4 ½ months of broken sleep, 3 weeks post-partum…
The feeling of being bored at home wanting to be doing something other than feeding every hour was what drove me back to the gym and into training early.
It would be another 24 months before I had my first unbroken night of sleep..
I under-estimated the importance of sleep, a lot like many other Mumma’s do when the endorphins are still flowing and the feeling of being able to conquer anything still lingers after giving birth.
The pressure we put on ourselves to getting our pre-baby bodies back can often lead to potentially dangerous behaviors that zap us of our energy, health and ultimately destroys our bodies ability to get back into shape.
In this article we’re going to take a look at how sleep impacts not only your results from exercise but also your energy levels throughout the day.
When Do The Positive Benefits of Exercise Occur?
A commonly misunderstood fact is that you burn fat while you are working out.
In fact, it is estimated that around 60% of what you burn during an intense workout can be attributed to the food you eat throughout the day and the energy stores within your muscles.
The positive benefits of exercise don’t occur until you go to sleep, deep sleep.
Between 10pm-2am our bodies circadian rhythm goes into physical repair and from 2am-6am it shifts into mental repair.
If you don't have unbroken sleep between those time frames your body isn't adequately recharging from the day before which is essential for not only gaining the positive benefits from exercise such as fat loss and muscle gain but also for your sanity.
Poor Sleep Has Other Effects…
Not only does poor sleep effect your recovery, it also impairs ‘Carbohydrate Metabolism’ (the way your bodies utilizes carbohydrates).
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the enemy.
In fact, studies have shown that a general feeling of fatigue is closely related to how much carbohydrates are stored inside your muscles.
Without giving you a science lesson, the muscle you have on your body does more than just sit there and look good. It houses immediate energy sources, energy you might need to chase after your two year old at the park and you need to simply get out of bed in the morning.
When carbohydrate metabolism is impaired, the carbs you eat don't go to where they're needed. Instead your body stores them as fat.
The problems don't stop there, because the carbs you eat aren't going to where they're needed you crave carbohydrates more intensely which leads to eating typically high sugar foods which then are again stored as more body fat.
Without a good carbohydrate metabolism your blood sugar levels become unstable which is why you experience those dreaded lows in energy throughout the day.
A lot of the time, the reason you can’t seem to stay out of the cupboard at night is because you didn’t sleep well the night before. Not because of a lack of will power.
Unfortunately, this all results in a powerful vicious cycle and no matter how good your intentions of eating healthy are. Unless you get a good nights sleep, those good intentions are useless.
Prolonged periods of poor sleep can even affect the absorption of important nutrients such is the case of what happened to me after 18 months of terrible sleep with my second baby.
Intense Exercise Magnifies Everything
Picture this grim situation we find ourselves in as Mumma’s as a slow burning fire.
Adding Intense Exercise is like pouring petrol over that flame, try and stay with me here.
The more longer & more frequently you exercise, the more fatigued you become and the more fatigued you get, the worse your sleep quality becomes.
That's not all..
The more you exercise, the more fatigued you become and the worse your sleep quality gets the more impaired your metabolism gets which means it’s less likely the nutrients you are eating will go to where they’re needed and it’s more likely you will eat the wrong types of foods that won’t improve your health, energy levels or body shape.
It’s Not All Bad News
It's not like we can tell our babies to let Mummy sleep, it's totally out of control.
Now, I can already hear some Mumma’s who would like to think by exercising that they’re ‘at least doing something’ or by some chance they ‘lapping those that are on the couch’ so in response I’m like to reaffirm that is not the case.
Exercising without good sleeping habits and eating habits is a fast track to burn out, rebound and the typical mumbod you see in our society today.
To avoid this, the quickest way to getting a lean & healthy FitMum body bursting with energy is;
1. If you’re tired, don’t exercise.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this if you have read this blog entirely but for good measure I’ll say this once more. There are absolutely no benefits to exercising a tired, fatigued body
2. Don't stress, just aim to progress.
You won't be perfect, especially at this time in your life. You’ll feel like eating some junk, that’s normal, you just had a baby so there has to be some joy to life am I right? So, don’t stress about what junk you eat, focus on eating more good food than junk. Eventually you’ll put so much more good food than junk, the junk will become irrelevant.
3. Aim to improve the quality of sleep you do get.
Put your energy into getting better quality sleep when you do get some. Don’t sit on your phone while you’re breast-feeding, turn all screens off an hour before bed, read a book, listen to soothing music or have a sleepy tea.
Figuring out some good cues that produce good sleeping habits will have the biggest impact on your body and your metabolism.
Bigger than any exercise program or diet.
4. Exercise, but only when you're feeling well
Yes you can exercise, in fact you should but only when you’re well rested and well fed. There's no benefit in training a fatigued, tired and undernourished body and if you've not had a good nights rest you should take the time to have a nap. I wish I napped more.
You'll get a great result even if you can only manage one or two intense exercise sessions a week. There were times where I could only train once a week last year but I still managed to build my best body yet.
5. Find somebody who has solved the problems you are having
I did, as a Mum it really helps having somebody who has an unemotional view of your life. Somebody who can tell you to rest when you need to rest but somebody who will also encourage you to make the best decisions.
A lot of women want to get into shape after pregnancy but cookie cutter, generic programs don't have the every day solutions for the problems us Mumma's face every day.
Structured accountability and a step by step process like the one in my FitMum Program is essential to getting a lean, healthy vibrant Mumbod.
My next FitMum Intake is April 15th, I don't work with just anyone so to see you and I are a good fit for each other you can apply here