If you’re making a conscious effort to eat well and work out regularly, it can be seriously frustrating to feel like your body isn’t changing for the better. “How can I possibly eat better and workout more?” you ask yourself. Don’t get discouraged—it might not have anything to do with what you do in the gym and the food on your plate, and a lot more to do with your nighttime habits.
Read on to see if you fall prey to any of these nightly rituals that negatively affect your health and weight loss.
Although pulling all-nighters in college may have convinced you otherwise, your body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. So if you’re hopping into bed at midnight and still planning on making your 6 a.m. spin class, it’s time to rethink your sleep and workout schedule.
In fact, not getting your zzz’s might be the reason you feel like you can’t lose weight or aren’t seeing results from your sweat sessions. Sleeping hours are when our bodies are best able to repair, recover, and build lean muscle from workouts. Skimping on sleep might mean that your body won’t respond to exercise as quickly and you won’t see the results you’ve worked so hard for. Especially if you’re working out regularly or training for a race, you need to make sleep a priority—even if it means skipping your usual early bird workout.
Workaholics know this scenario all too well—by the time you get out of work, fit in your workout, and make it home to shower, it’s almost time to go to bed. But you’re starving because you haven’t eaten since lunch, which was at least eight hours ago. That leaves just a few options:
None of it’s good, but don’t worry, there’s a fix. Remember this: You’ve got to eat at least two hours before going to bed. Chow down any later than that and it will mess with your body’s circadian rhythms. Those circadian rhythms are a biological process that affects a whole lot more than our sleep patterns—they control our hunger levels, hormone release, bodily functions, mood, and body weight. Yeah, definitely not something you wanna mess with.
But that doesn’t mean you should go to bed hungry. Skipping dinner never works out the way you want it to; either you’ll wake up starving the next day, or end up caving in before bed and inhaling a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (I might be speaking from personal experience…) Plus, the body needs to refuel in order to repair and regenerate after a workout.
When you know you’re in for a late night, try breaking your dinner into two smaller, protein-dense meals: One that you can eat at your desk at the office, and one that you can quickly enjoy as soon as you get home. That way you’re not going to bed totally stuffed, but you do get in enough calories and macronutrients to recharge.
Usually, people know what their optimal workout time is. Some have absolutely no problem lacing up their sneaks for an early morning dance cardio class before work, while others use their daily post-work sweat session as a way to decompress from job and life stress. Late night workouts effectively tire you out and help you fall asleep faster, but some find the endorphin release triggered by a sweat session actually keeps them up at night.
Don’t get us wrong—we enjoy a glass of biodynamic wine or a healthy cocktail after a long day at work just as much as the next girl. But pounding the Pinot interferes with your ability to get a good night’s sleep … and it’s full of sugar. If you’re trying to get in shape, gulping down a few drinks with dinner will tack on extra empty calories that you just don’t need and cause inflammation in the body. Linked to nearly ever chronic illness, inflammation also leads to bloating, muscle pain, and inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from other food.
Stick to one or two glasses early in the evening.
Accidentally falling asleep to reruns of Sex and The City happens—we get it. But if you rely on background noise or light to doze off, you might be doing more harm than good. Our circadian rhythms take their cues from natural light sources, like when the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.
Unfortunately, our bodies are easily confused by unnatural light sources like the computer or television … which messes with our circadian rhythms. Research shows that unnatural light cycles have serious consequences for our sleep habits and overall health—and can even increase risk of depression.
We’re giving you permission to turn off your phone when you get home from work, for two reasons. First, checking that blue screen at all hours of the night can mess with your ability to fall asleep (unnatural light cycles, people!). Second, being married to your Gmail account certainly won’t help you unwind and de-stress, which is key to getting a good night’s sleep.
“Women should have an orgasm every single day,” says doula and women’s health expert Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow. “It’s one of the best ways to release anxiety and stress, and it’s incredible for reproductive health.” Oh yeah, and climaxing promotes healthy estrogen levels, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, most women aren’t getting in the “big O” daily, and one in three women have trouble reaching orgasm during sex. Have trouble getting off with a partner? Try flying solo—81 percent of women admit to having an orgasm while masturbating.