Healthy Sleep Habits Are Critical to Succeed With a Fitness & Fat Loss Program

Healthy Sleep Habits Are Critical to Succeed With a Fitness & Fat Loss Program

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Home Page > Sports and Fitness > Fitness > Healthy Sleep Habits Are Critical to Succeed With a Fitness & Fat Loss Program

Healthy Sleep Habits Are Critical to Succeed With a Fitness & Fat Loss Program

Posted: Apr 14, 2012 |

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Many of us are focused on working out and eating right in order to lose weight and get in shape. It’s good that we spend our efforts finding the right diet and exercise program, and persevere in order to achieve the results we want. Those of us who start down this path are to be encouraged, and those who stick to it are to be applauded. But aside from all the diet and exercise options we explore, there’s one essential ingredient that almost all of us ignore, and that ingredient is sleep.

Sleep is one of the casualties of our modern lifestyle. We’ve defeated darkness, and made it easier to work or play for more hours in the day than we did in earlier periods of human history. The consequence is that we sleep less than we should. Although we require 8 hours sleep per night, the average American sleep just under 7 hours. Over the course of a week, we lose almost a full night’s sleep. As this sleep deficit accumulates it takes a toll on our mental and physical health.

If you’re following a diet and exercise regime in order to improve your fitness and shrink your waist-band, this sleep debt is counter-productive in a number of disturbing ways:

Over Eating. Lack of sleep makes you hungry. As if that weren’t bad enough, it makes you hungry for sugar, salt and starch – not exactly key ingredients of a healthy diet! If you’re running a sleep debt, there’s a good chance you’re eating more calories than you need, and that you’re eating more junk than you should. If you eat more calories than you burn, the result is weight gain. Not exactly what you’re hoping for.

Stress. When you don’t get enough sleep, your stress level rises. This does more than just make you “feel” stressed. Drawing on its fight-or-flight instinct, your body responds to stress with adrenaline, which mobilizes fatty acids into your blood so that your inner cave-man (or cave-woman) has enough energy to out-run the hungry lion that’s on your heels. Except, there is no lion, just a lack of sleep. So your body needs to put those fatty acids back into bulk storage. (Do you have a stubborn chunk of flab that won’t go away? Your gut or thighs? Maybe this is your bulk storage.) Stress is also highly correlated with injury. This is because stress both increases your muscle tension and reduces your ability to pay attention, both of which are contribute to causing mishaps. Any non-trivial injury will interrupt your workout routine, either diminishing its intensity, or preventing the routine entirely.

Poor athletic performance. When exercising with a sleep debt, your heart beats faster than it otherwise would, and your ability to absorb of oxygen is reduced. You may not notice it unless you’re working near maximum capacity, but your body’s less efficient, and your workout is consequently less effective. Furthermore, your maximum performance is also impacted. The maximum force you can exert is less, which robs the effectiveness of your weight training. The time it takes for you to become exhausted is also less, robbing your cardio / endurance training. If that weren’t bad enough, a sleep-deprived body also produces more lactates, contributing to muscle soreness and fatigue.

Hampered mental and emotional state. When sleep-deprived, your mind is less focused and indecisive, and your emotional state is less interested, less motivated, and more prone to depression and anxiety. These factors make you less dedicated, and more inclined to find excuses to take an easy workout, lapse in your diet, or just quit altogether. The loss of focus also increases the likelihood of injury.

Fortunately, this is easily rectified if you set your mind to it. After all, sleeping is easier than working out and eating right, and it’s very pleasurable! You just need to get into the right habits, and unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from sleeping, you probably already know how to do this. Aim to get 8 hours sleep per night. Figure out how much sleep you’re getting now, and how much you’re missing, and go to bed earlier so that you get the 8 hours. Be really critical of any excuses you may make for not doing this. They usually don’t bear much scrutiny, and include things like watching your favorite TV show (record it, rent the DVD, or just skip it), or getting ahead with your work (if you turn up to work well rested, you’ll be more productive and friendlier, both of which will get you ahead in your career.) Make sure your bedroom has nothing that will distract you from sleep. Put the TV and laptop in another room. Do something relaxing before bed, like reading a light book and having a small healthy snack. But don’t do a workout before bed, and don’t drink coffee in the evening. I know you already knew this, but having read this article, you now know why you should do it.

In summary, when you’re embarking on a program to get fit and lose weight, as well as dedicating yourself to a carefully chosen diet and exercise program, you need to be committed to getting enough sleep. It’s easier than it sounds and the benefits are huge.

About the Author:
The author, Robert Brown, is an enjoyer of life, who’s passionate about being in shape and a big fan of the athletic approach to fitness. He also knows what it’s like trying to squeeze an effective exercise routine into busy schedule.
He channels his fitness experience into his Athletic Workout Review web site. Given that this is generally drawn from his own experience and research, he pleads guilty to being unconsciously biased towards his own interests, but tries to consider all perspectives. For good examples of effective fitness programs that are more than just workout schedules, he suggests looking at some of the reviews on his site, such as his review of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto.
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