The 5th Food Group: Sleep

MMmmm, sleep tastes so good! In this fast-paced, techno-hyped world, many have learned to run on empty and be ok with it. But, how ok is it to shoot your metabolism in the foot, store fat more easily, and downregulate your everyday speech synapses?

Even as a dietitian (and a bitchin’ one nonetheless!) who finds food as the answer to everything, I might just say that sleep is even more important than nutrition on the path to health and wellness. With a good night’s sleep (meaning 7+ hours), not only will you quiet your case of the “F-its” and choose healthier foods during the day, but your body chemistry will be more cooperative. Without enough rest, your body is stressed, and responds by making more cortisol. This is GREAT if you’re in the jungle running from a hungry tiger. But not if you’re sitting in a PR planning meeting, or really doing anything besides running from a hungry tiger.

The stress hormone cortisol stimulates hunger and screws with your ability to metabolize carbohydrates (thus increasing blood sugar levels which triggers insulin production and body fat storage). Inadequate sleep also diminishes leptin levels, and believe you me, leptin is something you want a lot of. Leptin triggers fullness and essentially tells your mouth that it’s closed for business. And without the right amount of leptin, you’ll crave carbohydrates. Not the kidney-bean-quinoa type, but the twizzler-chocolately-marshmallow-fluff type. Not enough info to put you to sleep? How about how the lack of sleep minifies growth hormones that regulate fat and muscle proportions in the body? (The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.) So even if you’re working out, you’re going to have trouble building muscle. Sounds like a deal-sealer to me!

Alas, if you’re wearing your bathing suit all day, chowing down on nothing but beans and veggies, zumba-ing your little tush off, and not reaching your health and weight goals, try checking your sleep meter. You may just need to snooze it to lose it.

4 thoughts on “The 5th Food Group: Sleep

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