Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night is essential for maintaining a healthy weight. It regulates your hormones, keeps you from going into Cookie Monster mode when you spot treats in the break room, squashes stress hormones and fuels your trips to the gym.
Sadly getting a full eight hours is not always an option if you’re clocking long shifts at work. What’s worse, a recent study has even suggested that 70% of Brits are not getting their recommended hours per night, which is, on average, resulting in them losing a whole night’s sleep every week.
That doesn’t mean your weight-loss goals are totally doomed though. You just need to make a few adjustments to your life to boost your energy and diminish the effects of a sucky sleep schedule.
DON’T DO HIIT WORKOUTS
You know that high-intensity interval training burns serious calories, but they can backfire if you haven’t been hitting the sack. These workouts can actually hinder fat loss because they increase the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your already stressed-out, sleep-deprived bod, says Erica Suter, C.S.C.S. What’s more, since you need lots of energy to get through a HIIT workout, you’ll get less out of it.
Instead, stick to less-taxing strength workouts, lifting moderate-to-heavy weight and taking breaks. Though you’re not working as intensely, focusing on multi-join movements, like squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups, dips, rows, and lunges will help you boost your metabolism and burn more calories, says Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and Promix Nutrition advisor.
DRINK AROUND 300ML OF IGHT BEFORE YOU WORKOUT
Let’s be clear: If you swear by p.m. workouts, but caffeine keeps you up at night, skip this tip.
But otherwise, a little caffeine before exercising gives you stamina, say Matheny. “It’s also been shown to help make exercise feel easier, so you’ll work out longer and harder,” agrees Karen Ansel, R.D., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer.
A 300ml cup of strong coffee delivers all the caffeine you need for a pre-workout boost; tea – whether green or black – doesn’t have enough caffeine to make a difference.
Skip the added sweeteners and milky espresso drinks, which can add back as many calories as you’ll burn. Try experimenting on the timing to see what works best for you, says Ansel. You can start by sipping your coffee 30 minutes before your workout and work your way to five minutes before you work out to find your perfect timing.
AIM TO SPEND 10 MINUTES WORKING OUT AT A LIGHT TO MODERATE INTENSITY
Though some experts say that skipping exercise altogether while trying to lose weight can be okay, Alex Caspero, R.D encourages her clients to get at least 10 minutes of light to moderate activity (meaning you can speak a few sentences to a few words while working out).
A short period of walking, jogging, or doing some light yoga can help you burn calories, improve your mood, and self-confidence. “Plus, you usually end up working out longer because it feels good,” she says. “You can easily commit to 10 minutes.”
BUY FROZEN VEGGIES, MEAT AND WHOLEGRAINS
Home cooking gives you control over what’s going into each bite. And if you strategically stock your pantry, making your own meals isn’t as exhausting as it sounds.
Fill your kitchen with healthy, non-perishable staples like canned soup, frozen vegetables, frozen meat, and easy-to-cook whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa, says Caspero. You can easily turn those ingredients into a stir-fry or warm grain bowl in under 30 minutes, she says.
DRINK AT LEAST 2 LITRES OF WATER
Dehydration saps your mood and energy, making your feel tired and more prone to reach for comfort foods for a pick-me-up, says Ansel. What’s more, downing a couple of glasses before a meal has been shown to help people eat less.
Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water every day, and another 200ml for every 30 minutes you work out, she says.
PICK SNACKS WITH PROTEIN, FAT AND FIBRE
Research has shown that when we’re tired we’re much more likely to overeat, so choosing foods that keep you full between meals is key. So when you’ve got the munchies, grab a mix of high-quality protein, fat, and fibre, which slow digestion and give you a sustained energy boost, she says.
Think almonds, walnuts, hardboiled eggs, and veggies dipped in hummus, says Isabel Smith, R.D.
Got to have something sweet? Reach for a whole piece of fruit. “The fibre from the fruit slows down the release of its sugars,” says Ansel.
EAT EVERY TWO TO FOUR HOURS
Spacing out your meals and snacks every two to four hours keeps your appetite and calories in check, says Ansel. “If you don’t eat often enough, you’re bound to get overly hungry and eat too much at your next meal,” she says. “But if you’re nibbling too frequently, it’s hard to control calories.”
This article was originally written for womenshealthmag.com