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  • Writer's pictureJackie K

Hey runner... is poor sleep impacting your diet AND your performance? Here's what to do

Did you know that poor sleep can affect your appetite, your eating habits, AND your running performance?

We've all heard that sleep is important. We know we should get at least 7 hours per night... that's nothing new, right? It can be hard to get in that sleep though. Between busy schedules, training, stress, a snoring partner... getting the recommended amount of sleep can seem so hard.

Here's how lousy sleep affects runners.

๐Ÿ›Œ The hormones that affect your appetite are out of balance

When you don't get enough sleep, the hormones that affect your appetite are affected. Namely, you will have increased amounts of grehlin. This hormone has a tendency to increase your appetite -- it makes you feel hungry and want to eat something.

At the same time, the hormone leptin is decreased. Leptin makes you feel full or satisfied and decreases your overall appetite.

So inadequate sleep leads to a double whammy in hormone changes. You're more likely to reach for a box of cookies or a bag of chips, and less likely to be satisfied after doing so.

๐Ÿ›Œ The hormones that affect stress and muscle recovery are out of balance

It isn't just the appetite hormones, it is the hormones that can help you build and break down muscle that are affected. And you really do need both. After a hard workout, your muscles are broken down a bit but are then built up again.

Your muscle recovery will be impaired if these hormones are out of whack... not only do you have increased muscle breakdown, but your muscle recovery and synthesis is impaired. That is not the way to a PR!!

๐Ÿ›Œ You're more likely to struggle with weight gain (or have trouble losing it)

This one kind of goes along with the hormonal changes -- you're more likely to be hungry, and less likely to be satisfied after you eat. This means you're eating more than you would had you gotten adequate sleep, which can lead to weight gain.

Not only that, but you're more likely to reach for high-calorie foods, especially ones that are high in sugar. While that isn't necessarily always a bad thing, these foods are usually ones that make you feel lethargic or give you sugar crashes... they're not the ones that give you energy for your run (or your life) and aren't going to sustain you during said run.

๐Ÿ›Œ You're at higher risk for diabetes

There is a strong correlation between sleep and diabetes. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance... Your blood sugar will be higher, which can damage your blood vessels and organs, and ultimately can lead to diabetes.

Even short term sleep deprivation can lead to higher blood sugar levels along with lowered insulin levels... meaning that the sugar in your blood can't enter the cells as easily, where you can actually use it for energy.

๐Ÿ›Œ So many other issues...

  • Your performance will suffer (don't expect to run as far after pulling an all-nighter).

  • Your mood will suffer (you're more likely to be irritable).

  • You're more likely to get injured (nobody wants to be part of the injured running club).

  • You could be more likely to get sick (because your immune system is affected if you don't get enough sleep).

So how does a runner like you fuel your body to make sure that you get enough sleep AND perform at your best?

๐Ÿ›Œ Don't skip carbs before bed

Some studies have shown that eating a meal high in carbohydrates before you go to bed can actually improve your sleep quality (more REM sleep, less likely to sleep light and/or wake up during the night) as compared to eating a meal that is light in carbohydrates or has none at all.

While this still needs some studying in athletes (how many carbs? when should they be eaten in relation to bedtime?), I think it was interesting and worth noting. We all know that runners need carbohydrates for energy and so you don't "bonk" during your next workout.

Basically... if you want to sleep well and if you want to perform well during your workout tomorrow, you need to make sure you eat some carbohydrates at dinner. And maybe also a bedtime snack.

๐Ÿ›Œ Make sure you get some melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone, and many suggest that it helps promote sleep and improve sleep quality. You can take an over-the-counter melatonin supplement, or you could eat foods that have some melatonin in them - try milk, tart cherries ๐Ÿ’, eggs ๐Ÿฅš, fish ๐ŸŸ, and nuts or seeds.

๐Ÿ›Œ Eat some foods that provide tryptophan

Maybe you've heard of this around Thanksgiving... eating all that turkey ๐Ÿฆƒ supposedly leads to an afternoon nap. It is true that turkey is a decent source of tryptophan, which can promote sleep. But if turkey isn't your jam, then try other foods like milk ๐Ÿฅ›, fish (salmon ๐Ÿฃespecially!), nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables ๐Ÿฅฆ, and oatmeal.

๐Ÿ›Œ Avoid caffeine before bedtime

If you're struggling to get to sleep even if you go to bed at a decent hour, or if you can't seem to wind down at bedtime, or if you're waking up in the middle of the night, check your caffeine habits. Drinking too much coffee โ˜•๏ธ or tea ๐Ÿซ– can disrupt your sleep habits.

So, runner friend, does your lack of sleep impact your appetite and your performance? Do you want to learn how improving your diet can help you run better, recovery faster, and sleep easier? I work with runners like you to do just that! Schedule a free runner's nutrition strategy call today to talk to me and find out how I can help you too.

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