By Lisa English
I have been hungry all day today! Seriously, I feel like all I’ve done is eat; and no matter what, that irritating feeling of persistent hunger won’t go away. I could do some serious damage to a large pizza and a pint of ice cream right about now! Do you ever have days like that? Ever wonder WHY you have those days of feeling like a bottomless pit?
Well, I have the answer! Ok, maybe not the only answer, but I figured out what caused my insatiable hunger and relentless cravings for starch and sugar. I didn’t get enough sleep last night! That’s my confession. I broke one of the cardinal fat loss rules and when we break rules there are consequences!
Research shows that the average American adult needs 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
And let me tell you, this girl needs at least 8 quality hours of sleep to function well! The key word here is quality. Now I know some of you think you are good on 5 hours of sleep, but your body needs time to repair and reset hormones. Not getting enough sleep throws all kinds of important hormones out of balance. This leads to increased hunger, decreased energy and cognitive functioning, increased stress and irritability, decreased levels of important fat burning hormones (like HGH) and increased levels of fat storing hormones.
This is how it works. When we are sleep deprived, our bodies are under stress, which raises cortisol levels. You may have heard cortisol referred to as the stress hormone and its connection to increased belly fat. Elevated cortisol leads to an increase in blood glucose, which signals the brain to release insulin. When cortisol and insulin are running around together in elevated levels, our appetite increases, along with our ability to store fat!
Two other important hunger hormones that are affected by a lack of sleep are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is mainly produced in the stomach and tells us when it’s time to eat. Normally ghrelin rises before a meal and falls after we eat. When we haven’t gotten enough sleep, ghrelin levels are elevated, which increases appetite. Leptin is mainly produced in our fat cells and is responsible for shutting off hunger and letting the body know when it’s full. Lack of sleep causes leptin levels to decrease, which means we don’t ever get the memo that we are full.
So basically, since I didn’t get enough sleep last night I threw everything off, put my body under stress, increased my hunger, and decreased my body’s ability to feel full. I set off a hormonal war inside my body that left me craving pizza and ice cream, increased my fat storage potential and squashed my fat burning efforts.
But, all is not lost. Luckily I knew that I didn’t get enough sleep and I knew that my hormones were stacked toward extreme hunger and fat storage, so I armed myself with my best defense mechanisms!
My plan for kicking my hormones into shape!
- I ate regular meals every 2-3 hours
- I focused on lean protein and fibrous veggies
- I drank LOTS of water
- I sipped on BCAAs (branch chain amino acids)
- I took a 60 minute leisure walk
- I took a short nap (15-20 minutes)
Why these tricks work:
- Eating frequent meals focused on mostly protein and fibrous veggies helps regulate blood sugar and control hunger.
- Drinking plenty of water helps with hunger and energy and aids in the digestion of all the fiber J
- BCAAs have been proven to help control hunger, energy and cravings. BCAAs are a secret weapon among figure and bodybuilding competitors, and this is one supplement I recommend to all of my clients. For more awesome information on the science behind BCAAs check out this blog by Metabolic Effect.
- Leisure walking (just a stroll, people, not power walking) helps reduce cortisol.
- Naps have been shown to reduce elevated cortisol caused by a crappy night’s sleep.
So, next time you are having one of those days where you feel like you could gnaw your arm off, ask yourself if you got enough sleep the night before. If your answer is yes, try my tips above. If your answer is no, try my tips above. If sleep isn’t the culprit, something else likely is. While you work on figuring out why your hormones are out of whack, implementing the strategies above will help get them back under control!
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