“But, Um, You’re Still Fat.”
Sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Here’s an example:
Once upon a time, I was talking to an overweight woman who asked me for some diet advice. I gave it to her. She responded by telling me that I was wrong. You see, Weight Watchers was the best plan, she explained. In fact, she was a lifetime member. (That’s apparently a thing.)
Using more willpower than I’d ever mustered before, I smiled and walked away. What I wanted to say was, “But, lady, you’re still fat. You’ve been dieting for 15 years and you’re fatter now than when you started. Explain that!”
She probably couldn’t have explained it, but we can figure it out:
- She flip-flopped between overeating and over-dieting: eat too much for a while, then eat too little for a while.
- Every time she went on a diet, she ate too little protein, didn’t weight train, and lost muscle. That muscle loss wrecked her metabolism.
- Off the Weight Watchers bandwagon, her “normal” diet made her store fat even faster than before. Her previous maintenance intake of calories wasn’t her maintenance level anymore. It had dropped because of the muscle loss.
- Repeat all that for years and, yeah, she’s almost always on a diet yet slowly getting fatter anyway.
And she also dropped one more bomb during the conversation: she didn’t sleep much, she said, maybe 5 or 6 hours a night. Turns out, this made the muscle loss dramatically worse.
Researchers took 10 overweight people and put them all on the same two-week, reduced-calorie diet. They were divided into two groups:
- Group 1 was allowed to sleep 8.5 hours a night.
- Group 2 was allowed to sleep only 5.5 hours a night.
(Yeah sure, ten people is a small sample size, but let’s give the researchers a break here. YOU try to recruit hundreds of people to go on a diet, go to bed in a university sleep laboratory, and have their sleep deprived.)
- Group 1, who got a good night’s sleep, lost about 3 pounds of fat and lost a bit over 3 pounds of muscle on average. That sucks, but it was worse for the other group.
- Group 2, the sleep deprived group, lost about 1 pound of fat and lost more than 5 pounds of muscle! That’s means they lost 55% less fat and 60% more muscle than the group that got adequate sleep.
Why Did This Happen?
Well, first, they didn’t lift weights or eat enough protein, but the researchers were focused on other things.
They pointed to “a shift in relative substrate utilization toward oxidation of less fat.” Basically, sleep deprived subjects couldn’t put their dietary fat and carbs to work, they experienced an enhanced neuroendocrine adaptation to caloric restriction, and they burned less fat and more muscle.
What This Means to You
You probably eat plenty of protein and lift weights. But how’s your sleep? Although you’re somewhat protected from muscle loss, insufficient sleep may still be causing you to lose too much muscle when you decide to get ripped.
In the study, both groups consumed the same number of calories, yet the sleep deprived group lost less fat and more muscle. We can assume the same thing would happen to active, protein-eating folks, just to a lesser extent.
So if you want your diet to work better, if you want to lose more fat while retaining muscle, get a full night’s sleep. If you need help, look into a supplement that helps you relax before bed and get deeper sleep. Biotest Z-12™ is the top choice.
- Nedeltcheva AV1, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD.
Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity.