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Hormones—ahhhhhh. It’s a love/hate relationship we all have with our own. When we’re young, they are pretty hearty and intuitively do the most effective things (in most cases). Remember the days when you could eat, sleep, and drink in whatever patterns you felt like…and you still looked good and felt good (or at least, bounced back quickly)?
As we get a little older, and for many young people with imabalances, things go a little haywire. Our habits seem to affect us more, in looks and in feelings.
One of my favorite hormone relationships is between sleep and metabolism. Remember, by hormone, I mean any chemical messenger in the endocrine system that causes an action or feeling in the body. Sleep influences appetite hormones in a major way, and also influences the type of foods you crave. Additionally, it plays a major role in your metabolism and maintaining ideal structure/function of cells in the body.
A couple major hormones to chat about relating to both sleep and metabolism are Human Growth Hormone and Melatonin.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The skinny on this powerhouse is that the more your body makes, the leaner and more energetic you are, and the healthier and more dense your lean muscle tissue is (and the faster you recover from exercising). Your body produces HGH while you sleep.
The Goal: Increase your night time HGH release as much as possible.
The Reason: Boost metabolism (or balance it if you’re already skinny), cell repair and cleansing, muscle repair and building, anti-aging
What to do:
1. Do not eat carbs within several hours of going to bed. The rise in blood sugar, which causes a rise in insulin (another hormone) in the blood, tells the body to turn of its HGH production.
2. Get deep and restful sleep. This maximizes your body’s ability to produce HGH. (I’ll tell you how in the next section)
3. Ingest adequate clean protein first thing in the morning, and then at each meal.
The Next Hormone to Consider:
Melatonin: A hormone that causes your body to cool down and reach deep sleep, allowing HGH to be produced, cell repair and reproduction to occur, and slows protein breakdown.
The Goal: Enhance and balance melatonin release.
The Reason: Anti-aging, support healthy metabolism (cell repair and reproduction). Basically, it creates the setting in which your body can do its maintenance work. Healthy melatonin levels help curb carb cravings and enhance higher energy levels during the day.
What to Do: Eat fewer carbs in the evening, especially within three hours of going to bed. After dinner, taper your light exposure–use soft lighting (not bright). When you go to bed, sleep in the pitch dark. Even street lights, night lights, and alarm clock lights can be disruptive. Keep your bedroom cool but not cold. Keep your phone and anything that gives off EMF far away from you (more than three feet). Avoid waking up abruptly (i.e. loud alarm clock). Leave the lights off when you go to the bathroom in the night.
Often, as people age (especially women, but men too!), they start to have less energy, recover more slowly, lose muscle mass, and gain weight without a change in their habits. Metabolism slows down (even if you don’t know it yet). This happens throughout adulthood—20, 30, 40, 50, and beyond!
Healthy food and strength training (plus moderate amounts of cardio) are essential for maintaining the muscle mass it takes to keep a higher metabolism over time. But, through addressing hormones affected by how you deal with sleep, you can make a significant shift in energy level, metabolism, body composition, and weight. The magnitude of change will depend on your starting point.
*Note: I’m not a physician. You should find a professional partner in health to help you tailor your own exploration with hormones.
Ok, now…have a great day! Katelyn and I are going to a kettlebells class tonight—I’ll let you know if I can move tomorrow!
Do you have healthy sleep habits?