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Sleep Challenge

Recent studies have shown that going to bed and waking up the same time every day could be the missing link to shedding some pounds.

Sleep is one of the most under appreciated fat burning tools. I’ve always noticed that when I get good, consistent sleep I feel better and look leaner. Though it’s such an easy way to rev up my metabolism, grad school keeps me up in the wee hours of the night and I end up hitting the hay at different times each day.

Based on this relatively recent study I am creating a mini sleep challenge to help regulate my sleep patterns. Bonus benefit: maybe this challenge will force me to get my work done early! I’m gonna have to put myself on a schedule.

A 2013 study at Brigham Young University followed 300 female college students, ages 19 to 26 to monitor the affects of their sleep wake cycle on their body composition.

After the one week study period researchers found:

  • A consistent cycle of waking up and going to sleep at the same time are strongly linked with lowering body fat.

Other findings in this study include:

  • Getting fewer than 6.5 hours of sleep or more than 8.5 hours is linked to higher body fat.
  • Sleep quality affects body composition. High quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat
  • The greater the variation in sleep patterns, the higher body fat percentage. Women whose sleep patterns varied by 90 minutes (i.e.: Thursday you go to sleep at 11:00PM and wake up at 7:00AM, then Friday you go to sleep at 1:00AM and wake up at 9:00AM) had higher body fat than those whose sleep varied by 60 minutes.

Leading researcher, Bruce Bailey states that by not adhering to a consistent sleep pattern hormones related to food consumption can be altered causing weight gain. These hormones include ghrelin, the hormone that controls food cravings, and leptin, the hormone that signals satiety and helps prevent over-eating.

Even though this was a small study and very short duration, implementing regular sleep patterns can be an easy way to increase energy levels and shed some weight. So if you’re looking for an easy way to lose: Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule.

My Challenge

Feel free to join me on my simple challenge or let me be the guinea pig and stay tuned for the outcomes.

I plan to force myself into bed by 11:00PM and wake up at 7:00AM daily for at least the next 2 weeks to see how my body responds. That’s it! The real challenge will be getting all my assignments in before my 11:00PM curfew!

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Post-Workout Nutrition and Why it’s So Important

This morning I woke up extremely sore and super energized. After noticing the sky was still pitch black I grabbed my phone to check the time– it was 3:50AM! I shut my eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but after an hour and a half of counting backwards, meditating, and changing positions I realized there was nothing left to do but get up and roll with it *Sigh*.

Let’s rewind and discuss why my body was reacting this way.

One of my best friends, CarlyAnn, recently moved back to New York from Nashville. Yesterday she suggested we hit the gym to lift and catch up. The intense leg workout left us hobbling back to my car in a successful yet miserable state.

The smart thing to do would be to have a nutrient dense meal, but instead we decided to skip lunch and run a couple errands!

When I finally got home (hours later) it was almost time for kickboxing. I grabbed some homemade jerky and headed to the studio. Towards the end of class my body was shot and my muscles felt useless. I dragged my lifeless body home, forced down a piece of fish and peas and turned in for the night. This morning I woke up extremely sore.

Can you tell where I went wrong? Lets see..

  1. I totally overtrained my body
  2. I did not refuel properly

What Happens to Our Bodies When We Exercise

Here are just a few things going on inside our bodies during exercise:

  1. Fatty acids from fat, protein in the form of amino acids, and glucose and glycogen, both of which are sugars that come from consuming carbohydrates are used as fuel
  2. Muscle fibers are being torn (this is a good thing! With a good post workout meal and adequate sleep these muscle fibers repair, grow, and gain strength!).
  3. Cortisol levels rise

What is Glycogen?

Glycogen is a form of sugar stored in the muscles and liver. Our bodies are programmed to use the sugar in the blood before tapping into glycogen stores (1). When blood sugar levels drop too low, glycogen is released from its stores to give the body quick sugar and a jolt of energy. Think of glycogen as a backup battery pack for the body.

Cortisol the Fat Burning, Lean Muscle Building Hormone

Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone that gets a bad rep for being associated with weight gain, acne, etc. But when released at the right time cortisol acts fat burning, muscle building and energizing stimulant. Cortisol levels peak in the morning to help wake us up and get the day started. As the day progresses, cortisol levels naturally begin to drop so that by the end of the day we are able to fall asleep.

We also elevate cortisol when we engage in physical activity. Cortisol production promotes the development of lean muscle which is essential in losing fat (yay!). However, when we finish our workouts cortisol level are high and should be lowered by having a wholesome meal of mainly protein and carbs. If you make it a habit to not eat upon exercise cortisol levels will remain elevated causing weight gain (mainly in the abdominal region), sleep disruption, and muscle breakdown.

Bottom Line:

After an intense workout..

  • some of our glycogen stores are depleted
  • muscle is broken down
  • cortisol remains elevated causing a multitude of negative effects

Therefore the purpose of a post workout meal is to restore glycogen and repair muscles in order to build beautiful lean muscle, lower cortisol levels and to just feel good!

How Soon Should You be Eating After a Workout?

It is important to eat within 60 minutes of your workout, but if you really want to take full advantage of your revved up metabolism eat within 30 minutes of exercise (2). The quicker you get some nutrition in your body the sooner you restore glycogen stores and rebuild muscle proteins to stimulate the growth of new lean muscle.

What Should You Eat?

A meal consisting of protein and medium to high glycemic carbs that is low in fat is the quickest and most efficient way in recovering your muscles and utilizing the meal as energy rather than storing it as fat.

High Glycemic Carbs: Digest quicker

Protein: Helps repair muscles

Keeping the meal low in fat: Fat slows digestion and we want our muscle cells to be replenished as quickly as possible.

The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:

Carbs:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots, corn, peas
  • Rice
  • Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Note: I always promote eating wholesome foods but if you’ve been craving lucky charms or that chocolate chip cookie (AKA cheat meal) then post workout would be the best time to eat it!

Protein

  • Grassfed organic protein powder
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Wild caught fish
  • Chicken
  • Lean beef

 

References:

  1. Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. Chapter 21, Glycogen Metabolism. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21190/
  2. Jentjens, R. & Jeukendrup, A. (2003). Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short-Term Recovery. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 117-144. http://dx.doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333020-00004

Photos:

  1. Carbohydrate metabolism. (2017). Slideshare.net. Retrieved 8 January 2017, from http://www.slideshare.net/ganeshbond/carbohydrate-metabolism-31707764
  2. Ballachey, G. (2017). Cortisol and Sleep – Sustainable Balance. Sustainable Balance. Retrieved 8 January 2017, from http://sustainablebalance.ca/cortisol-and-sleep/