Sleep And Fat Loss

There have been some interesting studies about how insulin and glucose concentrations are affected by sleep. A lot of these studies have been done to see what effects sleep has on the development and management of type II diabetes. They have found that sleep has been epidemiologically associated with cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity. Let’s examine how sleep effects our blood glucose concentration and blood insulin concentrations.

This Study tested glucose and insulin levels in an experimental group that was sleep deprived. The sleep restriction group was only allowed 5.5 hours of sleep. The results showed that sleep deprivation basically decreased glucose tolerance. The study also showed an reduction in insulin sensitivity. Now both of these can be correlated to diabetes.

Sleep restriction did not change human growth hormone or cortisol levels. Interestingly, the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine were increased in the sleep deprived group. This is interesting because these catecholamines promote fatty acid mobilization (which is where your fat is broken down into it’s basic parts, fatty acids, for use as energy. Or simply: they help you burn fat).

A couple little tid bits that I found interesting in this study. There were no differences in fasted glucose and insulin concentrations between the two sleep conditions. This means that under both conditions, glucose and insulin levels leveled out. Also there was no differences in acute insulin response to glucose in either sleep condition.

In the conclusion of this study, the authors state: “Two nights of normal sleep, however, restored this effect. In addition, we showed that five nights of sleep restriction does not affect hunger feelings and results in elevated leptin levels. This suggests that sleep restriction per se as it would occur during a typical working week may not increase the risk of developing obesity. Therefore, the previously observed epidemiological associations between short sleep and obesity might be due to a common underlying factor rather than a direct causation between short sleep and obesity. In addition, the excessive consumption of calories from snacks rather than from meals during a period of restricted sleep may contribute to the development of weight gain and/or obesity”

The conclusion of this study kind of makes me think “meh.” Overeating and chronically elevated blood glucose levels are going to contribute to obesity. It would be interesting to see how sleep deprivation effects 24-hr glucose concentrations and insulin concentrations compared to a control group consuming the same amount of calories. It would be nice to see a long term study showing how it might effect fat loss too. Since sleep deprivation stimulates the release of catecholamines, I wonder if that would actually increase fat loss?

My Training For The Week. 2011: Week 3

Absolutely excellent week of training. I’m actually gaining strength right now. I attribute this to the fact that my weight loss has slowed down considerably to a level that I am comfortable with. I’m not down 17lbs. I’ve also cycled creatine back into my supplement plan which will help keep my strength up.

Wednesday: Rack Deads, NG Chins, Floor Press
Friday: Incline Bench, Weighted TRX Inverted Rows w/ Feet Elevated, Dips
Sunday: Box Squats, Hip Thrusts, Core work

I’m really enjoying the TRX Inverted Rows. Starting to really feel the groove to get into and getting stronger on the lift each and every time. I’ve also started doing some TRX fallouts. They are an excellent anti-extension core exercise. Read the description in the youtube link I posted. It’s a more advanced anti-extension exercise, but there is a good progression example in there.

I think I might add a little bit of volume and put in TRX push-ups in. I want a weight vest though, as I doubt it’ll offer enough resistance. We’ll see. I’m keeping my program simple (KISS), and it’s working very very well.
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Lower Meal Frequency Leads to Lower Daily Blood Sugar

Martin Berkhan blogged extensively about this research. I feel that more people should know about this study. The ‘experts’ in health magazines have been espousing the benefits of a higher meal frequency to improve blood glucose control. This study pretty much pisses on this theory and states that the opposite is actually true.

I’ll keep this short. The study tested 3 groups: 3 high-carb (CHO), 6 high-CHO, and 6 high-protein meals per day. They were equal in terms of total calories. Although peak glucose levels were higher in the 3 CHO days the total area under the curve was lowest in the 3 CHO day. As expected the 6 high-protein day resulted in both a lower blood glucose response and a lower insulin response compared to the 6 high-CHO day.

It is important to note that this study was performed on 8 healthy individuals. More studies are needed to show the effects on the obese and individuals with type II diabetes. I would hope that they continue research in this area as controlling blood sugar is very important in the treatment of diabetes. It should also be noted that there were no differences in the insulin response in the 3 CHO vs 6 CHO.

I am by no means an expert on nutrition. I just want to show that there really are a lot of myths out there regarding nutrition. Hopefully I can bring clarity to a pretty cloudy area.

Holmstrup, M.E., Owens, C.M., Fairchild, T.J., Kanaley, J.A. (2010). Effect of meal frequency on glucose and insulin excursions over the course of a day. The European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Volume 5, Issue 6, Pages e277-e280

A Short Guide To Hypertrophy Part II: Nutrition

In part I, I briefly outlined a good training split that someone looking to gain size could follow. Now I will focus on what I feel is the hardest part for people to understand about adding muscle. This is the nutritional aspect.

When trying to gain weight (and especially lose weight) your diet is the MOST important part of making this happen. Unless you are a genetically gifted, you will need to pay very close attention to your nutrition. I feel that some people go into the gym and start lifting weights, maybe doing a little cardio every week and expect to become jacked instantly. This just isn’t the case.

Why You Aren’t Growing
The body likes to stay the same. In order to grow, you need to make two changes. The first, is to fatigue your muscles. You add muscle when your muscles repair themselves. The second is to supply your muscles with the nutrients it needs to repair itself. Many people I see, have the first part down. Unfortunately drinking a whey shake after you hit the weights and then going back to your regular diet isn’t going to cut it in the long run.

If you want to grow you simply need to add calories. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can be transformed. So, you need to ingest the proper foods in the right amounts in order for the energy you consume to be ‘transformed’ into lean mass. If you kept a log of your diet for 3 days, you may be surprised at how little you eat.

The Importance of Protein
Protein is very important no matter what your goal. Generally speaking, folks just don’t eat enough protein. They are doing themselves a great disservice. Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning it will burn more calories during digestion when compared to carbs and fats. So consuming protein will keep your metabolism high. It is also more filling than fats and carbohydrates.

For muscle gain, protein has many functions, including: muscle protein synthesis, synthesis of brain neurotransmitters, synthesis of tissue enzymes and many more functions. The function that matters in this article is muscle protein synthesis. In order to grow (I’m talking muscle growth, not adding junk to that trunk…), we need protein to promote protein synthesis in our muscles.

A good guideline for daily protein intake is 1g/lb of bodyweight. So a 200 lb individual would consume 200 grams of protein per day. Now at the same time, if our diet is in a deficit we will not gain weight, no weight gain = no muscle gain. Carbs and fats need to be added to allow our protein to get where it needs to go.

Feeding Frequency
Feeding frequency really isn’t as important as you have been led to believe. You don’t need 6 meals, to get huge. If you can get a caloric excess in 3 meals, then all the power to you. If you don’t have a big appetite and you find you need more meals to get those excess calories in then add feedings.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say someone finds that their resting metabolic rate (RMR) is 2000. They have a pretty active lifestyle, so they factor in a daily activity expenditure of 500. Adding these numbers, you get 2500. If they were to consume 2500 calories a day, their weight would stay at the same level.

For adding weight, you simply need to increase portion sizes, add foods to current meals, or add meals. There is really a ton of variation to increase calories. If you are small, it’s pretty easy to keep your eating clean while gaining weight. In my opinion, slow-bulking is the way to go, if aesthetics is important to you. If you are trying to get as big and strong as possible in the shortest amount of time, then a fast bulk would be what you would want to do. If you bulk up fast, you will gain more fat than if you bulked a little slower.

I’m going to go over bulking in the slower manner. I suggest a caloric excess of 250 calories per day. What kind of foods can you add to a meal on a daily basis to increase your calories by around 250? 2 scoops of protein is pretty close to 250, 2 tbsp’s of peanut butter, 2 tbsp’s of olive oil, 2 peices of fruit, 2 chicken breasts. The list is really endless. I would always suggest you try to use actual food to increase your caloric intake rather than supplements. Food gives your body the micronutrients it needs for basic functions, supplements don’t.

Obviously after 2-4 weeks, you will gain weight. After that, if you keep eating the same foods, you will again reach maintenance weight. So you add another 250 calories. You need to do this over and over again until you reach your desired weight.

Calorie Expenditure Calculator
This expenditure calculator is pretty good. Enter your data and find out what you expend on a daily basis. The accuracy of these calculators could easily be argued. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter. If you have a number, and you repeatedly increase the amount of calories you eat from that number, you will gain weight.

Consistency incredibly important when trying to gain mass. Eating one meal a day every couple days will have your wheels spinning. If you decide to eat 3 meals a day, then you need to get those meals in each and everyday. Remember, you need to ADD calories in order to gain weight, if you miss meals you aren’t adding calories, you are subtracting calories.

If one day you consume 3000 calories over your meals, then the next day you only eat once and eat 1000, you will only have consumed 4000 cals in 2 days. This is most likely lower than your maintenance calories unless you are a small girl. If you continuously eat in this fashion you will LOSE weight.

If you want extraordinary results, you need to put in extraordinary efforts. At first, the effort may seem hard because you aren’t used to it. After a few months, when it is ingrained into your daily habits, you won’t even think twice about it.

Part III will be a short piece on recovery. Stay tuned.

My Training For The Week. 2011: Week One

Training is going quite well. My body weight increased by 4 pounds over the holidays. I’m back down to where I was before with one less pound. I’ve decreased my caloric intake to start going down again. Very small increment, but enough to make a difference over the long run.

My training is still reverse pyramid training (RPT), I’m thoroughly enjoying it. My quads were literally sore for 4 days after my last squat session. I don’t care much for soreness, but it’s nice to have once in a while. I’ve started incorporating box squats into my programming. I’m really liking them, they really help you learn to sit back into your squat and keep your tibiae vertical.

Vertical tibiae are important for knee health. So I tend to be a form nazi when it comes to keeping them vertical for both squat and deadlift patterns.

Day One:
Box Squats
American Thrusts
Drag Curls

Day Two:
Incline Bench
TRX Inverted Rows
TRX Flutters/Band Pushdowns

Day Three:
Rack Pulls
Floor Press
Hammer Curls

My strength has really seemed to level off. I’m pretty happy about that after, losing a little bit of strength in that first stretch. Hopefully with the new caloric intake, I won’t lose any more strength. That’s it for now. I got a good piece I think a lot of my readers will benefit from for next week. Enjoy your weekend.

The Unpopular Hormone: Leptin

Leptin is a hormone released by adipocytes in our adipose tissues. There is a direct relationship between body fat levels and leptin levels, the more body fat, the more leptin circulating in our bloodstream. The reason leptin scales with body fat are because leptin is produced in our fat cells. Leptin’s primary functions include: appetite control and metabolism.

The effects of leptin were found in a study in the 1950’s. In this study mutant obese mice were randomly created. These mutant mice were obese, diabetic, and showed reduced levels of activity, metabolism and body temperature. It wasn’t until 1994 that leptin was discovered through studying these mice. After leptin was found, the obese strain of mice was found to produce zero leptin. The obese mice were then given synthetic leptin and most of their problems (besides diabetes) were reversed.

Leptin was then claimed as the cure for obesity! Unfortunately humans and mice are not the same. As I stated at the beginning, high body fat levels result in high amounts of leptin. So obese humans have large amounts of leptin, humans with low body fat levels have smaller amounts of leptin. It has been hypothesized that obese humans may be leptin resistant. The body or brain isn’t receiving the proper signals from leptin to suppress our appetites despite the fact that leptin levels are high. Another theory, the insufficiency theory shows that perhaps the leptin levels in our bodies are high, but they are not reaching the brain properly. So even though we have plenty of leptin in our bodies, not enough of it is reaching the brain to signal the release, and synthesis of metabolic hormones.

Let’s give a brief overview of how leptin affects our brain to suppress appetite. Leptin is a regulatory hormone, so its levels will regulate the release of other hormones related to metabolism. Leptin counteracts neuropeptide Y and anandamide (two feeding stimulants). Leptin also promotes the synthesis of α-MSH, an appetite suppressant. Leptin also increases the quantity of various catecholamines like epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenalin). These catecholamines burn fat by breaking fat down into fatty acids for use in our metabolism.

As noted before leptin concentrations are proportional to our body fat levels. Leptin levels are also acutely affected by our caloric intake. If we are in a caloric deficit, leptin levels will be lower than baseline levels. A caloric excess will cause an increase of leptin levels over baseline levels. I would assume the leptin would be increased to blunt appetite.

As you can tell, leptin has many important functions. It’s incredibly important when it comes to weight loss. As I stated, you don’t want your leptin levels too high, as that means you have some form of leptin resistance. You don’t want it too low either, otherwise hunger will increase and metabolism will decrease. Martin Berkhan states in this article that individuals who maintain low levels of bod fat percentage may be able to increase leptin sensitivity. Although there is no research supporting that claim, he has tons of experience in maintaining low levels of body fat successfully.

I’d like to use myself as an example now. I’ve been intermittent fasting for around 2 months now. I haven’t gotten my leptin levels checked, nor do I know my baseline levels. I can say though, that I rarely have a huge appetite despite eating 3 meals a day and fasting for 16 hours out of the day. You would assume with everything that I’ve talked about here that my leptin levels would be low and my appetite would be raised along with slower metabolism. This just isn’t the case as I’ve now dropped 15 lbs and am rarely hungry.

In the link above, Martin Berkhan talks about how IF’ing causes peaks and valleys in leptin concentrations in response to food intake. He uses this study as an example. The study showed that during a daytime fast during Ramadan, serum leptin levels remained neutral! So during fasting leptin levels drop and when you consume food they rise again. This is why Martin’s protocol calls for frequent refeeds to boost leptin levels.

Check out Martin Berkhan at and Lyle McDonald at for more information on leptin and fat loss in general.