The Biggest Reason You Can't Get Lean (and the Easiest Way to Fix It)

A recent study examined how sleep affected an overweight person's ability to get leaner, and they stumbled upon some staggering results.

Gaining muscle and losing body fat—it's everyone's fitness goal.

There are millions of books, supplements, workout programs, coaches and meal plans focused on the topic. Although that might sound like it would make the task easier, much of this information contradicts itself. One source says to minimize carbs, another says you don't have to. One says to eat small meals throughout the day, another says to fast for most of it. No wonder people find it so difficult to get lean.

But there's one tool that's so simple and highly effective that it's surprising most people miss it—sleep. A recent study examined how sleep affected an overweight person's ability to get leaner, and they stumbled upon some staggering results.

The Sleep Study

Let's dive into the details of this study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The participants included 10 overweight subjects who do not smoke. Researchers put all participants on the same moderate calorie-restriction diet before separating them into two groups:

  • Group one had 8.5 hours of nighttime sleep opportunity
  • Group two had 5.5 hours of nighttime sleep opportunity

The study went on for 14 days.

By the end of the study, both groups lost about the same amount of weight. However, the composition of their weight loss was drastically different.

Group 1 participants, who had three more hours of daily nighttime sleep opportunity than group two participants, lost 3.09 pounds of fat and 3.31 pounds of muscle. Group two participants lost 1.32 pounds of fat and 5.29 pounds of muscle.

By sleeping less, group two participants lost 55% less fat weight and 60% more muscle mass. While both groups likely would preserved more muscle on a higher protein diet, that's not the focus here. The focus is how sleep can drastically change what our body burns for fuel, with insufficient sleep being associated with less fat loss and greater muscle loss. This is the exact opposite of what you want for staying lean over the long-term.

If you've tried diet books, "fat loss" workouts, supplements and all the other fixes that promise a leaner body to no avail, you're probably missing out on an incredibly simple fix—getting enough sleep. In addition to a boatload of other benefits, sufficient sleep is the most effortless way to achieve or keep a lean, muscular physique.

Photo Credit: Ocskaymark/iStock

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Topics: WEIGHT LOSS | SLEEP | FAT LOSS