The relationship between sleep and weight loss, another reason to get a good nights sleep


It has been clearly documented that sleep deprivation can result in weight gain, so a critical part of any diet is getting enough sleep.  A study of 1000 people in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that, on average, overweight people slept 16 minutes less every night.  While this seems like a small difference, think about it over a week, an average overweight person sleeps almost 2 hours less per week than a healthy person.  Similarly, a Nurses’ Health Study followed 68,183 women for 16 years (talk about dedication!), they found women who slept less than 5 hours a night were almost a third more likely to gain 30+ pounds than women who slept for at least 7 hours a night.

Another study supports this by finding that when people are only allowed to sleep for 4 hours a night they eat more than when they have had 8 hours of sleep.  The University of Colorado found that losing a few hours of sleep for just a few nights in a row caused people to gain an average of two pounds.

But why? Researchers at the University of Chicago believe that sleep deprivation may affect how we regulate appetite, leading to cravings.  Perhaps by increasing the amount of food you want to eat, but most likely by changing the type of food you crave.  So, when you haven’t slept enough you crave food with fats and carbohydrates more than when you’re well rested.  Sleep deprivation will also decrease the amount of exercise you do and lower your metabolism.  Essentially, they believe sleep deprivation is a triple threat.

Here’s the exciting part! A new study published in Nature Communications gives evidence for what the researchers at Chicago believe.  The study shows that just one night of sleep deprivation changes the way our brains view high-calorie junk food. On days after inadequate sleep, fattening foods and sweets evoke a stronger response in a part of the brain, the amygdala, that controls motivation to eat.  Essentially, when you don’t get enough sleep, junk food becomes more enticing to you.  Simultaneously, sleep deprived subjects had reduced activity in the frontal cortex, a part of the brain known to play a role in rational decision-making.  Meaning, when you don’t get enough sleep, it’s hard to make well-balanced decisions – not exactly news – but definitely something to think about when you’re trying to stick to a strict diet.

So this new study suggests that lack of sleep has a double hit on your waistline, first by increasing your desire to consume fatty foods and second by lowering your ability to avoid giving into the cravings.

How did they determine this?  They assigned healthy men and women to two different regimes separated by a week.  The first was to sleep for 8 hours and wake up to a small breakfast, then look at 80 pictures of foods and determine how badly they wanted to eat them.  The second was to stay up all night and then evaluate the same foods.  The sleep-deprived subjects exhibited a strong preference for high calorie foods when compared to the well-rested subjects.  The foods the sleep-deprived subjects chose added up to an average of 600 calories more than the rested group.

Brain scans mirrored this desire for high caloric foods by showing increased activity in the amygdala of sleep-deprived subjects when looking at fatty foods.  This was accompanied by reduced activity in the frontal lobe indicating reduced decision making ability.

But why does sleep-deprivation result in increased activity in the amygdala and reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex? One theory centers around the accumulation of adenosine.  This is a metabolic byproduct that can disrupt neural function and results in feelings of sleepiness when it builds up.  Caffeine can block adenosine, which is one of the ways it helps us feel more awake and alert.  Sleeping flushes adenosine out of your system and essentially reboots the brain.  It’s possible that without sleep, adenosine affects the neural networks in the amygdala and frontal lobe that we have been talking about.  Hopefully future research will shed more light on this theory.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.  If you regularly feel sleepy in the afternoon or evening then you’re probably not getting enough sleep at night.  The need to nap is a good sign that you’re sleep deprived.  If you’re trying to lose weight you should really try to monitor and regulate your sleep.

Another benefit to adequate sleep is that you are more likely to exercise and burn more calories.  In turn, the exercise will help you sleep better preventing you from unnecessary food indulgences.  Beyond the realm of weight loss, proper sleep has been shown to be beneficial to every single organ in your body.  I hope you feel inspired to get good nights sleep!

Finding a good at home workout DVD – Insanity


I have set out on a quest to find an awesome home workout DVD.  Since college, I’ve had no one to tell me when and how to workout and I’ve been feeling kind of lost.  I think I’m just trying to replace my college coach with a DVD because of a desperate need for someone to yell at me – which is pretty sad.  Anyway, I’ve decided to give this whole DVD thing a go!  I think they can be an almost unlimited resource for new workouts and motivation.  The only downside I can see to exercise DVDs is that they cost money, something I reallyyyyy try to avoid.  Fortunately you can get cheap second hand DVDs on amazon or ebay. 

Since I’m a complete workout DVD noob, I did the predictable thing of ordering insanity.  Looking back on it I probably should have shopped around first but so far I’m pleased with my choice.  I just completed my 4th day and I’m feeling good about it… 9 weeks to go…

Things I like about Insanity

It combines strength and cardio so I feel like I’ve got a complete workout

There’s a little bit of a yoga feel to some of the stretching parts.  I’ve always wanted to try yoga so this is a nice little introduction.

The fit test that you take every two weeks is a really nice way to record your progress.

Shaun T is pretty motivating and it’s nice that there are normal people in the videos to relate to.

It comes with a nice calendar to keep you on track and motivated.

You are encouraged to take breaks whenever you need.


Things I don’t like

Workouts are only about 40 minutes long, I like to workout for at least 90 minutes a day so I would prefer them to be a bit longer.

I wish there was a demonstration DVD you could watch prior to starting the workout that went through all of the exercises.  Sometimes I spend half the DVD figuring out how do actually do the exercises. 

The stretching parts are soooo hard! I guess that’s probably because I’m about as flexible as a wooden board.  Its actually a good thing though, I don’t normally focus on stretching or flexibility – I wouldn’t really even know where to start – so I’m learning new things and am definitely out of my comfort zone which is what I wanted.

Ok well those are my thoughts so far! I will post more as I progress through the program, I’m excited to take the fit test again and see how much I’ve improved. 

A tip to lose weight without diet or exercise

The best way I have ever found to lose weight without diet or exercise is to drink at least 8 glasses of ice water a day.  Not only will you start to lose weight, you’ll also eat less and be more energized.  Here’s why drinking ice cold water is the best thing for your body:

Your body has to heat the water up to body temperature, which costs calories.  If you drink 8 8-ounce glasses of ice-cold water a day you’ll burn 70 calories.  That’s the equivalent of about 10 minutes of moderate exercise on a stationary bike or jogging half a mile.  Doctors recommend you drink 8 glasses of water a day anyway, so by simply drinking this water cold you’ll be burning 490 calories a week.  This amounts to burning off a pound of fat every 7 weeks.

Eight glasses of water will significantly suppress your appetite.  If you drink a glass of water before every meal and then another with the meal it will help you achieve a feeling of fullness so you eat less. 

Think about what you drink now instead of water.  If you substitute a glass of water for your normal drink at every meal you could be saving a lot of calories.  In one day, if you drink water instead of; orange juice at breakfast, cup of coffee with cream and sugar mid morning, soda at lunch and wine with dinner you’d save about 550 calories a day!  Amazingly, that equates to a pound of fat every week! You’d need to run 23 miles a week to achieve the same weight loss.

When you are dehydrated your metabolism slows down, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will guarantee this doesn’t happen.  Drinking plenty of water will help keep your metabolism at its optimum rate so you burn the most amount of calories.  Dehydration will also make you tired, which will make it harder to find motivation to go to the gym or to burn as many calories as you otherwise would.

Our body is complicated; sometimes when we feel hungry we are actually thirsty.  If you feel hungry, drink a glass of ice-cold water, wait 20 minutes and see if you still really want anything to eat.  This will help prevent unnecessary calorie intake.

You should also drink 8 glasses of water a day for your general health.  Our body is 60% water and every single system relies on water to function properly.  Drinking the appropriate amount of water will help flush toxins out of your vital organs, carry nutrients to your cells and provide a moist environment for your ear, nose and throat tissues.  You lose water everyday through breathing, sweating and going to the bathroom.  The institute of medicine says the average male needs to drink 3 liters, and the average woman 2.2 liters, to replenish these loses.  That equates to 101 ounces of water for men and 74 ounces for women.  So setting a goal of 8 8-ounce glasses will get you close to this.

Just a quick warning, if your body is not used to consuming this quantity of liquid it will take a while to adjust.  You may find yourself needing to go to the bathroom pretty frequently, this is normal.  After a week or two you’ll find you body adjusts and you return to your normal bathroom frequency. 

Fat burning agility workout

fast foot ladder, agility workout, ladder workout, speed workout, agility ladder, agility workout

Here’s a nice easy agility workout that will get your heart rate right up and work on sculpting your legs.  If you’ve been running a lot, mix it up and do this some days to break up the monotony of jogging.  All you need is some comfy running shoes and an agility ladder.  If you don’t have an agility ladder, don’t worry, you’ll just have to get crafty! If you are inside get some masking tape and tape the rungs of the ladder on the ground about 1-1 1/2 feet apart.  If you are on grass or any other surface where tape won’t stick you can use objects as the rungs of the ladder.  An example of this could be to lay out sticks the appropriate distance apart.  You may have to adjust your  makeshift ladder as you go through the workout though.  There are 7 different patterns, go through the ladder once with the first pattern, the single run, and sprint several yards after finishing the ladder.  Then turn around and jog back to the beginning.  Repeat this 5 times for each pattern.  Take a 60s break and then go through the sequence 3 more times.  Remember to alternate which foot you start with!

The single run is basically just a sprint with very short strides through the ladder.  In the double run, place your left foot in the first rung, then your right foot in the first rung, then your left foot in the 2nd rung and then your right foot in the second rung.  Again this will be like running but with even shorter strides.  For the icky shuffle place your right foot in the first rung, then your left foot in the first rung.  Next put your right foot just outside of the second rung and your left foot in the second rung in front of where your right foot used to be.  Then move your left foot to its original position but in the third run and then your right foot in its original position in the third rung. Then place your left foot just outside the 4th rung and so on and so forth. For the hopscotch, start with both feet next to each other, jump and split your legs so both your feet land outside the ladder on the second rung.  Then jump and put your legs back together so your feet our side by side in the third rung.  The space jumps are essentially just two footed jumps.  The side jumps are the same but side ways.  For the in and out,start facing side ways with your two feet together.  With your leading foot step outside of the ladder and then follow with the trailing foot.  Then place your leading leg back inside the ladder in the second rung and follow with the trailing leg.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!


Garcinia Cambogia – Do any weight loss pills actually work?

After trying Green Coffee Bean, Raspberry Ketone, African Mango and Green Tea for 30 days with disappointing results, I’ve decided to move forward and try Garcinia Cambogia to figure out if any of these weight loss supplements really do work.  My first step was to order a 30 day trial supply from Pure Garcinia Cambogia.  The suggested use is to take one capsule twice a day with a full glass of water – easy enough.  I then noticed it said on the front of the bottle there were 60 pills and on the side that there were 30 … I counted … there are 59.  So this morning I weighed myself and took my first pill.  Again, I will make no changes to my diet and monitor if the supplement has any effect on my body.

What is Garcinia Cambogia? Also known as Garcinia gummi-gutta, gambooge, brindleberry, brindall berry, Malabar tamarind, assam fruit, vadakkan puli and kudam puli, Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit bearing plant grown in southeast Asia, India and West and central Africa.  The fruit looks like a yellow, green or reddish pumpkin and can vary in size between an orange and a grapefruit.  It is commonly used in the preparation of curries.  So why is it suddenly marketed for weight loss? About 6 months ago Dr. Oz described it as a “magic” weight loss aid and that really got the ball rolling.

The theory is that the hydroxycitric acid (HCA) in the fruit can cause massive weight loss.  There are animal studies that show that this compound has the potential to modulate lipid metabolism.   Its also believed that HCA can increase serotonin levels.  Serotonin is an incredibly important neurotransmitter that has been shown, along with many other things, to play a role in satisfaction and a feeling of fullness.  Additionally HCA many decrease levels of ATP Citrate Lyase, which is an enzyme that functions in converting metabolized carbohydrates to fatty cells.  A study in rats even shows that taking HCA can slow glucose uptake. 

Unfortunately, a study in 1998 of 135 people found that the fruit didn’t cause any more weight loss than placebo.  More recent trials of 706 people found very small weight loss, but because of the insignificance of the amount of weight lost, and flaws with the trials, there is not any conclusive evidence that this stuff works.  This doesn’t sound too promising so far…

What about side effects? Could taking this stuff be dangerous? Apparently, if you consume Garcinia Cambogia well above the recommended dose you may experience nausea, headaches or some laxative effects.  Its important to order Garcinia Cambogia from a trusted retailer and to make sure you are getting a daily dose between 500-1500 mg of 50% HCA.  I’m going to give this stuff a try, I’ll keep you updated on my progress!

Do any diet/weight loss pills actually work?

I’ve always been curious about diet supplements that claim to dramatically increase weight loss – sometimes they’ll even claim you can lose weight without dieting or exercising.  Seems way to good to be true.  I finally caved and decided to try one and carefully monitor its effect on my body and write a full product review.  I bought a 30-day trial of Tru Body Wellness ULTRA LEAN by Tru Body Wellness – if you’re like me you’ll be happy to know they offer a 30 Money Day Money Back Guarantee.  The tag line for this product is 4 Ultimate Weight Loss Supplement Products ALL in 1 pill.  So taking this one pill allowed me to investigate the claims behind 4 popular diet fads.  I took two pills a day for 30 days without making any changes to my diet or exercise.  I did not gain or lose any weight, nor did I experience any side effects.

Alright, let’s start by breaking down what’s actually in these pills; Green Coffee Bean 400mg, Raspberry Ketone 200mg, African Mango 150mg and Green Tea 50mg.

Lets go through them individually:

1. Green Coffee Bean.  In a small study these beans were shown to increase weight loss compared to placebo.  In 22 weeks, 16 overweight men lost an average of 17 pounds without changing diet of exercise.  One theory as to how green coffee bean may increase weight loss is because it contains Chlorogenic acid, a plant compound, which may have some effect on keeping down glucose absorption.  A larger study is currently underway.

2. Raspberry Ketone.  This is the compound in red raspberries that is responsible for their smell.  There is definitely an aroma associated with these pills because of the raspberry ketone component.  Because there are only small amounts of them available in nature, raspberry ketone supplements are generally biosynthesized.  There is currently no clinical evidence that they are responsible for weight loss in humans.  The myth that raspberry ketone helps with weight loss comes from the idea that it enhances the activity of a hormone adiponectin, which plays a role in weight regulation and blood glucose levels.  There have also been two studies, one in mice and one in rats, that showed that raspberry ketones might help prevent rodent’s from becoming obese.  Not overly compelling…

3. African Mango.  African mango is a nickname for the fruit produced in Central and West Africa by a tree called Irvingia gabonensis.  Its been suggested that the high soluble fiber in the seed can “melt away belly fat”, by reducing appetite, lowering blood cholesterol levels, reducing fat cell growth, breaking down fats and improving blood sugar control.  That’s quite a claim!  A few studies have backed these claims up but were sponsored by manufacturers of the supplement.  More research needs to be done but it does seem like this might really aid in weight loss.  At the very least it is high in fiber so will help you feel more full. 

4. Green Tea.  Green tea contains a substance called EGCG, an antioxidant that is thought to have a calorie burning effect.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 90mg of EGCG and 50mg of caffeine at mealtime increased energy expenditure by 4%.  This sounds promising but the study only had a sample size of 10, and 4% increased energy expenditure probably wouldn’t have a worthwhile effect on weight loss anyway.

Right on the bottle you’ll find this product claim: Tru ULTRA LEAN combines Green Coffee Extract, Raspberry Ketone, African Mango and Green Tea into one capsule.  This powerful combination assists in increasing metabolism, energizing, suppressing your appetite and cravings, while turning your body into a fat burning machine.  Use in combination with a sensible diet and exercise plan.  These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

So lets break down these claims one by one:

1. Will this supplement increase your metabolism?  First let’s talk about what your metabolism really is.  Your metabolism is all of the chemical reactions in your cells that are necessary for life.  Including how we convert our food into fuel and then how efficiently we use that fuel – this translates into how quickly we burn calories and how easy it is for us to gain or lose weight.  There are several factors that can affect your metabolism; age, sex (darn you men!) and how much muscle mass you have.  However, a lot of it just comes down to genes, some people just have a faster metabolism than others.  The good news is you can increase your metabolism! Exercising, for example, particularly weight training, will increase your muscle mass.  Muscles cost more calories to sustain even while at rest so just having greater muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate!  A pound of muscle burns about 35 calories a day compared to the pathetic 2 calories a pound of fat burns.  Another way you can increase your metabolism is to change your eating habits.  When you wait a long time in between meals your metabolism starts to slow down because your body wants to preserve calories, essentially you’re in starvation mode.  Eating little snacks in between meals (see my previous post on low calorie snacks!) will help keep your metabolism up.  So back to the point, it’s really impossible for me to evaluate whether or not this product increased my metabolism just from taking the supplement for 30 days.  I will say, however, that I did not gain or lose and weight while taking this supplement so… it doesn’t appear to have had any effect.  However, maybe in combination with dramatic changes to diet, exercise and lifestyle it may aid in revving up your metabolism.  Although, even if these supplements do have an effect, it seems unlikely that they would increase metabolism enough to have any significant effect on weight loss by themselves. It also probably depends on the person; I have a very high metabolism to begin with, so perhaps it would have more effect on someone with a more sluggish metabolism – who knows.  To conclude, I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, this supplement does not increase metabolism, at least not in a substantial enough way to aid your weight loss.

2.  Does this supplement boost your energy?  This is an interesting one.  I would take one pill in the morning when I woke up and then one mid afternoon.  I really do think I noticed some sort of energy boost from my morning pill, but maybe it was just me waking up in the morning.  I didn’t notice any difference with the afternoon pill but I’m normally pretty sleepy then anyway!  The energy boosting effect was negligible at best, non-existent at worst.

3. Here’s the best one, does this have an effect on your appetite? My vote is yes! I really felt less hungry after I took the pill and I think it helps you make sensible diet choices throughout the day.  Perhaps the African Mango really does suppress apetite!

4. Turns your body into a fat burning machine?  This claim is just plain ridiculous marketing sensationalism.

5. This ones not listed on the bottle, but lets take a minute to think about the placebo effect.  If you’ve hit a plateau with your diet and you start taking a supplement that you believe is going to help, maybe it will give you some added motivation that really will lead to weight loss!  Additionally I think if you invest money into buying a supplement you’re more likely to stick to your diet and exercise regiment.

The bottom line, if you are looking for something to supplement your diet and exercise this may be for you, but its certainly not going to turn you into a “fat burning machine” all by itself.  From my experience this supplement could definitely make it easier to avoid cravings  and exercise better portion control, but that’s really about it.



20 reasons why running is the perfect post graduation workout

It’s really easy

1. It’s free! No gym subscription, equipment costs or training fees.

2. You already know how to do it.  Put one foot in front of the other…

3. You can do it anywhere and at any time.

Fitness Benefits

4.  Compared to other cardio activities it burns far more calories – depending on your weight and size – somewhere between 705 – 865 calories per hour.  This compared to stairs (637-746), rowing (606-739), cross-country skiing (595-678) or biking (498-604).

5. Running will truly reduce your body fat percentage. The ACSM studied individuals who ran more than 50 miles per week and found they had significantly higher HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), lower triglyceride levels (body fat), and a decreased risk of coronary heart disease compared to individuals who ran less than 10 miles.

6. Running is an incredibly time efficient work out.  If you go for a 30-minute run, you are truly working out for the full 30 minutes.

7. Running is believed to be one of the most efficient fat burning exercises.  Scientists believe this may be due to the weight-bearing and pounding of running that you don’t get with exercises like cycling or swimming.

Physical Health Benefits

8. Running will strengthen your heart.  Every time your foot hits the ground your leg muscles contract forcing blood back towards your heart, making it work harder to pump it back to your leg muscles.  Like any other muscle, forcing the heart to work harder strengthens it.

9. Related to this, running has been shown to decrease your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

10. Additionally, running has been shown to lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

11. Many people believe that running can be tough on your joints, but it actually helps prevent osteoporosis by helping keep excess weight off so there is less strain on your knees.  It also increases blood and oxygen flow to your joints, which can flush out toxins and strengthen your ligaments.

12. There seems to be a correlation between how much you run and your risk of developing many types of cancers (including colon, breast, endometrial, and lung).  The British Journal of Cancer recently found that active people, those who ran or walked for 5-6 hours a week, were 24% less likely to develop colon cancer than those who only walked for 30 minutes/week.  Similarly, the National Cancer Institute claims that women with the highest levels of aerobic activity have a 30% less chance of developing breast cancer than those who do no vigorous activity.

13. Surprisingly, running has also been shown to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

14. Who doesn’t want to live longer? Stanford University School of Medicine tracked approximately 500 runners and 500 healthy non-runners over the age of 50 for 20 years.  They all took a disability test at the beginning of the study that evaluated how easily they completed simple tasks like washing their hair, cutting meat or opening a cartoon of milk.  As the subjects aged the disability levels were significantly lower in runners than non-runners suggesting runners age much better.  The study concluded that running improved response to vaccination and improved learning thinking and memory.  Additionally, after 20 years, 85% of runners were still alive while only 66% of non-runners were…

15. Running has been shown to increase bone mass and lower inflammation. 

Mental Health Benefits

16. Running can also be incredibly beneficial to your mental health.  In fact, it is common for mental health experts to prescribe running to treat depression and drug and alcohol addiction. 

17. Stress Relief!!!

Other bonuses 

18. Guilt free me time! Running is a great way to get away from it all and enjoy your own company. 

19. Self Defense – if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation it’s always good to be able to get away from it as fast as possible!

20. Running can be a great way to discover places.  Since you are on foot and not rushing to get anywhere is particular you may discover things you’d otherwise drive right by.

Busting the negative calorie myth

14 low calorie snacks, negative calorie foods, low calorie foods, diet snacks

I find that more often than not when I snack between meals it is for some other reason than being hungry.  Normally it’s because I’m bored.  Sometimes because I’m sad, other times because I’m anxious… Regardless of the reason, I’m consuming calories that my body doesn’t need! Generally I also go for things like potato chips or candy bars from a vending machine and that just makes the situation worse.  Instead of torturing yourself by cutting out snacking all together, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just eat certain foods with ‘negative calories’.  Negative calorie diets claim that there are a group of food that require more calories to process and digest than they contain.  So for example, if a food item contains 10 calories but the body uses 20 calories to digest it, you are actually burning 10 calories.  Unfortunately, the only negative calorie ‘food’ is cold water.  This is because the water itself has no calories and your body has to expend energy to heat the water up to body temperature.  On a side note – drinking several glasses of ice water a day is an excellent supplement to any diet, not only does it burn a hand full of calories, it will also make you feel more full – but more on that later! So lets get back to negative calorie foods, if I get a bit sciencey here, bear with me;

The negative calorie food idea is based on the principle of the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF = amount of energy your body expends digesting, absorbing and distributing the food.  This includes calories ‘burned’ while; chewing, swallowing or enzymatically breaking down the food, absorbing the nutrients across the walls of you intestine etc. etc.  This may seem like a lot of work for your body, but its really not, we’re very efficient.  According to ( and other sources, food generally costs about 10% of its caloric value to process, with proteins being the most costly to process and fats being the easiest.

So for a food to have ‘negative calories’ it must have TEF > the amount of calories it contains.  Unfortunately the only snack that fits this criteria is… once again, cold water.  That doesn’t mean, however, that low calorie foods like citrus fruits and celery don’t come close to being ‘zero calorie’ foods.  Read; eating an orange is going to have a pretty negligible effect on your total calorie input.  Another issue with these ‘negative calorie’ foods is that you’re never going to eat them without something else to go with them.  Who just sits there nibbling on watercress? That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 14 low calorie foods that are suitable for snacking on.  Since their caloric input is negligible you can satisfy your desire to nibble on something without ruining your diet.  Additionally, a lot of these foods contain nutrients that are actually good for you, go figure! Enjoy snacking!

Ps. Shout out to lettuce, not exactly an ideal snack food, but low calorie nonetheless.