How to Sleep Your Way to Better Body Composition - Movement-Rx

How to Sleep Your Way to Better Body Composition

If you’re looking to lose fat and gain or maintain muscle, you’ve probably tried dieting or exercising your way there. . .but have you tried sleeping your way there?

Getting enough sleep is a problem for 33% of adults in the United States. Weight management is a problem for 73.5% of adults in the United States. While these are measured as separate problems and have unique underlying issues, there is more overlap than you might think.

Dr. Marissa was LIVE on LinkedIn on June 12, 2024 to connect the dots between better sleep and greater success with weight loss.

Watch the full recording to dive into the details and keep reading below for the highlights on how sleeping more may be your key to long lasting weight management.

1. Sleep regulates your appetite.

Weight loss is generally about creating an imbalance between your energy intake (food/drink) and energy expended (activity, cellular processes) in a way that forces your body to burn some of its energy storage (fat, other tissues) to power you.

However, when we are UNDER slept, we get MORE hungry, and LESS satisfied by the same foods…so much so that one study found that overweight adults who were sleeping 6.5 hours per night were eating a few hundred MORE calories than their bodies needed each day (leads to slow weight gain).  Further, when these same people were told to sleep 8.5 hours per day for 2 weeks, they ended up eating 270 LESS calories per day and lost 2 pounds without changing anything else.

They essentially slept their way to weight loss due to the way sleep regulates our appetites.

2. Sleep puts the brakes on our impulsivity and makes effort feel harder.

When we’re UNDER slept, we are more likely to make impulsive decisions and prioritize short-term gains as the mind is under stress. If that wasn’t enough of an obstacle, insufficient sleep increases what’s known as “perceived effort,” or how difficult cognitive tasks (like work) or physical activities feel.

Now think about how this shows up in the context of body composition or a weight loss goal: when we’re short on sleep, we are more likely to impulsively eat something that won’t nourish our bodies, and we’re more likely to crave and give into cravings for nutritionally poor but tasty foods (think ultra-processed snacks, sugary, fatty salty things). What’s worse, meal planning, cooking, and hitting our daily activity levels or exercise also FEEL HARDER and more fatiguing than they would if we were well slept.

Consider the alternative: when you’re well slept, you’ll feel satisfied and nourished by your meals, you won’t mind the effort of meal prepping, and you’ll have energy in the tank for exercise or activity.

So, which state of mind do you want to be living in?

3. Sleep determines how much muscle you’re losing with dieting.

If you’ve managed to put the lifestyle changes into place that will lead to weight loss, the sleep you’re getting can determine what type of weight your body is losing. In one study, people who were sleeping 5.5 hours per night lost 6.6 pounds in 2 weeks while dieting, but 80% of that lost weight was muscle  (the rest, fat). Compare that to the participants who slept 7.5 hours per night and lost the same amount of weight while dieting, but only 52% of that weight lost was muscle.

Looking to protect even more of your muscle mass while dieting? That’s where dietary protein and resistance training come in. . .but we’ll save that for another post.

Bottom Line: Make your life easier, and make the weight loss process easier by prioritizing 7.5-9 hours of sleep.

How to dive deeper?

At Movement Rx, we are in the business of creating teams that lead and work better from a place of wellbeing. Because if you don’t make time for your wellbeing now, you’ll have to make time for disease later. Let us help your team build and leverage their well-being.

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