The practical side to the cliche topic
I was listening to an interview the other day on overall health and wellness. During this podcast, a world renown doctor was being interviewed and talked about the four pillars of wellness. The four pillars he mentioned were movement, diet, sleep, and renewal. In addition, Andrew Huberman (exercise physiologist expert) also was just recently interviewed on a podcast and gave his 5 pillars of wellness. His response was nutrients, movement, light, sleep, and social connections. It got me thinking how most nutrition professionals tend to hyper focus on exercise, macros, and calories but neglect some other key areas of wellness.
Wellness is multi-dimensional and these "pillars" do not live in a vacuum. They are interconnected. If we are missing one aspect of wellness we are sure to decrease output and/or be limited in the other areas. For the most part, I believe people understand sleep is good for you. It helps your muscles/mind recover, it regulates hormones/mood, and just feels good. However, I'm not sure many people understand its direct correlation and connection to body composition (fat loss, fat gain, performance, longevity etc). When it comes to factors outside of nutrition and exercise we sometimes lose the practical connection. During this blog, I want to dive into some research connecting sleep and fat loss to give a more tangible touch to a cliche topic.
I found a sleep/exercise study done by the University of Chicago. This study used two groups. Each group followed a consistent exercise routine, diet (caloric intake), and lifestyle variables. However, one group got 8.5 hours of sleep a night and the other group was sleep deprived, only sleeping 5 hours a night. After a two week period measurements were taken. Both groups lost roughly the same amount of weight (6 lbs). This makes sense because we know weight loss comes down to caloric intake. However, what was extremely interesting was the sleep deprived group lost only 1.3 lbs of fat. The group that got 8.5 hours of sleep every night lost 3.1 lbs of fat. Furthermore, a hormone called Ghrelin rose in the group that was sleep deprived. Ghrelin is partially responsible for fat oxidation and controlling hunger levels.
So what does this tell us about sleep and fat loss? This study shows while caloric intake is responsible for weight loss, sleep plays a role in what type of weight is lost. Furthermore, sleep will help control hunger levels and as a result make fat loss more enjoyable (and sustainable). It is important to note that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sleep has a role in fat loss/sustainability but that is a small part of the impact that it has on our brain chemistry, emotions, neural adaptations, recovery, and overall experience in life. Like previously mentioned, wellness is multifactorial so we can't just focus on one action step. It's a combination of a lot of factors and building habits that create consistency and sustainability within all areas. If nothing else, I would encourage you to start tracking your sleep. Aim for an average of at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Some nights you might not be able to get that and some nights you might be able to get more. Digitally detox 60 minutes before bed (remove phones, tablets, or bright lighted screens) and create a consistent waking period in the morning. If you are still struggling to get sleep then take advantage of less busy days or weekends and find time for 15-30 minute power naps (something is better than nothing). Increasing the quality and quantity of sleep will immediately help you begin to look, feel, and move better in everyday life. No one is going to prioritize this for you. You have to intentionally work against the current of your life schedule to increase the quality and quantity of your sleep but it will make all the difference. Remember your best is yet to come!
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