July 12, 2023

Will Sleeping After Exercise Make You Gain Weight?

woman sleeping after going to the gym

Will Sleeping After Exercise Make You Gain Weight?

It’s a myth I have heard for long.

“If you sleep immediately after exercising, you’ll pack on the pounds.” But is there any truth to this statement?

Spoiler alert: Not really!

Key Points

Before we deep dive into this topic, let’s get to know some basics:

  • Calorie Burn: It’s a fact that our bodies are calorie-burning machines 24/7, whether we’re powering through a spin class, snoozing, or just sitting around
  • Afterburn Effect: Exercise, particularly high-intensity workouts, boosts our metabolism and keeps it elevated even post-workout. This is known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC
  • Sleeping Metabolism: During sleep, our bodies don’t hit the pause button. Instead, they’re busy repairing tissues, secreting hormones, and consolidating memories – all activities that require energy

 

woman sleeping after going to the gym

 

How Sleep Helps your Exercise and Calorie Burn

It’s no surprise that exercise burns calories. The level of your workout largely dictates the quantity of calories you incinerate. Interestingly, you continue to burn calories post-workout, thanks to EPOC.

A study by LaForgia, Withers, and Gore showed that resistance and aerobic exercise can elevate your metabolism for up to 14 hours after exercise. Imagine that, burning calories while doing nothing!

Our body cells are very active while we sleep. Various processes are happening:

  • Tissue Repair: Your body mends damaged cells and tissues during sleep.
  • Hormone Secretion: Hormones like growth hormone, essential for growth and development, are released mostly during sleep.
  • Memory Consolidation: Sleep plays a crucial role in forming and consolidating memories.

And all these processes require energy. Thus, your body remains active in burning calories even during your sleep.

Due to the Afterburn effect, when you go to sleep after working exercise, your body continues to burn calories quickly. While the calorie burn might be slower during sleep compared to when you’re awake, it’s still happening.

So, debunking the myth, sleeping post-workout doesn’t trigger weight gain but might instead facilitate weight loss.

How You Get a Quality Sleep

Interestingly, lack of sleep might be a hidden culprit for weight gain. Sleep deprivation messes with ghrelin and leptin, two crucial hormones regulating hunger and satiety.

Sleep deprivation tends to amplify ghrelin (the hunger-inducing hormone) and suppress leptin (the satisfaction hormone), which can potentially trigger overeating due to increased appetite.

A 121,700 non-obese nurse study indicated that individuals who slept 5 hours or less each night had a 15% increased risk of developing obesity over the course of 16 years.

 

woman sleeping with her gym outfit after running

 

Can I Sleep Right Away After Exercise?

Nope! The reason is simple: exercise promotes the production of endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones that can potentially disrupt your sleep patterns.

While exercise doesn’t cause weight gain during sleep, it might not be ideal to hit the sack immediately after your workout. The endorphin rush can make it harder to fall asleep right away.

For optimal results, it’s recommended to include a cooldown period after exercise before trying to sleep. This might involve a light activity, such as reading a book or doing some gentle yoga stretches, to help your body transition from the energy of a workout to the calm required for sleep.

By focusing on good sleep hygiene and mindful exercise habits, you can better regulate your hunger and satiety hormones, potentially reduce the risk of weight gain, and improve overall health.

The Link between REM Sleep and Workout Recovery

You know the feeling of waking up after a great night’s sleep, right? You feel energized and ready to seize the day. A lot of that “oomph” comes from something called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This is a unique sleep stage that feels very close to being awake. But did you know it also has a huge role in how quickly and well your body recovers after workouts? Let’s dive deeper into this.

During REM sleep, our bodies are on full speed ahead! Our eyes move rapidly back and forth (that’s why it’s called Rapid Eye Movement), our heart rate gets faster, and our brains become very active. This period is when our brain organizes memories from the day, sorts out feelings, refills neurotransmitters (chemicals that help send signals in the brain), and helps us learn better.

Isn’t it amazing how REM sleep contributes so much to not just mental but physical health too? When we’re in REM sleep, our cells regenerate faster, tissues grow and are repaired more efficiently. You see why these processes are super important for muscle recovery after you’ve had an intense workout session.

When we don’t get enough REM sleep though, things start going downhill. Performance levels fall down like dropped weights at the gym! Reaction times become slower – kind of like trying to catch a fast ball with jelly hands. The risk of getting injured goes up – ouch! And overall athletic performance goes for a toss. So now you can see why you need lots of good quality REM sleep for your post-workout recovery to be effective.

 

woman running a sprint outside in a park

 

Tips for Balancing Sleep, Workouts, and Body Weight

Being healthy doesn’t only mean pumping iron or running miles every day.

It requires managing other aspects too: what you eat, how you manage stress…and yes…how well you sleep!

So here are some ways I’ve found helpful in balancing exercise schedules while staying healthy:

  1. Stick with Routines: Humans love routines; I’m sure you do too! Research shows having regular timings for workouts as well as sleeping hours can greatly improve both physical health and thinking skills.
  2. Watch What You Eat: What goes into your mouth plays a big role in maintaining weight as well as getting good quality sleep. So avoid heavy meals before bedtime or tough workouts.
  3. Chill-out Activities: Simple relaxation activities like deep breathing exercises have been linked with improved sleep quality.
  4. Change When You Exercise: Some studies suggest some people find it hard to fall asleep after intense workouts late at night. If this sounds like you, try switching them out with lighter activities closer to bedtimes or consider doing high-intensity workouts earlier.
  5. Track Your Progress: Keep an eye on activity levels including type & duration of exercise, hours slept each night along with changes in weight or body composition over time.

So there might be a little bit of trial-and-error involved. But I promise once you figure out what works best for you. all this effort will be worth it !

 

FAQ

Is it true that sleeping immediately after exercise can lead to weight gain?

There seems to be a widespread misconception that gaining weight after sleeping might result from activity. But let’s investigate this matter more and learn the reality of this assertion.

Why is there a perception that sleeping after exercise can contribute to weight gain?

The belief that sleeping after exercise can lead to weight gain is primarily based on two assumptions. First, less calories are supposedly expended during sleep since metabolism slows down. Second, it’s thought that eating right before bed will make you gain weight since your body may store the calories as fat while you sleep.

What is the role of rest play in relation to exercise and sleep?

In essence, sleep serves as a pivotal element of a wholesome lifestyle, more so when paired with consistent exercise. Rest and rejuvenation are indispensable for your body to recover and restore itself post physical exertion. During sleep, important processes occur, such as hormone regulation, muscle recovery, and overall well-being support.

How does energy balance affect weight gain or loss?

The balance between caloric intake (calories consumed) and energy output (calories expended) governs weight gain or loss. When you engage in physical activity, you elevate your energy output, potentially impulse a caloric deficit that may assist in weight loss.

What aspects ought to be considered when evaluating the relationship among sleep, exercise, and weight?

When considering the link between three things, it is crucial to take the larger picture between them. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Calorie Balance: Weight gain or loss is influenced by overall calorie balance, taking into account both energy intake and expenditure over time. Consistently consuming an excess of calories compared to your activity, regardless of your sleep schedule, can result in weight gain.
  2. Exercise Benefits: Regular exercise offers numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, increased muscle strength, and enhanced mental well-being. These benefits can contribute to overall weight management and improvements in body composition.
  3. Sleep Quality: Quality sleep is crucial for overall health and weight management.  Sufficient sleep has been associated with improved metabolism, appetite regulation, and better decision-making regarding food choices. Prioritizing sleep can positively impact weight management efforts.

Final Thoughts

The fear of gaining weight by sleeping after exercise is a myth. In fact, sleep is a powerful ally in your efforts to lose weight, helping with everything from hormone regulation to tissue regeneration.

Of course, balance is essential in life as it is in everything. The perfect combination of maintaining a healthy weight includes regular exercise, a nutritious food, and a enough amount of high-quality sleep.

And on that note, sleep well, live well, and until next time, stay fit!