Cutting calories can mess with your sleep

Woman SleepingAs if losing weight weren’t already challenging enough, you might also find that you’re not sleeping as well. And we all know (both from research data as well as personal experience) that being under-rested can increase your appetite and reduce your will-power.  Perfect, meet storm.

A pair of randomized controlled studies suggests a possible solution: Try tweaking your protein.

In these (admittedly small) studies, overweight and obese subjects were placed on a calorie-restricted diet for 12-16 weeks. They reduced their intake by about 750 calories per day, or enough to lose about 1.5 pounds per week. When they got only 10% of their calories from protein (which is the minimum requirement), they slept the poorest.  Increasing protein to 20% of calories significantly improved sleep quality. Increasing to 30% also helped but wasn’t quite as good as 20%.  (Paging Goldilocks…)

It didn’t seem to matter whether the protein was from animal or vegetarian sources. (They tested both.) And it only seemed to matter when they were actively cutting calories. When the subjects were in maintenance mode, the amount of protein didn’t affect sleep quality.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re currently cutting calories to lose weight and you’re not sleeping well, analyze what percentage of your calories is coming from protein. (Most calorie counting apps make this relatively simple.)  If it’s significantly below 20%, try increasing your protein intake a bit. (Remember to decrease calories from carbs and/or fats to compensate.)  If it’s significantly higher than 20%, consider cutting back a bit.

2 thoughts on “Cutting calories can mess with your sleep

  1. Interesting, I always find I don’t sleep well when I run out of pre-baked sweet potatoes and substitute extra vegetables instead. I used to think it was just a lack of carbohydrates but I’m guessing I don’t substitute nearly enough vegetables to make up for the missing potato. Maybe a protein shake could help guarantee a good nights sleep on nights like that? Or perhaps I just need to add even MORE vegetables ; )

  2. I am not sure what affect that protein has on my sleep, but what i can say is that when I increased in protein intake from 15% of my calories to 20% of my calories, that i found that that significantly reduced my appetite. What i mean is, it took me much longer to feel any hunger. That is important for severely overweight people like me.

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