How/Why Sleep Affects Our Fitness Goals

With our busy life schedules , whether thats work, looking after the kids, getting jobs done around the house, a lot of us sacrifice the time to properly wind down, relax and make sure we get a good nights sleep. Studies show that 70% of us don’t get the sleep we need to function fully, and achieve our maximum performance. So throughout this blog I want to teach you exactly why/how sleep affects our training and nutrition, and ways to help improve sleep if we feel restless at night.

How sleep affects performance and cravings

It pretty simple really, if the body doesn’t have enough energy to perform exercise, how is it going to work to its maximum potential? Rest is critical to recovery process because while you’re resting your body is building muscle. This happens most efficiently during sleep, and without enough quality sleep your body will not recover fully to function properly for your next workout.

A lack of sleep can also affect diet and eating habits. We often find ourselves a lot hungrier, and having cravings when we are tired. There has been a lot of studies over the years testing between those with sufficient sleep and those with insufficient sleep. One simple reason is that while the body is awake we are obviously going to be burning more calories… so the body will need more food to function. Often people with insufficient sleep will crave foods higher in salt, sugar and high carb savoury foods as sleep deprivation makes the brain more sensitive to the smell off foods, due to the higher peaks of lipid in our bloodstream known as endocannabinoid that makes eating more pleasurable.

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So how can we prevent these cravings when tired?

It is really important that we start the day off with a high nutrient breakfast to restore the body with the energy it needs after resting. Yes a lot of us will grab a coffee if we are a little sleepy on a morning, but the quick release of caffeine will only last a short period of time and in a few hours you will find yourself just as tired. Below are a selection of foods which are great to put into your breakfast, are a slow releasing energy source, and will leave us feeling fuller and more energised !

  1. Oatmeal - Whole grains are great for a slow releasing energy source. As a complex carbohydrate, it takes longer to break down, releases energy slowly and will make you feel fuller for longer. You can mix it up, add some fruits, teaspoon of honey for sweetness and it makes a delicious breakfast to get you started! You could even make into overnight oats, so if you are struggling for time on a morning, prep them the night before and they are ready to grab and go!

  2. Bananas - Also a complex carbohydrate, natural sugar, amino acids, it makes them a great natural energy boosting source! Have them with your oats, or even with some yogurt to make your breakfast a little more interesting.

  3. Nuts - Nuts make great snack for decreasing tiredness, and are a great balance of fats and proteins to keep the blood sugar levels maintained. Whether your have them on their own, with fruit, or with your oats they are a nice little extra to have to set us out for the day.

  4. Eggs - Eggs are a great source of fats and proteins and can be easy to make on a morning. Scrambled , poached , mix them with an omelette… you can have them anyway you like! How do you like your eggs in the morning ?

Ways to help improve sleep

Our stressful and busy work life can often leave us feeling restless on an evening just before we go to sleep. There are a few relaxation techniques which are simple to do which may help you fall asleep a little quicker.

  1. Breathing techniques - Put on some calming music and simply just get in touch with your own breath, close your eyes and relax. Once you are in bed its pretty simple. Breathing in through the nose, count to 4, exhale through the nose for another 4 counts, and repeat. This way of breathing is so relaxing. You will soon feel the heart rate decreasing, the mind and body relaxing.

  2. Reading - Instead of looking on your phone, scrolling down your feed, take a moment to pick up a book, and disconnect from the world. Social media has become a great aspect of everyones life. Everyone you connect with is now online and its often hard to switch off from our busy lives when it is soo easy to access! Pick a book that may interest you, even if you read for a quick half an hour, it just gives you chance to switch off from the outer world.

  3. Online relaxation audios - There is lots of things we can find online. Do a little research and find an online relaxation audio where it will take you through the whole relaxation process in your home.

  4. Attend a Yoga/Meditation class - find it hard to switch off yourself? Find a nearby Yoga/meditation class where someone will take you through relaxation techniques to make sure you are doing them correctly. It is sometimes a lot easier to switch off when someone else is telling us what to do!

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Here at PNF we offer lots of opportunities to help you with your fitness goals. We have Hatha Yoga on Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm - 8:45 pm which will give you a chance to relax and wind down before bed.

Rachel has also just released her Ultimate Guide to Nutrition, which will take you through the very basics of nutrition and help you to understand your diet. So if you have any queries, or anything specific you are struggling with in your diet this could be a great way to get you started to a healthier and happier you!