Many people think of exercise and a healthy diet as the key ingredients of a fit and healthy lifestyle. But did you know that getting a good night’s sleep is every bit as important as a getting in a good workout or eating all that kale?

Here are the three ways sleep can make – or break – your fitness goals (and why you should never cut your ‘ZZ’s short).

Why Sleep is Essential

Muscle Recovery

It’s common knowledge that children and adolescents require more sleep than adults – and that’s because our bodies secrete a growth hormone (called Human Growth Hormone) when we’re in deep sleep. This is what adds inches, brain power, and muscle to a growing body – and also what helps adults recover from physical effort and activity. That’s right: though you’re doing the work when you exercise, muscle is actually built while you sleep – which is why sleep can impact your results so significantly.

Appetite and Fat Storage

Human Growth Hormone isn’t the only hormone that’s balanced while we sleep. Four others that impact fat storage and appetite are also regulated by sleep. They are: Leptin, Ghrelin, Insulin, and Cortisol. Here’s an overview of each and its role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

Leptin and Ghrelin work together to control your appetite – Leptin’s job is to signal the body that you are full while Ghrelin signals your body to eat more. When you are sleep deprived, your body makes more Ghrelin and less Leptin, which can lead to overeating – especially sugary foods.

When it comes to Insulin, a lack of sleep can decrease your ability to use the hormone effectively.  This causes elevated blood sugar levels – and again – an increase in appetite, which can spell disaster when mixed with the sugary foods Ghrelin is telling you to eat.  All of this leads to increased storage of body fat, and in severe cases, Type 2 Diabetes.

Lastly, our stress hormone Cortisol can wreak havoc when not regulated by proper sleep, leading to difficulty managing stress and emotions, poor sleep (a vicious cycle!), and – very importantly – cause the body to store more fat regardless of how well you’re eating.

Neural Recovery

Deep sleep allows your brain to recover from mental effort made throughout the day, and process different types of information, including muscle memory. Having good muscle memory improves your coordination during exercise. So, in addition to helping you recover from past workouts, sleep can have a positive impact on future workouts too.

The amount of sleep an adult needs varies from person to person and depends on several factors – but a minimum of 7 hours is typically recommended by experts, with the ideal being 8 (or more).

Improve Your Health and Wellness

For the reasons above, we always speak to our clients about sleep as part of their overall picture of health and wellness. Two other very important parts of that picture are proper exercise, nutrition and listening to your body when it needs rest..

If you’d like to talk through your goals – and how we can help you reach them – book your complimentary assessment and first workout here. We’d be delighted to come to you!

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Book your complimentary assessment with Nielsen Fitness to begin improving your health and wellness.