Fitness, Lifestyle

Sleep , Health and Fat loss – Are they related?

Nutrition and Exercise are the thoughts that instantly come to our mind when we think about losing fat, improving health or strengthening our body.  A critical factor or component that we tend to neglect is “Sleep”. Quality ‘zzzz’ or shut-eye is one of the most neglected and undervalued aspect of health.

If you have not got the desired results despite eating nutritious food and working out in a structured manner, the quality and quantity of your sleep should be analysed carefully. Clarity of thoughts, energy levels, performance in gym, digestion, immunity, depression, sex-drive and fat burn has a direct correlation to the proper/poor sleep you had in the previous nights.

Optimizing sleep pattern is crucial for health and weight loss. Studies suggest that, over a period of 6 years, people who sleep either less than 6 hours a night or those who do so for more than 9 hours have similar body composition outcomes and gain twice as much weight compared to those who sleep for 7-8 hours.

What happens when we sleep?

Restful sleep is when the sleep is deep, peaceful and without any body movement. During restful sleep our body repairs, rejuvenates and detoxifies itself so we wake up fresh having abundant energy for the next day. Our nerve cells are repaired ensuring faster communication inside our body happens, which means we can learn, memorize, and think faster and clearer.

Most of our hormones, including Thyroid stimulating hormone(TSH)Growth hormone (GH) and the sex hormones like testosterone , estrogen, Progesterone, LH etc are mostly secreted and released into the blood during sleep. Even though we slog in the gym for a chiselled/shredded look, the real chiseling happens when we sleep .

When we sleep after a workout, our muscles grow , restore and repair. Repaired muscles and optimal sex hormones are essential to sport that ripped look.

What happens when we sleep less?

Going for a weekend night out, pushing our work till the midnight, watching tv or a movie late night or any voluntary form of sleep reduction has become a mark of modern society.

Even if we sleep less for  just or a single night or several, it will cause damage. Some of the things that occur when we sleep less are

  • Decreased Thyroid function and Growth hormone
  • Increased hunger hormone and Decreased satiety hormone
  • Increased stress hormones – cortisol and Decreased insulin sensitivity

In short, Sleeping less is a perfect recipe for hormonal chaos leading to lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes, PCOS , High blood pressure, heart diseases, fertility problems, Hyper/hypo thyroid etc.

Are you hungry or sleep deprived?

When we are awake for longer time at night it is normal for us to feel hungry , as we need more energy to be awake than to sleep. Added to this our satiety hormone is reduced and hunger hormone is increased, which makes us raid our kitchen and eat energy dense processed junk food. Well, we don’t reach out for a fruit when we are hungry at 1am .

What affects our sleep?

Apart from the intended sleep curtailment, there are also other lifestyle factors that affect our sleep with or without our knowledge. Knowing those habits will help us change our lifestyle, which can improve our sleep quality.

Staying away from gadgets atleast 30 minutes before bed time is crucial for restful sleep,

  1. Exposure to artificial light around bed time

Artificial lights known as ‘blue light’ include light from lamps, devices like TV, Laptop, mobiles and other gadgets. The sleep hormone melatonin is produced only during darkness. Exposing ourselves to such gadgets and devices closer to bedtime will block the secretion of this hormone.

Sleep tip : Limit usage of devices(TV, phone, Ipad, Laptop) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Reduce the intensity of lighting closer to bedtime.

  1. Lack of physical activity

Exercise reduces our stress and tires us out. Physical activity closer to the start of the day or noon is shown to have a positive impact on sleep as we get tired by the end of the day and fall asleep faster. This also improves the quality of sleep. Working out in the wrong way will also affect sleep and our results.

Sleep tip : Exercise in the mornings or early evenings to set your metabolism  and sleep wake cycle right.

  1. Our last meal of the day

A large supper will rev up our metabolism and makes it harder for us to have a good night’s sleep. The sleep that we have after a heavy meal will be less repairing and restful as our body must digest the heavy meal which is still lying in our stomach.

Sleep tip: Eat a light/ moderately heavy meal 2-3 hours ahead of your bedtime.

  1. Mental stress and physical illness

Physical illness, depression and other stress related disorders are linked to elevated stress hormones  – which results in sleep disturbances and reduces the quality of sleep.

Sleep tip : Try meditating a few hours before the bed time and create a peaceful bed time routine to reduce the stress hormones and to improve the quality of sleep.

Our sleep need, to restore our health to optimal may vary depending on our illness, age, mental stress(exams), stage of parenthood(new mom) and more.

The magic number or the amount of sleep each of us need to function at our best might vary between 7-8 hours , but the fact that sleep loss will reduce our productivity and performance be it in gym, home or at our workplace is certain.

 

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This article was originally written for and published in the October 2017 issue of ‘Stayfit’ magazine.

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

How to Reset Hormones In Just a Weekend?

Yes, it is totally possible to make or break your hormone balance over a weekend.

Hormones are chemical messengers that will tell your body and its organs to function in a specific way. When hormones go out of balance, we end up with issues like hypothyroidism, obesity,  PCOS, insomnia, Diabetes , endometriosis, low sperm count, fibroid. While treating these issues, doctors focus on the specific hormone that is causing the issue.  They do not treat the core issue of hormonal imbalance in the body. No hormone can carry out its function optimally without interacting with or influencing other  hormones .

What majority of people focus on are the major hormones namely:

  • Thyroid
  • Insulin
  • Estrogen(women) or Testoserone(men)
  • Progesterone

Some of the other hormones that often get neglected but are responsible for keeping us happy, calm, and energetic are

  • Serotonin – Happy hormone that stabilizes mood
  • Dopamine – Pleasure hormone responsible for motivation and focus
  • GABA – induces calm, sleep , reduces anxiety and fear .
  • Cortisol –stress hormone and affects insulin sensitivity and sleep
  • Melatonin –hormone responsible for sound sleep
  • Growth hormone – GH Improves muscles mass and heart health
  • DHEA – Fights fat accumulation and essential to produce sex hormones

 

Overlooking these lesser known hormones are also the reason for us becoming moody, having mood swings and low energy levels, suffering from depression , being unable to sleep well, and having high levels of stress.  These issues will not get better with medication for hormonal imbalances.

What does a weekend mean for many?

We have created a norm of struggling and stressing ourselves through the week and pushing ourselves just to relax over the weekend.

What most of us aim to do over the weekend is enjoy, relax, rejuvenate/energize ourselves for the week ahead. Many people do this by sleeping late, watching movies or television series late at night, binge eating, drinking alcoholic drinks, waking up late, eating out or ordering food from outside.

While we believe that doing all or some of the things listed above is what is bliss and relaxation, what we are actually doing is disrupting our  circadian /biological clock and thus the hormonal balance in our body.

Doing any of these, could also increase inflammation, toxins,  stress hormones, insulin resistance and interfere with the production of serotonin, melatonin, thyroid, DHEA, GABA and dopamine Progesterone in women and testosterone is men.

None 'GETS' time to workout. Those who do , 'MAKE' time to workout. (1).png

How can we make a weekend work towards our hormonal harmony?

Do what you really want the weekend to do to you – Relax, rejuvenate and energize.

Relax – By listening to your favourite music, by meditating, by having a full body massage and deep conditioning hair and skin  with herbal oil or any oil + essential oil of your choice. (Remember the weekly ceremonial oil bath that we used to have a few decades ago?) This will increase your serotonin, melatonin, GABA , reduce cortisol and ofcourse improve your skin and hair.

Rejuvenate – By sleeping on time, waking up by sunrise and getting a morning workout, be it a beach run or a hike will set your circadian clock. This will increase your dopamine, serotonin , insulin sensitivity and also help you detox.

Energize – Nourish your body and soul , with home-made food and family. Cook and eat as a family,  meet and spend time with real people (in person not via Whatsapp or Messenger)

Doing these will also help us in calming down and  improving energy levels, sleep , productivity , fat burn and metabolism.

Spending weekends like this often will make you enjoy life, and also weekdays , so you don’t have Monday morning blues

Are you connected with us via Facebook? Here is our Facebook page where we post daily updates on health and fitness. 

Interested in losing fat and balancing  hormones sustainably? Check out our programs

How do you spend your weekends? Let us know in comments

 

Lifestyle

PMS Decoded : Causes, Triggers and Remedies

Premenstrual symptom (PMS) is something that affects 80 % of women. Even though it is experienced by women, it is also ‘suffered’ by most men (who have a wife or girl-friend).

What is PMS?

It is that set of physical and emotional changes in a woman 2 weeks prior to her menstrual period. PMS symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Anxiety and Depressed mood
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Headache and Fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Prior to understanding why we get PMS , let us acknowledge a few  facts about PMS and painful periods.

  • PMS is not normal
  • It is not inevitable
  • Ladies do not need sick leave or work from home option every month
  • It is not a girl thing and we don’t need to put up with for a lifetime
  • It is a clear sign of hormonal imbalance

Can a lady menstruate with no PMS, no bloating, no cramping and feel completely normal through out your cycle?

It’s totally possible if we understand our body, lifestyle, habits, environmental toxins and how they affect hormones.

PMS and Cramps

A complex controlled network of hormones are needed to menstruate and ovulate perfectly. Let us understand what happens to the two hormones:  oestrogen and progesterone. For the ease of understanding, this article will focus only on these two important hormones (even though they are not the only ones).

During the first and second week of the menstrual cycle (Follicular Phase), Oestrogen levels are higher. This is why ladies look more radiant, pain tolerance is higher and can work-out well and feel very good during this time.

During the second and third week (Luteal Phase), Oestrogen level, should ideally, slowly start falling and progesterone levels should start increasing. However, for those who have PMS, one of this does not happen.

This imbalance is what leads to PMS, breaking out/acne, irritability, depression, mood swings, breast tenderness etc. This also gives rise to Oestrogen dominance if continued and not intervened.

Progesterone – our much-needed saviour hero is also an anti inflammatory hormone and the lack of which obviously increases or doesn’t curb inflammation.

What causes or worsens this imbalance?

There are many factors, that are within our control to avoid PMS.

  1. Environmental toxins: Certain toxins act as synthetic estrogen and disrupt hormonal balance. These toxins are found in all forms of plastics (including BPA free containers and Styrofoam take away boxes), fertilizers, cosmetics and personal care products.

Remedy :

  • Avoiding plastic in all possible ways of your life: GO GREEN. We are all informed about how plastic pollutes the earth around Earth day, but most of us are unaware that plastic pollutes the hormones in our body too, as xenostrogens found in plastic mimics the action of estrogen.
  • Identify natural alternatives to cosmetics: Skin is our largest organ and whatever we apply on that gets absorbed. Most people have detox tea and smoothies (say something like to cleanse the body or something), but never think about that Lipcolor, shampoo, serum and conditioner on hair and lotions on our skin. The harsh truth is that they all have hormone disruptors and the skin easily absorbs whatever is applied on it.
  1. Poor digestive/gut health : Excess estrogen in the body does not get eliminated and is reabsorbed due to gut dysbiosis or poor gut health.  gut Bacteria  regulates circulating estrogen using an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase and when your microbiome/bacteria is out of balance, these enzymes can’t properly metabolize estrogens, which leads to  estrogen dominance.

Remedy :

  • Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined vegetable oils, or those that might cause food intolerance or sensitivity like corn and soy.
  • Avoid laxatives , PPI or medicines for acidity and heart burn, pain killers, antibiotics as they are known to have negative impact on gut lining and gut bacteria.
  • Supplement with herbs, whole foods or natural sources of probiotics to improve your gut health.
  1. Nutritional deficiency and Unregulated blood sugar levels : when we don’t get sufficient Protein, good dietary fat, cholesterol( essential to make all hormones) and other micronutrients  like Vitamin B6, Vitamin E , Magnesium(read about this miracle mineral here), Potassium , Zinc and Copper , production of most reproductive hormones including progesterone is compromised. Apart from this high insulin levels also interfere with the production of hormones.

Remedy:

  • Nourish each and every cell in your body with good food rich in nutrients. Add in supplements to fill in the gaps if needed.
  •  Avoid Refined sugary food, processed and packeted junk food that harm your digestive health , deplete your mineral and vitamin stores and increase inflammation ( Snack bars are included in this too).
  • Good quality  Fats , proteins and carbohydrates are needed for producing hormones and maintaining it in our body. Focus on sustainable balanced plates and not on crash diets, which can wreak havoc on your hormonal balance.
  1. Lack of exercise and excess body fat : Excess body fat especially that stored in the hips, waist, and thighs acts as a source of inflammation and estrogen. Excess body fat is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance and thus PMS.  Not only does fat tissue absorb and store estrogen circulating in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones.

Remedy :

  • Exercise : Workout helps you release mood enhancing chemicals called endorphins which help in combating the physical and emotional effects of PMS. Working out when you get or are about to get your PMS isn’t the way to go with this.
    Regular workouts, and yoga have been proved to reduce the effects of PMS. Randomized clinical trials have shown that exercise is very effective in reducing PMS.
  1. Chronic Stress and anxiety : They both increase inflammation and also come in the way of making progesterone.

Remedy :

  • Reduce stress, meditate and find time to indulge in activities that you love. When we feel stressed our bodies release cortisol, and an overabundance of cortisol can increase inflammation, lower our immune function, overwork our adrenal system, and put us at greater risk for depression and mental illness. So it’s no surprise that too much cortisol may also aggravate PMS systems.

In a research conducted by  Bertone-Johnson in University of Massachusets on around 3000 women , she found that women who were experiencing PMS displayed higher levels of internal inflammation—and we know that more stress leads to inflammation, and more inflammation can lead to PMS.

  1. Poor sleep  : Only during sound sleep can our glands secrete reproductive hormones like progesterone , testosterone etc.

Remedy :

  • There is no alternative for restorative sleep.  As per Ayurveda, Sleep is one of the three basic pillars of life. It is crucial for rejuvenation, repair, improving metabolism and also hormonal balance and also one of the most overlooked factors that affect health.
  1. Consumption of stimulants like Alcohol and caffeine : Alcohol increases the level of natural and synthetic estrogen in body.  Studies have proven that Asian women who drink  more than 2 cups of coffee a day have increased estrogen levels in their body.

Remedy :

  • Reduce consumption or give up on stimulants. If you feel the  need for a drink or a fag or cup of coffee or tea to feel good/fresh, it is a clear sign that your body is not getting enough nourishment from the food you eat.

The good news is that lifestyle changes mentioned above does not have any side effects, unlike the numerous over the counter medicines available to reduce PMS and period cramps.

However these lifestyle changes require commitment, consistency and  discipline.

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