Q&A: Tough Decision of the Day: Sleep or Exercise?

Did you know that we can burn about 250 calories LESS each day after just one night inadequate sleep?

That’s crazy, right?

Our body needs immediate energy to keep a sleep deprived body going so it creates cortisol (a stress hormone). Cortisol causes us to crave sugar and carbs to fuel us. That's why we want to binge on junk food when we are tired!

Exercising while we are tired can actually worsen sleep deprivation. This happens because as we exercise, especially high intensity exercise, we create cortisol. Cortisol triggers our body to crave even more carbs/sugar to add to the bloodstream - it keeps us going (and going and going).

It’s fight or flight

And now that you are an energized bunny rabbit, your body goes into fight or flight mode. But that’s not all - our hormones have more work to do!

We start eating carbs because our cortisol levels are demanding it. Our biology is begging for sugar. So we give in (and emotionally it’s damaging because it makes us feel guilty - like we are at fault). Now we have binged on a bunch of sugar and carbs because we are exhausted, but we don't ever feel satisfied.

That's because our bodies don't register fructose, glucose, sucrose, or any of the sugars. Biologically, we are created to binge on sugar because, when we were hunters and gatherers, sugar was a rare find and a great source of immediate energy.

We’re always hungry for sugar

But now that sugar is ABUNDANT, our bodies haven't changed. We gorge on sugar to fuel our exhausted cortisol-soaked bodies and we aren't biologically programed to feel full (satiety) on sugar. We are biologically programmed to be ENDLESSLY hungry for sugar.

And now that all that sugar is in our bloodstream, trying to fuel out exhausted bodies. Insulin comes out to help us convert the sugar into useable energy. That's when the blood sugar spikes occur.

Insulin is a fat STORAGE hormone. Insulin converts carbs in the blood into glucose - the form of sugar used by the cells for energy. When we have more glucose in our bloodstream than we need, the excess is turned into fat for later use.

Fatty liver increases

Glucose is first stored in our liver as fat so it's available for immediate use by the cells when we need a reserve. But these days, EVERYONE has WAY MORE than enough glucose stored in their livers, to the point of creating "fatty liver" for a lot of Americans.

When the liver is full, we store extra glucose as fat cells around the rest of our bodies. That's why insulin is called a "fat storage" hormone: because its job is to convert carbohydrates into glucose (usable sugar by the cell) and to help store whatever glucose we don't need right now as fat in our liver, then around our bodies.

Sleep deprivation creates an endless cycle

In summary, when we don't sleep and adequately rest, we stress our bodies and it creates cortisol. When we exercise while we are sleep deprived, our body gets even more stressed and creates more cortisol. When we have a lot of cortisol in our bodies, we crave simple carbohydrates (junk food and sugar) because our body is trying to get us to consume simple sugars, the kind of carbs that are most easily turned into glucose for immediate use in fueling our cells. But because we are biologically wired to never feel full eating sugar and simple carbs, we binge on them... because we are tired and desiring rest and the feeling of fullness/satisfaction. Yet, we get neither. Then our body turns all that sugar into glucose and stores it in fat around our bodies for later use.

This can all be avoided

And it all could have been avoided if we'd just slept eight or nine hours. And, if we are tired and exhausted, it might be a good idea to skip the gym and get some sleep instead.

Oh - I forgot to mention... because we burn a lot of our fat at night during cell repair and recovery (especially recovering from strength training workouts), when we don't sleep enough, we could be missing out on an average of 250 calories burned per day!

That's right... when we don't sleep, our body burns, on average, 250 calories LESS per DAY.

So the moral of the story is: sleep. For the love of God, f***ing sleep!

  1. If you're exhausted, consider skipping the gym and catching up on sleep.
  2. If you feel like binging on sugar, try taking a nap instead.

Often when we are hungry for a balanced meal, tired, thirsty, mentally or physically stressed, that's when we feel the urge to binge on sugar. So give these a try instead and let me know how it goes.

Here for you, BJB

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