Those of you who have read some of my articles on twoday have seen that I mention cortisol.
This “stress” hormone affects body fat greatly, mainly in the mid-section. But did you know cortisol follows the sleep/wake cycle, also known as circadian rhythm? By not getting the proper amount of sleep, your cortisol stays elevated longer. Elevated cortisol means added fat storage time. Conversely, elevated cortisol will keep you from falling asleep at night (or from waking up prematurely).
There’s a problem brewing in our society because of all the stress. It’s called adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are where cortisol is secreted. They are “recharged” with sleep. Since most of our society wants to “burn the candle at both ends,” their batteries never recharge. They start the day off with a high level of stress because they didn’t get enough sleep. This starts what I call the cortisol/insulin daily seesaw. Since cortisol and insulin physiologically can not be elevated in a person at the same time, what does the body want to do to lower cortisol? You guessed it! The body raises insulin levels. The body is such an amazing design it knows what raises insulin fastest – carbohydrates. So you crave carbohydrates – sweets, candy, white bread, etc. – when you’re stressed so the body can reduce the level of cortisol.
But when insulin is elevated, you store fat. As the day goes on with work, red lights, cell phones ringing, running late... your cortisol is flying high again. So what’s next? Exactly, you want more insulin- boosting carbohydrates!!!
And what about the muscle retention aspect of sleep? Most growth hormone is released between 10pm-2am. So if you want to retain muscle – remember, your muscle controls your metabolism – get to bed early! If your muscle can’t recover while sleeping, your body will burn it up as fuel and you will start to lose what you have. And being sore after working out or a tough day at work means you need more sleep for those weary muscles!
So, look for ways to de-stress your life, especially at night. Use soft lighting and read a book before falling asleep. Don’t watch the news before bed because studies have shown that this will disrupt your sleep by keeping cortisol elevated. Sleep in a pitch-black room with no noise. Fans and/or steady noise machines are ok. So how much sleep do you need? I typically preach 10p-6a for various reasons. But there are some people out there who operate perfectly fine on seven hours although some need more, like nine hours. Do yourself a favor and go to bed early.
Fat-burning Exercise Tip of the Week:
Try an 8/12 sprinting protocol rather than jogging for 45 minutes or an hour. If you don’t like to run (or can’t) this works GREAT in the pool, bike or whatever cardio you enjoy. What I mean by 8/12 is sprint almost as hard as you can for 8 seconds. That’s it. I prefer outdoor running to treadmills, but if you are on a treadmill, at the 8 second mark just jump off with a foot on either side of the treadmill belt. After a 12 second rest, you start again – 0:20 will show on the treadmill or stopwatch. Repeat. Every 20 seconds, the cycle repeats.
Doing cardio this way, interval style, will activate EPOC - burning calories after you are done working out. You don’t get this from traditional cardio – which only burns calories while you are exercising. Build up to 20 minutes, or 60 :08 second sprints. It’ll blow you away!
Next week: Water & Base Supplementation to Burn Fat and another fat-burning exercise tip!
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About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.