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How’s your sleep?

Even if your sleep is not interrupted and you get a ‘good 7 or so hours’ you may be short changing yourself.

Let’s take a step back. We know sleep is important, but why does it matter when trying to lose belly fat?

Sleep is THE number 1 strategy for recovery from training and reducing overall stress. Don’t recover from training or let overall life stress not be diminished and you WILL have belly fat, PERIOD. Belly fat is caused by 4 primary factors. Cortisol, the stress hormone. Sugar, a stressor to the body. Alcohol, a poison to the body and gut inflammation from poor nutrition habits.  Do all you want but without clearing up gut inflammation, a lean stomach isn’t physically possible; it’ll always have that ‘pooch’ look regardless your total body fat levels.

Ever have the ‘tired and wired’ feeling or wake up around 2-3am for no reason? Congratulations, your stress hormones are in overdrive which means overdrive in belly fat accumulation, yikes!

You can have the best training and nutrition on the planet, but without reducing stress, especially those of financial, relationships and work, and all that perfect training is reduced dramatically in effectiveness.

Let’s look at another angle, REM cycles.

REM cycles and sleep are found to be optimized in roughly 90 min blocks. So 6 hours, 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep are optimal.

That means if you wake up at 8 hours of sleep, you’ll probably feel like crap vs waking up at 6 hours and feeling awesome with less sleep.

Sounds weird, but test it out on your own some time.

And that’s only the REM cycles!

Have caffeine in the afternoon or evening? You can forget deep sleep even happening.

Eat foods (alcohol, caffeine and sugar being the biggest culprits) for dinner or before bed that are not only likely to make you gain fat faster but completely destroy your sleep as well, which continues the nasty cycle of no recovery resulting in more overall fat, specifically in the belly!

So how do you know what’s destroying your sleep and when you should wake up for optimal daily function?

Test and track.

Zeo sleep tracker (can get them at Amazon) that’s also a alarm clock using gentle nature noises that progressively get louder vs a stress inducing blaring alarm clock that strikes right when you are mid cycle.

You give the Zeo a window and what time you absolutely need to be up and it tracks your sleep all night and wakes you up within that window at the optimal time, so no guessing by going to bed at X time and hoping you hit it just right. And generally the phone apps that try to do the same thing as the Zeo just aren’t accurate enough to test and track variables, don’t waste your time on the apps, just get the Zeo.

So we need sleep for recovery and stress reduction as a part of an overall strategy in a healthy lifestyle and fat loss program.

So after we start tracking, how can we improve sleep?

The top 2 things I do plus one that I’ve heard about:
Go to sleep on time no matter what, absolutely, positively ZERO EXCUSES
Healthy fats in a snack before bed or high levels of saturated fat in the dinner meal
Magnesium spray right after the shower

Those are assuming that you’re relaxing before bed by reading a book, stretching, etc.

DO NOT look at a TV or computer/tablet/phone and reduce artificial light an hour before bed. The light waves will stimulate hormones that tell you to wake up and get moving, not sleep. Also I’ve found that if I leave any small lights on (alarm clocks, LED on a phone charging or worse fall asleep with a computer screen open) that my eyes will be ON FIRE the next morning. I never noticed this until I made my sleeping area completely pitch dark….moonlight and starlight are no problem, street lights are. Also keep in mind having electronics within a few feet of you may have some negative health effects. The data isn’t clear, but it won’t hurt to keep them as far away as possible during sleep.

Which leads us to the bedroom. The bedroom should have a bed and a closet of clothes, that’s it. No TV’s, (thee worst offender if those Home Improvement TV shows are any indication!) no computers, no home offices or workstations, etc. Maybe a book and a glass of water, everything else needs to be gone to maximize relaxation. Think that little thing in the corner doesn’t matter? Ask yourself, will the world end if I can’t see anything but a bed, a book, a lamp and a glass of water in this room? If the world won’t end, just try it….for at least a month while tracking your sleep, one night or week will never give you conclusive data.

If you’re one of the above people that wakes up around 2-3am, you may try having a handful of almonds by your bed to chuck down as soon as you wake up. One of the reasons you may be waking up is that your stress hormone cortisol has been flip flopped and is going down at night instead of the day….which means it’s consuming fuel, which in turn will turn on your hunger hormones even though you may not feel hungry at all, the hormones are telling you to wake up, conduct your day and find food. The almonds may help curb that a bit and some of the minerals might help you sleep.

Just remember the snack is only a band-aid to the gushing wound called stress; fixing stress and it’s related hormones is the only way to get this under control.

So quick summary:

  • Recovering and reducing stress reduces belly fat faster and better than ANY training or nutrition program
  • Get a Zeo sleep tracker from Amazon, test and track your sleep habits
  • Bedroom needs to be pitch black, not even a single LED light from a phone charger
  • Go to bed on time!
  • Relax before bed without using a computer or TV
  • Magnesium and saturated fats before bed are pure awesomeness…and give you some awesome movie like dreams 🙂
  • If you’re waking up in the middle of the night for no reason or have the ‘tired but wired’ feeling before bed, try having a handful of almonds to chuck down

Something else to keep in mind from a health aspect is brush your teeth and especially tongue prior to drinking anything. We collect a lot of crap in our mouth sleeping and by drinking without rinsing your mouth first will just send all that bacteria, dust and who knows what all into your gut, not a good thing.

I think that covers the extent of sleep for what the average person can get into. You can also track your HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and resting HR every morning before getting out of bed. Combine this and the Zeo sleep score and you have a really good idea what’s going on.

Let’s make this summer your best fat loss – and best sleep getting –  yet!

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