Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, July 31, 2017

More Sleep, Less Fat?

I recently came across this study while reading the news:

Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and favorable metabolic profiles in UK adults: Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey


Correlation is not causation. Lack of sleep might raise body mass and waistline measurements and body fat. But it might be that high body mass and large waistline measurements and body fat interfere with sleep. It could be (and probably is) a circular issue - lack of sleep raises body fat and body mass which reduces sleep.

But the evidence is showing more and more that lack of sleep is connected with bad results: more stress, less stress relief, less work effectiveness, less body effectiveness, etc.

It makes perfect sense in basic training terms, too. Sleep is recovery. If you are insufficiently recovered from a workout you won't perform as well at the next one. If your body isn't relieving all of its stress when you sleep, and the lack of stress also being a stressor, then you are more likely to gain and hold onto body fat.

I've had a number of clients who try to out-train bad sleep by working out hard to make themselves lean and/or tired. But the body isn't good at seeing stress from work as different from stress from a hard workout. It's not efficient at getting you to your goals so you can sleep later. And as much as it feels counterintuitive to break through a fat loss plateau by relaxing more, sleep is where you start and end. I ask all of my clients about their sleep. I want their sleep in order before we move onto more complex solutions to their issues. I start there with diet - how are you sleeping? How much?

It may only be correlation, but the links are getting stronger every study along these lines that comes out.

As a practical matter, consider adding naps. I have found that for me, a 20 minute nap is long enough to doze off but not enough to be groggy when I wake. I try to take one every day (it works out to be about 5 times a week.) That isn't always practical for everyone, but just laying back with your eyes closed for 5-15 minutes each day at lunch, or after a workout, or between activities might just get you a little closer to longer and improved sleep.

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