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.

Fitness

5 Worst Gym Mistakes to Avoid

Do you know what are the 5  big mistakes people make in gym, irrespective of their fitness level?

The enthusiasm, energy and momentum most people have around the new year to join a gym and become fit, dies down by the end of the first quarter. Some people give up gym even after paying the annual membership.

Some factors or mistakes that lead to this loss of enthusiasm are :

  1. Injuries due to incorrect workouts and form
  2. Not knowing how to deal with muscle soreness
  3. Disappointment of not seeing results

What are the most common mistakes that we do in gym that hinder our progress or affect results?

  1. Jumping on to treadmill as soon as you enter the gym

This mistake might lead to injury and minimize the fat burn.
Both newbies and gym veterans err on this. Running on a treadmill isn’t the best exercise for our body.

If you have just started working out or are on the heavier side, running on a treadmill may cause more harm than good to your hips, knees and ankle joints.

Another disadvantage of treadmill is that for the self-satisfaction of running at a higher speed and incline, we tend to lean on the handle bars or change posture to accommodate the speed and incline. Both of the above practices are unsafe to our spine and hips.

Solution :  If your goal is to burn more fat, doing weights first and then cardio would yield much more result and aid in recovery than doing cardio first or just cardio.

  1. No stretching, warm up or cool down workouts

This blunder paves the way for workout injury and muscle soreness

Those who are regular to gym would know of people who walk into gym and start working out within a minute. Stretching and warming up your muscles for an intense /moderate physical workout is extremely important for an injury free workout and cramp-free body post workout. If you are one of those people who get headache or dizziness soon after you start a workout, it is a sign that you don’t warm up enough. Getting injured often during a workout, or while playing your favourite sport is also a sign of poor stretching before or after your activity.pablo (85)

Solution : Stretching and warming up relaxes and prepares our tensed muscles for the activity,  which ensures the workout we do doesn’t come as shock to the muscles when it is least expected.

 

  1. Looking at weights as though they are aliens.

Known mistake that reduces the fat burn and thus results.
If a fit body is your goal, treat weights like your best friend and not like an alien.

I have posted an article on why should we weight train. Many people get confused between muscle and fat.

More muscle you build, higher your metabolism and higher your fat burn.

Weight training is the best and most effective way to burn fat and get fit. Cardio burns fat only after 25 minutes of working out and only till you are performing the activity.  On the other hand, weight training has a profound effect on fat burn up to 48 hours after your weight training session(EPOC/afterburn). Although some trainers tell their clients that cardio is the best way to burn fat, studies have proven that the rate at which weight training burns fat or improves metabolism can never be compared with that of cardio

Solution: Spare a day or two per week for weight training, even if you are a woman.

 

  1. Doing 100 crunches right at the end of the workout for flat abs

This mistake makes the hard work, time and sweat in gym ineffective
Most moderate to well fit people commit this mistake. Right before finishing their workout, they focus on doing crunches. And proudly say they hit 75- 100 .

First things first , ab crunches are not the only workouts for six packs or flat abs.

Second, doing the same workout over and over again will not get your muscle to burn more fat.

Third, crunches do not target most of the core muscles, but only a small part.

Beyond all this, doing core strengthening workouts like crunches and more right at the end of your workout plan will not train those muscles as other workouts might  have exhausted their fuel. This means you recover less, burn less fat even after 100 crunches.
 Solution :  Push core strengthening workouts and weights to the start of the workout, and make sure your workout involves more muscle groups than just upper abdomen.

 

  1. Doing ‘Insta Ready’ workouts.

This mistake diminishes or doesn’t give any result at all.
There comes the last mistake of doing beautiful selfie worthy workouts. This is doing only exercises like bicep curls, wrist curls, heel raises for calf muscles and triceps extensions. Most women who go to gym do not go near weights, and if they do , it will be restricted to the above ones. Focusing only on the smaller muscles and not training the larger muscles like thighs, chest , shoulders and back ( Hamstrings, pec, traps and lats) is like planning all expenses for a month and leaving out the  ‘home loan EMI’.

Solution : Prioritize workout , in order of the size of muscles and train larger muscles first.

Needless to say, that we should not expect to see the transformation from a paunch to a washboard ab in a couple of weeks. Patience pays, especially if you started working out recently.

Working out is like a marriage. Just like we marry a person to be with them for a lifetime, and not just for immediate gains like having kids or buying house . Working out is meant to make us healthy and happy lifelong, not just to fit into an old dress or lose some pounds.

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Fitness

Why should women weight train?

Fitness Myth 3 : ‘ I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to look like a man ‘

While we are ‘modern’ enough to wear jeans and shirts, serve in the army, fly planes and do everything men do, we remain apprehensive about and shy away from lifting weights due to the fear of bulking up and looking like men. Just as a woman wearing jeans and shirts does not look like a man, the hormones present in a woman will ensure she does not look like a man (even if she lifts weights).

Weight training/Strength training/Resistance training is an important part of fitness and is essential to get a fit body. Let us analyse what are the benefits of weight training and why women shy away.

Weight training burns fat and tones you up

It burns fat faster and more effectively than any other workout. Unlike cardio and other workouts which stop working the moment you stop your work-out, weight training keeps the metabolism high for the next 48 hours.

It improves the lower back and core muscle strength which is a must for losing that pregnancy tummy , that most moms want to lose. Be it an hour-glass figure, flat stomach, toned arms, well-rounded butt or a lean and fit body you are looking for, strength training is a must.

So next time , keep this in mind before googling foods that increase your metabolism.

Weight training strengthens muscle, bones and heart

The picture of muscle most women have in their mind is that of a male body builder (or sometimes a female body builder). For the amount of testosterone produced by women it is impossible to achieve such a body by just lifting weights.muscle n fat.png

Stronger muscles build stronger bones. Based on extended research, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has recommended weight-bearing and resistance training to improve bone density. It increases the effectiveness of Vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

American Heart Association recommends weight training at least twice a week to improve heart health, since heart is also an organ made of muscles.

Weight training improves your hormones

Weight Training improves insulin sensitivity, which is a major trigger factor for diabetes  , most hormonal imbalances like thyroid, PCOS, and other reproductive issues. Regular strength training will ease the stage of menopause too, since bone density and hormonal balance will be enhanced.

Weight training improves confidence and mood

Studies have proven that weight training helps not only in improving strength and fitness, but also in improving confidence and reducing depression. The endorphins released while you lift weights help reduce stress ensuring you feel better. Every time you recover from a sore muscle, it improves not just your physical strength, but also your mental strength.

But, I want to run only marathons

Strengthening and conditioning your muscle and body is important for an injury free run whether it is a fun run, half or full marathon.

It will improve posture, form and timing. With the increased strength that comes with weight training, even the practice runs become more enjoyable.

Ditch the treadmill

In most cases, the first thing that becomes useless within the first few weeks is the treadmill (except for the occasional use as a place to dump or dry clothes).

Running on a treadmill increases the risk of knee, back and hip injuries especially if the muscles aren’t strong enough to bear the weight.

If you can work out only at home, purchasing a pair of dumbbell is cheaper than buying a treadmill (even if it is a used one) and occupies far less space. If you thought walking is the best and safest exercise, read why it is not here.

Even though it was not in the gym, our grand-mothers lifted weights. Fetching water from well and carrying it to the house, grinding in mortal pestle & stone, washing clothes, gardening, squatting in the potty and more. No wonder they had thin waists and flat stomach in spite of multiple pregnancies.

If you are a newbie to work out or strength training, some of the workouts that you can start with are squats, walking lunges, push ups, planks and leg raises. Watch out for a video on the same in this space.

Are you going to weight watch or weight train? 

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