PJ's Fitness Blog

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Sleep Yourself Skinny and Eat Yourself Thin

sleeping-puppyThe topic of how sleep affects fat loss is discussed more extensively in my book, “Cracking Your Calorie Code,” so be sure to check out the big picture there, but since I finished writing it, there have been some other interesting research studies that have come out teaching us even more about how we can strategically use sleep time to burn fat.

In a study to be published in the upcoming May Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology, scientists found that insufficient sleep disrupts the hormone balance responsible for signaling the body when it’s full. Before this study, no one had evaluated nocturnal levels of the two key energy balance hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, and leptin signals the fullness sensation. They discovered that sleep loss leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin, a “double whammy” that makes appetite harder to control the next

Mhileou sleep. This “youth elixir” your body produces can give you all sorts of benefits ranging from fat burning, to muscle building, to joint pain and inflammation reduction and more. Growth hormone naturally declines with age, so this is especially helpful for those of us past 40.

2.) Cottage cheese before bed (organic of course) can have a muscle sparing effect and metabolism boost while you sleep. The type of protein and the way it is found in cottage cheese breaks down slowly, and has a resulting time-release effect through the night. This causes your metabolism to stay elevated higher than your normal sleeping levels because it is working on digesting it. This slow breakdown also allows for a longer supply of protein feeding your muscles and delays the muscle catabolization that normally happens in the morning hours due to the fast caused by sleeping.

It is true however, that certain calories will make you store fat while you sleep if you eat them before bed. The three biggest offenders are alcohol, fructose, and fast carbs like sugar and starches. Stay away from these calories after 5 pm and you will do yourself a huge favor in the fight against fat – especially belly fat.

Alcohol attacks your fat burning ability more aggressively than any other calorie. It not only shuts down your fat burning system immediately – it also turns on your fat storing system at the same time.

Scientists have proven that fructose, or fruit sugar, and especially the kind found in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), takes a short cut to converting into fat more than any other kind of carb or sugar [J Nutr 2008; 138:1039-1046]. In fact, at least 30% of the HFCS you eat converts directly into fat no matter if you try to burn it off with exercise or not. No other carb does this. What this means is that even fat free foods that have HFCS in them (and most do) aren’t really fat free after they are digested.

HFCS also interferes with leptin signals, preventing your brain from getting the signal to stop eating. It has even been found to go one step further and initiate brain signal pathways to increase appetite! [Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (Published online ahead of print at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.02.145) M.D. Lane, S.H. Cha] Recently Kraft foods, Pepsico, and Pizza Hut have gone back to regular sugar because of the heat HFCS has been taking lately due to the research.

Other fast sugars like starches, dextrose and sucrose spike your insulin and keep you in a fat storing mode while you sleep until you can burn it all off – or worse – convert the excess into fat. So in summary, your two main take home points here are as follows:

1.) GET YOUR SLEEP (7-8 hours is ideal for most people).

2.) Taper off carbs and ramp up your protein after 5 pm. A whey shot or cottage cheese can burn off extra fat while you sleep. Personally, I do both, but in a combination of the two. I like chocolate, so I mix one scoop of MRM (100% all natural) chocolate whey powder with 4 ounces of cottage cheese in a blender and then refrigerate for 1 hour. It turns out like chocolate mousse and tastes like a crust less chocolate cheesecake. Nice bedtime snack huh? I sure think so!

These strategies will expand your fat burning window and use your sleep hours to your advantage instead of to your detriment!