Let’s be real, we all feel better when we’ve had a good night sleep. High quality sleep is not only one of the cornerstones of high performance, it also plays an integral role in fat loss. If you experience poor sleep, you are probably familiar with the effects it has on your brain, performance and ability to achieve your fat loss goals.
In this article we’ll cover why sleep is so important, how it affects fat loss and what you can do to improve it. We’ll also recommend our favorite sleep supplement, Performance Lab Sleep, but more on that shortly.
According to the CDC, more than half of the people living in the US suffer with insomnia, and around 4 percent of the population are taking daily sleeping pills to help them get a good night’s rest. So, it’s safe to say we might have a sleeping issue.
What happens when you don’t sleep enough?
First and foremost, our brain suffers the most when you don’t sleep well. A study on sleep deprivation found that after being awake for 19 hours straight, your attention, memory, reaction time, and mental accuracy fall significantly.
If you’ve ever gone with very minimal sleep, you can probably relate to the feeling of being drunk (even though you’re just tired); this has been studied in a clinical trial published by the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Journal – and is actually true. The tiredness makes your brain perform exactly as it would if you were intoxicated. Yikes.
But it’s not just your mental performance that suffers. Inadequate sleep seriously impacts your gym performance and recovery. Poor sleep causes your hormones to go crazy: your growth hormone and testosterone levels fall, protein synthesis is impaired, as shown in a study published on PubMed.
Poor sleep also activated specific pathways that activate muscle break down (catabolism), explored in a 2011 study by Dattilo et al. This will seriously prevent your body’s ability to build or retain muscle, regardless of how much training you are doing. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
So, your cognitive functions are impaired and you’re going to struggle to gain or retain muscle, but when it comes to fat loss, that’s where you’re really going to struggle.
A 2011 study examined the effects of a lack of sleep on fat loss. The study gave a group of participants a calorie restricted diet plus either 8.5 hours’ sleep or only 5.5 and found that the group who only slept 5.5 hours lost 0.6kg on average whilst the group that slept 8.5 lost 1.4kg which is 55% more! This is despite participants having the same calorie deficit and dietary composition, which emphasizes the importance of sleep for effective fat reduction.
So why does this happen?
Poor sleep is associated with an increased body fat percentage, as shown in a longitudinal study published in 2015. This occurs for a number of reasons.
Firstly, when you’re sleep deprived you have a spike of ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone associated with increasing your appetite. Elevated ghrelin is responsible for a reduced energy expenditure, promoting fat retention and excessive hepatic glucose output – which in turn supports the fuel-to-glucose dependent tissues and increases de novo lipogenesis, which is the process of storing extra carbohydrates as fat.
Alongside increased ghrelin, poor sleep causes a boost of cortisol (the stress hormone) which further promotes fat storage.
Your body holds onto calories as a survival mechanism. Even when you are in a calorie deficit and sleep deprived, your body will break down muscle mass rather than fat. A study in Sweden noticed this trend and observed the role of catabolism and sleep, using participants with insomnia or shift workers. The study found that the participants had more protein breakdown in the muscles, but in the fat tissue there were elevated levels of proteins associated with fat storage.
Another reason poor sleep is associated with an elevated body fat percentage is that when you are sleep deprived, your body is searching for additional energy to complete your daily tasks. When you have enough sleep, your mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cells) are efficient enough at providing their own energy from food and stored energy to complete your daily tasks. But when you haven’t slept, your body will prompt you to search for high fat/high sugar foods i.e. those containing the most energy.
Meaning that when you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to reach for more unhealthy food. A study that used nearly 28,000 participants found that those with the least sleep ate more total calories, ate more frequently and ate more so in the evening time. Less sleep was also associated with lower fruit and vegetable consumption and higher consumption of fat and candy. This is likely to be for the reason just mentioned, but it also might be because of the cognitive downregulation, which makes self-discipline harder.
So, if you want to recover quicker, lose fat, build muscle mass and optimize your performance, you need to be following your circadian rhythm. This relates to the natural process of rising with the sun and sleeping with the moon – your internal body clock.
How can you improve your sleep?
Rather than medicating yourself with sleeping pills in order to have a good night sleep, opt for a more natural supplement that will give you the rest you need without the negative side effects.
The Performance Lab Sleep supplement from Opti-Nutra is one of our favorites; it’s an effective and natural supplement that aids a restful night’s sleep.
Natural Sources of Melatonin
Pretty much every sleep supplement will contain melatonin, and rightfully so. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pineal gland that is responsible for making you feel sleepy in the evening to be able to sleep soundly. If you are suffering with poor sleep or insomnia, you likely have lower circulating levels of melatonin.
But most sleeping supplements contain synthetic melatonin, which can be unsafe due to it interacting with your hormones and essentially confusing your body and brain. Performance Lab use melatonin from nature’s richest source, known as Montmorency Tart Cherry.
Rather than using synthetic hormones, Performance Lab use melatonin that is identical to the natural hormone secreted in your brain. This means that is extremely bioavailable and does not disrupt your other hormones, but rather helps your body naturally adapt to a normal circadian rhythm.
Magnesium Sleep Benefits
The supplement also contains magnesium, which is one of the most abundant minerals found in your body and is readily associated with aiding restful sleep. It also has been shown in research to relax muscles and brain activity by allowing a lower blood pressure which happens when you are drifting into sleep.
However, magnesium has low bioavailability in supplement form, which is why Performance Lab have adjusted the content of their magnesium component into magnesium bisglycinate, magnesium taurate and NutriGenesis™ magnesium. These components of magnesium increase the bioavailability and are identical to naturally occurring magnesium.
L-Trytophan Sleep Benefits
The final ingredient of the supplement is L-tryptophan. This ingredient is one of the nine essential amino acids and is a precursor to niacin, serotonin and melatonin production. More research is being conducted and published on this ingredient that scientists are touting as a ‘magic sleep aid’. As it is a precursor to serotonin, this ingredient is also associated with a boosted mood throughout the day and a feeling of calm during the evening.
Performance Lab Sleep is non-addictive, stimulant-free and vegan-friendly. It is produced in a quality GMP complaint lab, and is free from GMO, soy, gluten, allergens and synthetic additives. Such a clean formula promises no groggy side effects as you might experience with synthetic sleeping pills.
For best results, combine Performance Lab Sleep with a few key changes to your sleep routine, such as:
–Creating a set bedtime routine – going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time.
-Improving your sleep environment – If you’re sleeping on an old mattress, you should definitely consider a replacement. Check out the MattressNerd guide to see what would be the best fit for you.
–Cutting our stimulants after mid-afternoon. Caffeine, for instance, can stay in your system for hours after ingestion, interfering with your sleep. Avoid it in pre-workouts too if you like to exercise after work.
–Avoid blue light for an hour, ideally two, before going to bed. Our body is supremely sensitive to light and anything that interferes with that can disrupt our melatonin production and circadian rhythm. The blue light from laptops, tablets, computers and telephones is particularly disruptive.
If you are suffering with poor sleep and are trying to lose fat, you’re facing an uphill struggle. Address the problem with your sleep before expecting to see any real fat loss, by making sleep a priority and choosing a high quality, effective supplement like Performance Lab Sleep. If you want to go the extra mile, supplementing with Performance Lab’s SPORT Pre-workout and/or the Performance Lab SPORT Fat Burner will help to provide extra energy during a workout and help to metabolize fat stores.