Just one bad night’s sleep can affect your mood, focus, motivation and decision-making. It becomes so much harder to maintain healthy food choices and be consistent with your fitness routine. 

Your hunger hormones are out of whack after a bad sleep. This means you’re more likely to crave high-fat and sugary foods to boost your energy. That chocolate bar you reach for as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up could be directly linked to your sleep patterns. 

Appetite is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells your brain when you’re full.

When your sleep is poor most or all of the time, the balance of these hormones can change. Ghrelin levels can rise and at the same time, leptin levels can go down. This boosts your appetite and leaves you feeling less satisfied by what you’re eating. It’s a double whammy for weight gain. 

Studies have shown that lack of sleep is strongly linked to overeating, and this can mean consuming hundreds of extra calories. 

Research has also found that people who only tend to sleep for 6-7 hours per night ate an average of 270  fewer calories when they slept for an extra hour. In some cases, this was as much as 500 calories less. 

It’s not just about your food choices though. 

There’s another connection between sleep and weight gain.

Lack of sleep can also affect insulin levels. As well as regulating blood sugar levels, insulin also has a role to play in fat storage. The higher your insulin levels, the more fat your body will store. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can encourage fat cells to be less responsive to insulin. This type of insulin resistance can pave the way for type 2 diabetes. Scary stuff, right?

Poor sleep changes the way your brain works too, especially in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. The prefrontal cortex controls willpower and self-control while the amygdala is linked to emotions. 

At exactly the same time you’re struggling with willpower and motivation, you’re also experiencing heightened emotions and becoming more receptive to things that light up your brain’s rewards systems. You favour food over the less pleasing option of working out, for example. 

It’s not all bad news though. If you can fix your sleep patterns, you can avoid all of this and it will feel much easier to stay on track with your fitness goals. 

Sleep and performance

Your best workouts happen after a good night’s sleep and this is no coincidence. Poor sleep slows down your functions, both physically and mentally. Your workouts can feel harder, partly because of what we’ll talk about in the next section. 

Sleep and recovery

Good sleep is crucial for post-workout recovery and for your muscles to repair themselves and bounce back stronger. You recover more quickly and are less likely to pick up injuries. A study showed that athletes sleeping 9 hours per night had a 61% reduction in injuries. 

Sleep is a non-negotiable way to do this and if you’re sleeping badly, your recovery is likely to be affected. It may take longer to recover and be harder to build muscle mass. 

How to sleep better 

Now you know how important sleep is for your fitness goals, how can you get more of it?

Eat foods that promote sleep. Fish, nuts and seeds are great sources of tryptophan, which helps produce the sleep hormone, melatonin. 

Get exposure to natural light in the morning. A good sleep routine can start as soon as you wake up. Exposing yourself to natural light early on in the day can support your body’s circadian rhythms. 

Try a warm bath before bed. Having a bath helps to regulate your body temperature and prepare your body for sleep. Adding some Epsom salts can offer a magnesium boost – perfect for relaxing your mind and muscles. 

Declutter. If you’re surrounded by clutter and chaos, it can be harder to get a good night’s sleep. 

Dim the lights. Do you automatically reach for the light switch when it gets dark? Harsh artificial lighting can mess with your body’s circadian rhythm and makes it harder to sleep. Try switching on lamps instead or using a dimmer switch (if you have one). 

For more information on how we can smash your fitness goals, you can contact me on 0786 2255131 or e-mail me at adele@fitnessloungeleeds.com 

Or if you’re ready to work together, click on the book now button below to arrange a free consultation.

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