How much sleep are you getting per night? It may not be enough.
In a recent post I called ‘Why You Didn’t Build Muscle In 2015‘, I put the number 1 issue as…
You’re not getting enough sleep.
I didn’t put it as no.1 because it’s the most crucial factor, but because it’s unbelievably common in today’s world for people to be chronically under-slept. Then we “caffeine up” several times a day to overcome our physical and mental lethargy (the added caffeine helping to further elevate stress/catabolic hormones throughout the day).
So why is it important to muscle-building? A lack of sleep causes increases in catabolic/stress hormones and suppresses the release of muscle-building anabolic hormones.
But it doesn’t end there. The title of this article states that sleep deprivation may actually be making you fat.
So how does that work?
It seems that lack of sleep makes us hungrier and leaves us craving high-calorie foods.
It does this by altering the hormones in our body.
Remember that hormones are the masters. It’s our hormones that dictate where our food/energy goes in our body. For example, pregnant women experience elevated levels of insulin; this makes them store more of their incoming calories as body fat (even if they ate the same number of total calories as before pregnancy).
Our hormones can also tell us when we are full and make us want to stop eating. And lastly, they can also make us hungry. Here’s a study…
A study  entitled ‘Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals’ found that a short sleep of ~4 hours saw women eat 15% more calories per day, and men around 9% extra calories.
This averaged out at about 300 extra daily calories consumed (compared to when the study subjects slept 9 hours per night).
An interesting point here is that energy expenditure (calories out) did not change at all, despite the fact of being awake for 5 extra hours.
So ‘Calories in’ was up 300 | ‘Calories out’ did not change
That’s pretty huge. In just 10 days that would be almost an extra pound of body fat (300 x 10 = 3000. There are 3500 Calories in 1 pound of body fat).
That’s fast weight gain and makes a compelling case for adequate sleep (in addition to my first argument above about sleep and muscle-building).Sleep deprivation can cause you to eat an extra 300 cals/day, making you fat fast. Click here Click To Tweet
So how much sleep are you getting per night?
I average about 7 hours, which seems to work well for me.
Let me know in the comments below. And if you have any tips for a better night’s sleep, I’d love to hear them 🙂 If you’d like more on this, there’s some more info on sleep deprivation and fat gain here at Men’s Fitness and Science.HowStuffWorks.
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Reference:  Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):410-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013904. Epub 2011 Jun 29. St-Onge MP1, Roberts AL, Chen J, Kelleman M, O’Keeffe M, RoyChoudhury A, Jones PJ.
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I went through a period a couple years ago when I only slept a few hours every night. It really affected my mood badly, but yes I really craved sugary and fatty food all day. So I’d say this is legit.
I also agree I work shifts and on nights you crave foods that would to pardon a well known phrase “make a Billy goat puke” that day old pasty or very dry sausage roll that’s also been there a day look really appetising.
I have to say that training some weeks is physically impossible 12 hr nights,travelling,waking up,preparing food take up all your time and running errands that make the house function. Bread milk groceries etc
Unfortunately I only get between five ans six hours sleep a night during the week. I know I need more (and yes, it causes me to drink too much coffee during the day) but it just doesn’t seem possible unless I go to bed right after my workout without spending anytime with my wife. Sugary and Fatty foods aren’t a problem for me but I’m not losing the belly fat no matter how much I train and I believe it is mostly due to the lack of sleep.
@Chris. Very true.
@Bill. Lack of sleep isn’t helping, but remember that fat loss is primarily about diet, not exercise. Diet is the most important factor. Take a look at this: https://musclehack.com/how-to-remove-stubborn-belly-fat-the-truth/
Excellent article. I just laugh if anyone says something about how long I sleep. When it comes to my sleep i’m a pussy. Don’t f with my sleep.
It’s actually amazing how often sleep is the answer to so many people’s problems. It’s just one of those things we take for granted, I guess.
“I’m always tired and I never have energy for the gym! What can I do? Should I get some preworkout, do I need to take some STIMULANTS?!”
How much sleep are you getting?
“Oh you know like 5 hours a night… You know what they say, SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK!”