Principle #5: Sleep affects what you eat—as well as your overall health.
We see this issue pop up a lot. People can nail everything with their nutrition but still struggle to reach their goals.
Often, that’s because they’re not getting enough sleep.
And they only make progress once they prioritize sleep.
What’s the connection?
If you sleep 5 or 6 hours when you really need 7 or 8, you keep your body in a chronically sleep-deprived state, impairing your body’s ability to regulate several key hormones.
By not getting enough sleep, you’re just hungrier and you crave sweets more than you otherwise would.
You’re also tired, so you exercise and move less.
And more awake time means more time to raid the kitchen.
Bottom line: Sleep-deprived people tend to eat at least 300 more daily calories than people who get enough sleep.28
In addition to interfering with weight loss, lack of sleep also erodes health.
Just one night of sleep deprivation can lead to increased blood pressure the following day.29-32 Each year, when nearly 1.5 billion people lose an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time, rates of heart attacks jump.33,34
What does this mean for you?
Most of us just aren’t sleeping enough.
Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 6? It’s not going to cut it.
Bonus principle: Internal appetite regulation is a game-changing skill… for most people.
People often rely on calorie counting to guide what and how much they eat. And while it can be helpful—serving as an external guardrail that protects against overeating—there’s a downside.
When people rely solely on external rules—following strict macros or calorie counts—they tend to lose touch with the internal cues that tell them when to eat and when to stop.35
And while you might assume people need a strict food tracking method to reach their goals, we just haven’t found that to be the case.
This is especially true when they learn to listen and respond to their internal sense of hunger and fullness, a skill known as internal appetite regulation.
By relaxing, eating slowly, and tuning into their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, most people can make phenomenal progress with this one important skill.
Research is starting to back up clinical experience, too, showing that internal appetite regulation can help people to automatically choose higher-quality foods.36,37
Is more research needed? Perhaps.
And it doesn’t work for every single person universally.
A very small number of people may not be able to effectively tune in to internal signals at all.
For example, people with Prader–Willi syndrome have abnormally high levels of the hunger-hormone ghrelin. They constantly feel excessively hungry when their bodies don’t need more calories, so asking them to stop eating when they feel full just doesn’t work.
Conversely, some people who are battling cancer rarely feel hungry and might lose too much weight if they didn’t use external guidance on when and how much to eat.
But these situations are relatively rare. With practice, the vast majority of people can eventually get in touch with their hunger and fullness signals.
What does this mean for you?
Sure, there’s not as much research behind internal regulation as there is for the five main principles listed above.
But the benefits of internal regulation far outweigh the scientific uncertainty and potential exceptions.
Need to evaluate other nutritional strategies? Use this process.
Beyond the core principles, there’s a lot that depends on the individual.
So what do you do when you want to know: How often should I eat? Should I eat breakfast? Is red meat okay? Should I take a multi? Is keto a good diet?
The answers all depend on a lot of variables, such as:
The best diet, for example, depends on someone’s physiology, food preferences, age, health, budget, and personal beliefs.
Universally, nearly everyone benefits from more protein, more produce, and more whole foods (which is why all three are listed under “what we know for sure.”) But the specifics—how often to eat, how much to eat, which macros to shoot for—will differ from person to person.
So rather than feeling pressured to have a definitive answer at the ready, in these situations, we like to explore key questions:
What’s the level of scientific confidence? What is the quality, scope, and consistency of the available research? Of course, finding the answer to this question requires a lot of digging and reading. You’ll also need a bit of research fluency to understand study design, bias, sample sizes, and so on. And lucky for you guys, that is my favourite thing to do.
If that sounds overwhelming, here’s an easy shortcut: examine.com, a site that analyzes scientific research across a wide range of nutrition topics. (This is our favourite nutrition information website)
The 5 principles has been adapted from Dr John Berardi, and his team at Precision Nutrition.
Fortune Fitness: Powered by EC.PT is proud to be associated with a company that follows and believes in the same health and nutrition principles as we do.
Elyse received her nutrition-coaching certification from Precision Nutrition and is now studying towards her masters in dietetics at Latrobe University.