Is sleep getting in the way of your body composition goals??


This past week the east coast was hit by one of the worst storms in over a century, Hurricane Sandy. New York City, the city that never sleeps, suddenly came to a standstill. While the region began its recovery Tuesday morning, many of us were unable to work this week. This lull in work gave me an opportunity to recover from a full work and training schedule, catch up on some sleep, and brainstorm on some blogging, which I have not kept up with in months.

Many of you know Im a big fan of Dr. John Berardi, and Precision Nutrition. This week as I was catching up on sleep, going from an average of 7 hours per week to 8, John posed several questions and research articles on sleep and how it affects the way we metabolize food, and its consequences on body composition and performance.

Many of us are very good at maintaining a consistent training schedule, yet sleep and sleep quality, our tools for recovering from a workout, and metabolizing food, take a back seat. According to Precision Nutrition's "All about Sleep," the average adults gets 7 hours of sleep per night. 33% of adults get 6.5 hours or less. A century ago, adults averaged 9 hours a night. This is attributed to many of the modern day distractions we have, and what sleep researchers are calling voluntary sleep curtailment.

Consequently, research is finding a correlation between sleep, insulin resistance, and subsequent obesity. While I do not work with a largely obese clientele, I do work with many people who have body composition goals. The challenge is motivating my athletes to place a greater focus on the recovery process of fitness, and less so on the stimulus. At the end of the body composition continuum, managing several smaller areas of your recovery can add up to big results. Inadequate sleep, and diets high in refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners, chronically elevate insulin levels. This begins to dull the bodies sensitivity to insulin, inhibiting not only the transport of sugars into muscle for growth, but the ability to burn fat as well. Excess blood sugar is then stored as body fat, while the rest continues to circulate throughout the body, wreaking havoc on other systems.

In addition to insulin shutting down our fat burning capacity, many anabolic hormones are inhibited, compounding an already retarded muscle building process. Studies in young healthy men have shown that in just 2 days of 4 hours of sleep per night, our hormone balance is disrupted. After just 2 days of low rest, the participants had the insulin sensitivity of a pre diabetic 70 year old man! Failure to get several full cycles of sleep each night resulted in lowered growth hormone secretion which not only inhibits muscles development but can also tapers exercise performance, though the exerciser may feel like their working hard.

Decreased Human Growth Hormone (HGH) = decreased muscle building and recovery Decreased Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) = decreased metabolism Increased Cortisol = decreased insulin sensitivity, increased stress levels

We know that consistent strength training boosts both insulin sensitivity, and anabolic hormone activity. Perhaps you have been following a consistent strength program, but are negating it with poor macronutrient choices and timing, and poor sleep. If your routine has not been yielding the results you see others getting, maybe its times to improve on some these other areas of heath and fitness.

For more info on ways to improve your fat burning capacity with both sleep, nutrition and training see these link below. Alywn Cosgrove's Hierarchy of Fat Loss

Body Fat Comparison

In the book "SLICED" by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde, the states of muscularity are objectified as follows: "House" >= 20% - No visible muscle definition, and only a hint of separation between major muscle groups, if those groups are very large. Basically a person in this state could be confused for a football lineman. If you're higher than this bodyfat percentage, you'd be considered overweight/obese.

"Hard" >= 15% - Some muscle separation appears between delts and upper arm. Abs are still not visible


"Cut" - >= 12% - More muscle separation appears particularly in the chest and back, outline of the abs begins to appear slightly.



"Defined" >= 10% - Muscle separations get deeper in the arms, chest, legs and back, and abs appear when flexed.

"Ripped" >= 7-9% - Abs are clearly visible all the time, vascularity in arms is prominent, chest and back separation is obvious, and face is starting to appear more angular. Condition can be held indefinitely.

"Shredded" >=5-7% - Striations appear in large muscle groups when flexed. Vascularity appears in lower abdomen and in the legs. Condition can be held for several days with careful dieting. Competitive bodybuilders often aim for this state for competition day.

"Sliced" <= 3% - Muscles and tendons begin to appear in the face. Muscle striations and vascularity highly visible. Subcutaneous water levels are near 0. Condition can only be held for a few hours at a time. Not a healthy condition to stay in due to lower water level. Note - The male body requires 3% body fat for normal bodily function, women require 12%.

Body Recomposition or Body Decomposition?

All too often, clients obsess over body weight, weighing themselves daily on overpriced, deceptively marketed, home scales. While weight loss may be a good measure of assessment for obese individuals, goals change as one reaches a healthy weight. Body composition, a comparison of ones lean to fat mass, is a better reflection of health. While an obese individual's goal is to lose as much mass as possible, this loss of mass is also at the expense of lean tissues, such as muscle and bone. Once a desired weight, or Body Mass Index, is achieved, its important to reevaluate goals, programming, and diet, shifting the focus to building lean mass, and continuing to burn unwanted body fat. What may have worked to drop a significant amount of pounds, is not going to work for cutting fat and building muscle. Muscle is developed through appropriate doses of resistance training, followed by a proper balance of macronutrients and sleep. Muscle is metabolically active tissue. It requires a lot of calories to develop and a lot to sustain. This increased energy demand to sustain your newly developed muscle mass, taps into fat stores, and devotes consumed calories toward the creation and sustenance of your metabolically active tissues, thereby stripping you of excess body fat. This is a delicate balance, however. Too many calories, and your body will store the excess as fat; to few calories, and your body will shed muscle, conserving calories for vital organ function, thereby decreasing your metabolism. (see Resting Metabolic Rate) To determine your resting metabolic rate, use this formula, or consult with a local dietician to help establish an eating plan that maximizes lean mass development, increases your metabolism, and burns fat! Seek out a fitness professional in your area, and have your body fat measured. Read these steps The Hierarchy of Fatloss, outlined by famed fat loss guru Alwyn Cosgrove, on the most effective activities for developing muscle and burning fat. Hint: Its not cardio!!!!!!!!!!

5 Components of Health Related Physical Fitness

Did you know there are 5 key components of health related physical fitness? Do you know what they are? How do you stack up within all 5? Many of us over develop one area, neglecting others. Here they are listed in order of my opinion of importance.

Body Composition - What percentage of fat mass is your body relative to your lean mass? Click on this link for a simple tool to gage how health your current body comp is. Human beings are fatter than ever before in the history of man. It is estimated that over 60% of Americans are overweight and or obese. Science has pinpointed a slew of chronic to lethal health problems associated with being overweight. Overweight being defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 24. Click here to get yours now. However, this does not take into consideration the density of lean mass. Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts may be deemed over weight according to their BMI. A better yardstick would be calculating your body composition. Click on this link to gage where you are at or seek out your local personal trainer to conduct a body fat analysis.

Muscular Strength - The ability to produce force. More importantly work = force x distance. If you cannot apply a given force, you may not even be able to move in extreme circumstances. In order to apply force and move, you need muscle mass. Your body develops that mass through resistance activities.  Very important concepts to grasp as you age, your muscle mass decreases, which may one day limit your ability to get out of a chair! And back to body composition, the more lean mass you have (muscle), the less fat mass you should have in theory. So why not kill two birds with one stone, but developing your strength and body composition at once with some resistance activities you enjoy.

Muscular Endurance - Your body's ability to apply force repeatedly for a prolonged amount of time. Forget about getting out of your chair, can you do that repeatedly throughout the day, climb a flight of stairs, or walk for an extended period of time? Muscular endurance is very important for activities you would like to do beyond brief bursts of energy. If you want to stay active, maintain your muscular endurance.

Cardiovascular Endurance - Your heart and lung's ability to delivery oxygen and nutrient rich blood to your working muscles for muscular strength and endurance (anaerobic (without oxygen) activity) and cardio (aerobic (with oxygen) activity). If the heart and lungs are working optimally, forget about everything above. But dont spend too much time doing cardio. The American Heart Association recommends 30 cumulative minutes or more per day of aerobic activity to sustain sufficient heart and lung capacities. 60 min or more per day to manage weight! That 60 min would be better spent with 3-4 days of resistance training to develop your lean mass, shed fat mass, and boost your resting metabolism with metabolically active muscle!

Flexibility - last but certainly not least, and arguably of greater hierarchy than my list here. Really, the ability to move at all. The elasticity of your soft tissue, ie, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A tight muscle muscle is second only to a weak muscle. A tight muscle is unable to apply a force across its entire surface area, through a full range of motion(ROM). While there are perils to being hyper-flexible, on the scheme of things, most people never get close to that. Though your joints require some degree of stability, many of us have less than optimal ROM around these joints. More often than not chronic pain or injury can be relieved through regular flexibility and muscular development training.

So what areas have you been neglecting? Perhaps its time to back off on the cardio or strength training or give some of these other important aspects some work. Cross training is a great way to stimulate the body, allow it to recover, and avoid injury, Ideally, all 5 of these components should be apart of your regular fitness regimen.

Multi-muscle, compound movement, calorie burners

All of us would like to be leaner. Yet many of us do not know the most effective way to utilize and burn our fat stores. First, diet is THE most important factor in body composition. If you are not eating right, all the training in the world will not change your fat percentage. When you are training though, you need to target as much muscle mass at once as possible. Muscle mass is metabolically active, it requires a lot of calories to do work, repair, and sustain itself. To burn the most amount of calories, while in the gym, and increase your resting metabolism outside of the gym, you need to target large muscles. Compound, multi-muscle, multi-joint movements, burn calories. You are genetically predisposed to store fat in specific amounts and areas on your body. For men, the first place we are going to store fat and the last place we are going to lose it, is our stomachs. Women, the first place you are going to store additional calories, and the last place you will lose it, is typically, hips and thighs. You cannot spot reduce these areas. Guys, doing 1000 sit-ups a day will not burn fat around your abdominal area. It may herniate a vertebral disc, but it does not require a lot of energy. You may have the worlds greatest looking six pack under your fat stores, but you will never see it. Women, the abductor, adductor (inner, outer thigh) machine will never tone your thighs the way you want them too. You must burn fat as a whole in your body. To do this you need to use your larger muscles, burn more calories, and set your self up to storing less, by burning more energy than you consume. So what muscles should you be using? Your legs! 70% of the muscle in you body is below your waist. Start using them! If you want a flatter stomach, leaner thighs, or more sculpted arms, start training the most calorically demanding part of your body. Guys, science has proven testosterone release significantly increases as a result of intense lower limb training. If you want to add lean mass everywhere in your body, increase your metabolism, and burn more fat. Hit the legs hard. Ladies, squatting and dead lifting will tone and sculpt your inner/outer thighs, and buttocks, more effectively than any isolated inner outer/thigh movement or hip extension movement. Wouldn't you rather tone those areas, and burn fat at the same time? Training legs alone will yield a leaner, more scultped physique than upper body alone. And no, running does not count as leg training. Check out my blog on Cardio vs Resistance training for more info. So what about the upper body. Guys want a bigger chest and arms, women, toner shoulders and triceps. You dont need to isolate these small muscles. Add a few compound upper limb movements to target these areas and burn calories. Two pressing movements, and two pulling movements within 1 full body weight training routine is a great way to burn calories and target the areas you are looking for. A horizontal and vertical pulling motion will hit your biceps twice within one workout, burn lots of calories, and improve your posture. Ladies, a horizontal and vertical push hits your triceps twice, while burning lots of calories. To conclude: the more muscles you use at once, the more calories you are going to burn, the less fat you will store on your entire body.