The subject of sleep and weight loss is an absolutely crucial factor in any so-called health regime. Sleep is one of the key non-negotiables to optimal health, performance, and physical potential. Getting the right amount of sleep is an imperative for a healthy hormonal system and whilst many of us are tempted to skip sleep at times, often for very good reasons, it is the not the best choice. In very simple terms not getting enough sleep plays havoc with:

1. Testosterone production – go a few nights on 60% measures of sleep and see where your sex drive is at. Possibly a teenager or young man in his 20s won’t feel this, but wait until the 30s and 40s hit.

2. Insulin/Cortisol “see-saw” – your tired mind (never forget how significant the brain is in these things) and body needs boosts in cortisol to get it going and is also more insulin resistant (meaning it is much more likely to store glucose in the fat cells). What sort of foods do you reach for when you are sleep deprived? The worst kinds right – you do this for a hormonal reason and it will send you into a negative spiral of worse food, lower “real” energy, mental fog and fat accumulation.

3. Growth Hormone production – we release a lot of our HGH during certain cycles of sleep. Miss these cycles out and you can’t play “catch up”.

Now that I’ve hopefully grabbed your attention on the subject of sleep and weight loss, what follows is an interesting article by UP. What’s great about this piece is that we give you some of the practical, and slightly less obvious, tips that we aim to give our personal training clients if their sleep is impaired for any reason. Read, enjoy, and you can ask questions at the bottom of the page and one of the team will do our best to help! 

Sleep & Weight Loss: The Mother Transformer

woman sleeping

Changing a person’s aesthetics is achieved through the manipulation of diet, exercise and supplementation of nutrients. The one overlooked point, which most consider secondary to the aforementioned, is that of sleep. Sleep is not only vital for our sanity, but also that of our body composition.

There are five stages of sleep the brain goes through. During each phase biochemistry is altered within the body to promote memory retention and increase hormonal production. The first two phases of sleep are the transition period from a state of being awake to that of reduced body temperature and slower brain waves, while phase two sleep is also linked to that of phase five, during which the regulation of new movement patterns are laid down and established.

The third and fourth state of sleep is that of hormonal production and receptor sensitivity regulators – this phase of sleep is known as deep wave sleep. The final phase is that of REM sleep: this phase is responsible for establishing motor unit function and memory retention.

So how does this all relate to body composition and performance in the gym? Transforming one’s physique is a specialty of ours at Ultimate Performance, and one of the reasons we are so good at what we do is our understanding of manipulating sleep to do what we want it to. Let’s take a look at how the different phases of sleep are linked to positive body composition changes.

Phase two and five sleep are vital in setting one’s motor unit control: in weight training knowing how to perform the biomechanical movement patterns correctly is the difference between correct load dispersion and reduced injury occurrence. Therefore, in establishing phase two and five sleep stages we can better re-teach our clients how to perform the exercise whilst they are sleeping. By decreasing body temperature and regulating room temperature, one can create an environment that will sustain REM sleep. REM sleep can however easily be affected by noise pollution and light interference.

Light interference can easily create a sensory marker in the brain that disturbs REM sleep, therefore it is vital to establish the best sleep environment. Black-out curtains can be used and any light disturbances (electrical devices stand-by lights) should be eliminated. Even the slightest light contact with the skin will reduce the quality of REM sleep, so the darker the bedroom the more likely one is able to gain quality REM sleep.

Phase three and four sleep is critical is composition change because during these phases the human body resets insulin sensitivity and promotes growth hormone production: if one awakes between 1am and 3am in the morning after falling asleep at 10am this phase of sleep is disturbed. The liver is responsible for much of the hormonal balance, so if the liver is unable to fully process toxins this balance is disturbed and the effect will be a lack of urinary control and a need to use the bathroom half way through one’s sleep cycle. The problem with disturbing deep wave sleep is that in this phase the switch is reset to prevent the onset of diabetes or cancer growth, so not only is it vital for composition change but that of quality of life as well.

Magnesium is vital in aiding cortisol management, and is therefore, going to aid deep wave sleep in resetting insulin sensitivity. Magnesium is also a catalyst in re-establishing adrenal health through the cortisol/insulin connection. Californian poppy extract is a great herbal adaptogen that relaxes brain waves into deep wave sleep. It also acts as a liver detoxifier and has a secondary pathway in slowly aiding the removal of toxins that affect one’s sleep cycle.

If your sleep cycle is predominantly affected during deep wave sleep try the following liver detoxifying protocol (this information is for educational purposes only: any participation of the following programme is not endorsed or encouraged through Ultimate Performance nor Justin Maguire and we always suggest that medical advice should be sought prior to using supplements or making any significant lifestyle change).

1. Rotate your fibre source (start with Poliquin Nutritions Fibre Supplement for eight days then rotate to a different Fibre Supplement).

2. Glucuronic acid is vital in unbinding phase two detoxified substances for removal from the GI tract. Take two calcium d-glucarate capsules three times daily for 16 days.

3. Take DIM for eight days at two capsules three times daily then rotate to Uber Sulforaphane at the same dose for the remaining eight days.

4. Methylators are needed for phase one detoxification as well as the inclusion of folic acid, therefore take one to three Methylator Plus over the 16 days to aid the initial phase of detoxification.

5. As an ongoing liver support formula I recommend taking two teaspoons of Greens powder twice daily mixed into a 1.5ltr water bottle: maintaining pH levels will aid not only GI detoxification but also maintain proper cortisol management.

Types of food will also affect one’s sleep cycle. Foods that are high in carbohydrates may increase serotonin production, however, the downside is that once blood sugar levels decline the body will go into a natural hunger mode and you are likely to wake up as natural reaction to low blood sugar. Foods that are high in essential fats will aid in establishing a constant blood glucose level, which is beneficial as the body will be able to go into a fasting state while slow-release energy is being made available for metabolic function. Therefore, one option to try is to stay away from carbohydrate-rich meals at least two hours before bed and try to rather include a meal rich in essential fatty acids.

Once sleep has been perfected, all other hormonal regulations will fall into place. The effect of sleep on weight loss and overall performance is pronounced so the most critical part of any training programme is to establish a correct sleep cycle. Through better sleep comes a better body and a better mind.