Tip #1 to ABS….
Seems like a “no-brainer” and pretty cliche, right?! But this is actually a BIG deal and a very under-rated and overlooked topic.
Poor sleep = weight gain -especially to our belly.
My experience with poor sleep:
I can personally vouch that quality sleep is essential for your dream abs. Back when I began competing in fitness competitions (2011), keeping a tight core was a natural strength of mine; however in the year 2012 I significantly struggled to keep lower belly fat away. Most bodybuilders are typically overly aware of their bodies and take notice of the slightest changes. As I began to notice my abs were fading, I began to analyze everything I had been doing. ... "Had I made changes to anything I was eating? Was I not doing enough cardio? Was there something off in my weight routine? Did I need to do more crunches? Was I taking a new supplement? Was it my Whey protein? Was I stressed?". I came up empty handed… until one day it dawned on me…. MY SLEEP!
My work schedule in 2012 was rather erratic. My boss rotated our work hours on a regular basis from early morning shifts to early afternoon shifts that ended late into the night. In this season my body struggled to adjust to the constant change in sleep schedule and I was getting about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I was actually training HARDER in the gym for my shows, but was stuck with this difficult layer of belly fat. As soon as I discovered the culprit, I made every effort to stay on a set sleep schedule despite my work hours. Once I began getting better sleep, the layer of belly fat quickly went away and my workouts felt much more powerful too! My abs came back without having to make diet changes, without more crunches and without a increased cardio. We don’t always have to work harder, but sometimes just smarter!
I am sure you’ve ALL heard that there are several studies done that conclude people who regularly sleep less than 6 hours a night are MUCH more likely to have a higher than average body mass index (BMI) and people who sleep on average 8 hours have been seen to have the lowest BMI.
For the majority of people, the 1st place we gain weight shows in our belly. Therefore lack of sleep is like saying, “Bye bye abs”.
BUT what is the actual science behind these conclusions?
A sleep deficiency throws off many of our hormones and these are the hormones that manage our metabolism, appetite and weight.
Hormones, sleep deprivation & weight gain:
Cortisol- Lack of sleep increases cortisol (“stress hormone”). When cortisol levels increase it fuels our appetite as well as cravings for sugary treats. An increase of this hormone can lead to weight gain and fat storage, most commonly stored in the lower belly.
Insulin- Poor sleep leads to more insulin release. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose processing. Higher levels of insulin means more fat storage and can also be a risk factor for diabetes.
Leptin- Sleep deprivation lowers leptin levels. Leptin alerts the brain that it has enough food. Low leptin can lead to overeating.
Ghrelin- When we don't get adequate sleep Gherlin levels go higher and stimulate appetite. Higher Gherlin can result in bad food cravings, even when full, as our body is seeking a quick energy boost. EVER felt super hungry when really you were just really tired and looking for a boost?! I sure have!
- Apart from lack of sleep impacting our hormones, leading to weight gain, insufficient sleep may leave us TOO TIRED to burn off calories with exercise. It is hard to feel like going to the gym when you feel tired, BUT even more difficult if tired AND eating sugary foods (high glycemic) that bring you up high and drop you down low.
THE POWER of SLEEP! (Get 7-9 hours a night)
Finally the good news! Good sleep, if you’re not already getting it, actually helps you to lose weight by influencing the hormones that control your appetite and increase your metabolism! You will notice the change in your belly!
ACTION step (challenge yourself):
Make a bedtime goal and stick to it for 21 days. Take a before photo of your stomach and after photo. You will notice that for those of you who were not sleeping enough, just making this one change will impact your body composition and feel. ONCE you’ve tackled this goal then move on to adding in gym and diet goals. SLEEP should be the 1st step on your journey to obtaining your dream body/health. Everything else should follow this foundation.
(Reference: Harvard Medical School)