April 07, 2023 3 min read
Striving to obtain a lean, strong, and healthy physique is a challenge.
It’s even more of a challenge when we believe that we are doing things correctly and we aren’t achieving the results we desire!
We put so much effort into choosing the right exercise program, consuming the correct foods, and proper supplementation…
But ONE thing that is frequently overlooked on our journey towards optimal body composition is the importance of quality sleep!
Sleep is a fundamental necessity of our lives and plays an essential role in our physical health and well-being, but recent research is showing its significant importance towards regulating metabolism, body weight, and lean body mass.
While there’s a fairly complex interplay between sleep and body composition due to the various pathways, I will try to simplify it to illustrate just how important focusing on sleep can be to achieving the desired body composition and physiques we are all striving towards!
This is where it starts. Appetite, energy expenditure, fat storage and muscle growth ALL, to one degree or another, are regulated through our hormones!
Leptin and Ghrelin are two hormones that are essential when it comes to body composition. Leptin is the hormone responsible for suppressing appetite and regulating energy balance. Ghrelin on the other hand is considered the “hunger hormone” and stimulates appetite.
When we are sleep deprived we see a decrease in Leptin and an increase in Ghrelin! I’m sure you can see the problem here….increased hunger means more food, more calories, and more fat storage! So managing our sleep patterns is imperative to keeping these two hormones in balance so we don’t start packing on unwanted body fat!
Cortisol also plays a role here. Known as the “stress hormone”, when elevated, can promote fat storage and can break down muscle or inhibit muscle growth and can also disrupt insulin sensitivity leading to less muscle and more fat! Sufficient sleep helps keep cortisol in check and stress lower which can deter undesirable muscle close and fat accumulation!
And lastly, Growth Hormone, which as we have discussed before, is key to muscle growth and repair, but also in the metabolism of fat! During our sleeping hours our growth hormoneis at peak production so when we are sleep deficient this amount of this hormone is drastically reduced and gives way to less recovery, fat metabolism, and muscle growth/repair and negatively impact our body composition overall!
Energy expenditure is a less thought of component when it comes to sleep and body composition. Probably due to the fact that we don’t think of sleep as an energy sucker. However it does play a role. When we experience poor sleep we do not recover properly and thus have less energy the next day to put into exercise or physical activity and if they do, it’s generally not to the same level as if they had a proper night's sleep!
GROWTH AND RECOVERY
We know that adequate sleep is paramount when it comes to training and repairing the muscle we have broken down during exercise.
During sleep we are in our absolute most anabolic (growth) phase of our day where all of the repair and recovery of muscle tissue occurs like protein synthesis.
Protein synthesis is the process where our bodies create new proteins that are then used in the repair and growth of muscle tissue. In combination with things like growth hormone and other hormones, the muscle is repaired and adapted to be bigger and stronger for future stresses.
Inadequate sleep severely reduces this recovery process which can lead to less muscle by way of muscle catabolism (breakdown) leaving us smaller and weaker the next day.
And to take it one more step, that reduction in recovery and muscle mass can slow metabolism and make it more difficult to burn fat!
The saying “More muscle burns more fat” is true due to this increased caloric demands to fuel a larger muscle.
So when looking to optimize our body composition muscle growth and recovery is an incredibly key component to consider!
And there we have it…
The potential missing piece to the fitness puzzle.
It may not be the sexiest or hottest new supplement or diet to hit the scene…
But it is a foundational need and a pillar to any and all body composition goals!
Do Not Neglect.
Your body will thank you.
Kirk Parsley, M.D.