Many people are frustrated by the fact that they cannot lose weight. They are cutting down on calories and exercising but the weight still will not come off. A big reason for the difficulty in losing weight tends to be too much sugar and simple carbohydrates in the diet. Eating sugar and simple carbohydrates leads to elevated insulin levels. Insulin is the “get fat” hormone. Increased levels of insulin lead to fat accumulation in fat cells. When insulin levels are chronically elevated, fat is also locked in the fat cells. High insulin levels prevent fat from being released into the blood stream to be used as energy. This is what makes weight loss so difficult. The only way to reverse this is to lower your insulin levels. Significantly decreasing your intake of sugar and simple carbs will lead to lower insulin levels and eventual weight loss. Many people take in much more sugar than they realize. Many foods considered “healthy” contain large amounts of sugar. Yogurt is a good example. Most yogurts are no better than sugary desserts. Most yogurts with fruit are loaded with added sugar. They may be “low fat”, but are not really healthy. Granola is another good example. Many granolas and granola bars are loaded with added sugar. Just like yogurt, many granolas are no better nutritionally than eating sugary desserts such as cake or cookies. Do not be fooled by packaging. Many processed foods are unhealthy and loaded with sugar. Food companies will try to trick you and add multiple different sugars to their products so sugar is lower on the ingredient list. Careful reading of labels is necessary to know how much added sugar you are getting. Sometimes there will be small amounts of many types of sugars, so none of them end up being in the first few ingredients of the label. Other times, sugar masquerades as apparently more “healthy” ingredients, such as honey, rice syrup, or even “organic dehydrated cane juice”. These are sugar. Sometimes fruit juice concentrates will be used, which sound wholesome, but usually the juices chosen, such as white grape, apple, and pear juices, are among the least nutritious of the juices. By the time they are “concentrated”, very little remains but the sugar.Look for sugar in any form including: brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, molasses, and rice syrup. Remember, your body doesn’t care what the label says; it’s all just sugar. Simple carbohydrates are quickly turned to sugar by the body. Avoid simple carbs such as bread, bagels, white rice, pasta, pastries and cookies. So lower your sugar and simple carbohydrate intake and weight loss will start to occur.
Sleep plays an important role in weight management. People who sleep enough have lower body mass indexes (BMI) than people who don’t. Recent research data suggests that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain. Women who got only 4 hours of sleep at night ate 329 additional calories the next day than they did after they slept nine hours. (Men ate 263 calories more.) In another study, 11 volunteers spent 14 days at a sleep center on two occasions. During one period, they slept 5.5 hours a night, and during the other, they slept 8.5 hours. When the subjects were sleep-deprived, they increased their nighttime snacking and were more likely to choose high-carbohydrate snacks.
The biggest revelation about the connection between sleep and weight loss, and the biggest challenge for you if you’re not getting at least seven solid hours of sleep each night, is that sleeping too little impacts your hormone levels in ways that can undermine the efforts of even the most determined dieter. There are several hormones that link sleep with weight loss. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that play an important role in stimulating and suppressing your appetite. Ghrelin’s job is to boost your appetite, increase fat production, and make your body grow, which are undesirable effects once you’ve passed your teenage years. It’s easy to figure out why this hormone is the last thing a dieter needs to have circulating in excess. On the other hand, leptin is responsible for suppressing hunger. Leptin is the hormone that says, “I’m full; put the fork down.” Lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin in your blood and heightens the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase of appetite. The reverse is also true: getting enough sleep decreases hunger and will therefore help you lose weight. So after even one night of too little sleep, leptin and ghrelin become dietary gremlins bent on diet-wrecking mischief. The lower leptin levels mean that you still feel hungry after you eat. And ghrelin, for its part, magnifies the problem by stimulating your appetite, setting the stage for a day of high simple carbohydrate, high-calorie feasting after a restless night. Another important hormone affected by sleep is growth hormone. During sleep, your pituitary gland secretes more growth hormone than during your waking hours. Growth hormones stimulate cell regeneration, reproduction and growth. These hormones are also known to aid you in building muscles. This is why higher levels of growth hormones results in a heightened metabolism. With a higher metabolism, you burn energy faster, which will lead to easier weight loss. Finally, cortisol is another important hormone affected by sleep. Getting eight hours of sleep at night helps you lower the cortisol levels in your blood, while lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol lead to a lower metabolism and cause you to crave simple carbs. High cortisol levels lead to elevated blood sugar levels, increased insulin levels, and finally obesity. (Stress also leads to increased cortisol levels.) If you are trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you have low cortisol levels in your blood. Low cortisol levels lead to lower insulin levels, which help you to lose weight. Getting enough sleep helps you do just that.
Overall, sleep is a crucial factor in losing weight. Sleep suppresses your appetite and raises your metabolism, while allowing your body to rest and recover. So aside from eating a nutritious, high fiber diet and participating in regular aerobic exercise, you should also make sure that you get your full seven to eight hours of sleep every night to help you optimize your hormone levels and promote weight loss. Do not skimp. The next post will discuss several ways to help you sleep.