Now I know if you have young kids you will totally agree with me when I say that sleep deprivation is a form of torture right?
It was a torture that I was blissfully unaware of up until summer 2012 when my first son John came along.
Without going into all the gory details, what followed were a few years of absolute sleep torture, especially as his brother Elliot followed just 16 months later.
My previous bubbly, fresh- faced self turned into a tired, beat up one with massive bags under its eyes.
The years of being able to stick to my ultra clean nutrition with ease soon went and I craved junk food and sugar in abundance.
This actually led to some pretty epic binges and self-loathing which thankfully over time I overcame.
But why did all of a sudden I start craving carbs and junk?
Because I was tired you may say but lets go a little deeper.
Well there are actually 2 hormones that we secrete when we suffer lack of sleep.
1) Grehlin – this is a hunger hormone hence the craving for more food, in particular sugar and carbs.
2) Cortisol – this is a stress hormone and what do a lot of us do when stressed? Drink and eat, well at least I did.
I gained 2 stone after the boys were born and felt like crap for a few years as I was faced with challenges in growing my business and personally becoming a sole provider for a young family.
Thankfully I have overcome all this with help and a better, more balanced understanding of nutrition and of course because I finally get good quality sleep 95% of the time (ah it feels so good just to write this).
If you have a young family and are getting crap sleep right now then I want you to know that I totally empathise with you. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. Like I said my training went to shit so just listen to your body and do what you can.
Now – its KEY here to understand that poor sleep alone will NOT make you fat (although the courses I once went on lead me to believe this).
There is only ever one reason we gain fat and that is because we are in a calorie surplus due to taking in more food / drink than we are expending through activity and exercise.
As I stated already, Grehlin and Cortisol are two hormones that can send our hunger through the roof and at time make us feel almost out of control (well it did me).
My advise to you if you are going through a prolonged period of crap sleep right now; DO NOT BAN any food groups like I tried to do by being the ultra-clean eater and then failing massively every week.
Get an understanding of calories and if you are craving some chocolate or some crisps then have them. It will satisfy a craving and all you have to do is factor them in.
An average chocolate bar is around 250 calories as is a bag of crisps. These alone won’t make you fat if you are sufficiently hydrated and keeping calories controlled with whole foods for the rest of the time.
I can safely say I never want to go through that type of sleep deprivation that my partner and I went through for close to 3 years. However if it did happen again I’d certainly be a LOT more aware of how I was going to feel.
Ride it out lads, try and get a nap in when you can (I used to nap in my car outside the gym in between clients in the early days of parenthood) and be aware of what is going on in your body due to this type of sleep deprivation.
Whilst you can’t always control what type of night’s sleep you are going to have due to the little ones you do now have an understanding of what the hormones grehlin and cortisol do to your hunger.
So be aware lads and don’t be too strict on yourself. Satisfy the craving but try not too binge and remember ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do’