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Sleep may be culprit if gym, diet not showing results

On February 12, 2019

BY GANNON PACIONI / VN COLUMNIST

If you’ve been in a gym, worked with a fitness coach or even had an annoying fitness friend or family member, you’ve inevitably heard the quote, “It is about what you do the 23 hours outside of the gym that really is going to affect your fitness.”

Though true, half the world doesn’t know what the hell that means, let alone what these professionals (or not-so-much professionals) are trying to say.

In a Spark Notes version, what they mean is this: So you have your sleep, stress and nutrition under control?

It would be shallow to dissect all three of those life facets in 500 words.

Instead, let’s focus on how your sleep affects the body’s function from a physical standpoint.

It seems that in current society, sleep has become a luxury and a person who attempts to make it a priority is often looked at as lazy or weak.

The ironic part is that people who don’t get adequate sleep are actually becoming lazier due to poor recovery.

Even if we look past the compromised protection and increased risk of degenerative disease and early death brought about by poor sleep, inadequate sleep negatively affects our ability to build strength, lose weight and gain muscle.

Proper sleep helps to regulate a growth hormone called cortisol. This steroid, when released into the blood, is transported all around the body.

Every cell contains receptors for cortisol, so cortisol can have lots of different actions depending on which sort of cells it is acting upon.

Natural cortisol levels are supposed to be at their highest level right when you wake and then taper off throughout the day, ending with low levels at night.

If someone does not get adequate sleep, these levels can fluctuate and become erratic.

This can inevitably cause some negative effects on the body.

Poor sleep can inhibit control of the body’s blood sugar levels (which regulate metabolism and fat storage), decrease anti-inflammatory properties (which help with recovery in the muscles so you can train the next day), influence memory formation, impact salt and water balance (bloating, cramping and dehydration) and alter blood pressure (which can affect the heart).

Simply missing one hour of sleep per night from what’s optimal for you can prompt your brain to secrete cortisol and shift your body away from muscle building and toward fat storage.

As these inadequate hours of sleep build up over days, weeks and even years, our imbalances become so great that the deficits cannot be made up through diet and fitness alone.

In order to make changes in our sleep habits, we must first figure out what might be preventing us from getting adequate sleep in the first place. 

Just because you work out hard doesn’t always mean you will see results.

There’s more to it.

Pacioni is VN news editor and a certified trainer.

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