Fat Loss – The Sleep & Exercise Continuum

Neon is back (ugh).

It seems there is a lot still left around today from the 1980's- Dr.Pepper, Little Debbies, bright greens, yellows, oranges and Levi-Strauss spackled jean shorts. Sadly, even board shorts are going back above the quadriceps now. Cheers to a great set of vastus medialus huh?

In this post, I'm shining some light on what positive changes over the past year I've done in my personal and client-based physical training, nutritional and coaching practice. I have some fantastic, genuine hopes to help anyone who is interested in achieving better health and do what we do best – Live.

First off, how far has the wellness industry come in the past 3 decades? So much of what was once believed to be harmful in the health “business” is now well-known to be healthy. I've listed my favorite authoritative words spoken by respected “experts” to live by in the early 1980's that have been pretty obvious and scientifically proven to make us sick, obese, adrenal fatigued and depressed below-

Work hard play hard!”

“Eating fat makes you fat.”

“Sleeping is something you do when you're dead.”

“Whole grains are good for your heart.”

“Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!”

Read my lips, no new taxes!” (I had to throw that one in there!)

Put down your Trapper Keeper and take some notes, we're going to the root cause of disease and poor health! In the high hopes of achieving greater overall wellness and vitality, millions of misled people around the nation and the world are caught in what I call TBC or “The Broken Continuum”.

The true definition of a continuum is anything that goes through a gradual transition from one condition, to a different condition, without any abrupt changes. This is what our nutritional and fitness lifestyles should naturally follow to avoid burnouts, plateaus and adrenal fatigue. In psychology, theories of mental phenomena can propose discrete differences between individuals (e.g. everyone has certain personality traits and not others) or a continuum (e.g. everyone lies somewhere on a particular personality dimension). This couldn't be more true in health and nutrition either, as one man's food is another man's poison.

This TBC (which I'll explain in detail later) leads to altered circadian rhythm (the natural sleep-wake cycle our bodies were designed to follow) and highly increased sympathetic nervous system activity. These mechanisms are, at their normal baseline function, good for us and hard wired in your body for survival, optimal wellness and the capacity to absorb internal or external stress.

Without these autonomic mechanisms we surely would never have evolved as a species. However, the plight we're in now is the threat of accelerated stress loads beyond evolutionary capacity. We currently live in a pivotal time for our history. It has officially been recognized that the human race hasn't had enough time to adapt to the unnatural lifestyle that has been thrusted upon us. We've changed the way we live more in the past 100 years than our relatives did for the past 10,000.

Picture an IV bag attached to your wrist that we all carry around throughout the day on wheels. 10,000 years ago there were no LED's, TPS reports, cubicles, fluorescent lights, text messages, email, pesticides, heavy metal toxicity or yellow #5. The only real stress we ever had was creating our shelter, catching/harvesting our food and escaping predators. All in all, these short stressors were very intense but they key word is that they were also very short.

Fast forward now to modern American living. The misappropriated extra hours at the office computer means another BMW and a plasma screen for the house and 3 hours of lost sleep, exercise and love. It's in TBC that our IV bag has a steady 5 second drip of medium to intense daily stress levels in an unrelenting and consistent load to our CNS. This slow, continual lifestyle stress is vastly different than our smaller yet more intensive  fight or flight stress inputs that we are wired for in our adrenal cortex. Our biology is not accustomed to this daily, full and never ceasing IV bag o' stress and it's completely above our ancestral tolerance.

In other words, we haven't had enough time in our evolution, in regards to adrenal health, to be able to absorb or even combat the daily American lifestyle of the “work hard and play hard” mentality. It simply doesn't work and is making us fat no matter how hard or how much we lift, jerk, sprint or press. Sorry Tony Little, the push up machine and low fat diet has to go. (He always seemed like he was on too much trucker pills and coke anyways.

Don't sigh though! Science is on our side and here's how top get lean and bust plateaus effectively and in less time-

Sleep an absolute minimum of 7 hours a night, 8 being optimal for fat loss. Studies show lack of adequate rest increases Ghrelin, a hormone responsible for appetite signaling. Ghrelin levels increase before meals and decrease after meals. It is considered the counterpart of the hormone which signals suppression- leptin. Not enough sleep will equal increased appetite. Bad news buju!

Sleep in a completely dark room with minimal light leakage from electronic devices, power strips, and illuminated sources. Studies have shown the photo-receptors in our retina can sense even the smallest amount of light and will signal an increased cortisol demand to the sympathetic nervous system while blunting melatonin secretion from the pineal gland; therefore leading to sleep problems and poor recovery from exercise not to mention other negative health effects.

Make exercise fun again. Concentrate on strength-based, high intensity short duration lifts that produce growth hormone more effectively than it's counterpart of aerobic fitness. Don't worry, you'll get plenty of “cardio” from professional, progressed and variable training. What ever route you do end up choosing, just STOP doing WOD's and/or heavy intensity metabolic conditioning 5 and 6 days a week if you're at a plateau. More is not more and the boat will go faster, but in the wrong direction. Cut back on your volume and you'll literally feel the benefits of recovery for increased fat loss. If you've been crushing it in the gym for 8 weeks and exercising H.I.I.T cardio sessions on empty stomach without any body composition change then stop. If you're doing steady state cardio and not periodizing your training then you really have no one to blame but yourself!

The western medical panel over at www.sciencebasedmedicine.org has a differently funded opinion about fat loss-

“…From an individual perspective, weight loss is simple (although not easy). It is a matter of calories in vs calories out – you cannot escape this equation. This means eating less and moving more. Simple, basic strategies to help reduce caloric intake seem to be the most effective. This means portion control, and limiting calorie-dense foods. The latter requires knowing how many calories are in food you are likely to consume. Limiting total caloric intake also means keeping track of how much you eat – which is deceptively difficult to do. Most people fail on diets because they simply underestimate their total caloric intake.”

Well I guess they have it all figured out right? Ugh. We'll all just eat less and move more just to make it simple. Oh how the lies just keep rolling. The facts are in, and we're the fattest and sickest we've ever been as a nation so what ever has been recommended by the top of the advice food chain obviously isn't working.

The time has come for a paradigm shift and if you've made it this far, you know by now there is no easy answer to the human body when it comes to fat loss and adjusting body composition. That is, unless you follow in the paths of what worked for our ancestors and our the roots of our very being.

We've come so far in the past hundred years and it's time to turn back the clock. Better health and fat loss is really only as dependent on how dedicated you are to eating clean, sleeping well and exercising for your unique individuality. A lifestyle closer to our original heritage will surely determine your mental clarity, body composition and overall wellness.

Wake up and smell the espresso America, the wellness industry is booming due to the lack of balance in our lives. Let's shift the scale.

Thanks for your eyes, see you next week and get to sleep!

Questions? Start here 

Fat Loss – The Sleep & Exercise Continuum