Stress, Sleep, and Weight Gain
Allison Menor, BS
As a nutritionist I’ve developed a lot of healthy habits. However, one that I’m most proud of is my dedication to making sure that I am always fully rested, and as stress-free as possible this helps short circuit emotional eating. Emotional eating is a problem that has plagued our country for decades as a result of unhealthy cultural behaviors. The use of unhealthy foods for positive reinforcement has caused millions of Americans to associate food and feeling. Therefore to relieve stress, many of us choose to eat foods that we find comforting; these are often high in fat and calories and lacking in nutrients. There are a variety of nutritional supplements that will help you tackle this issue and reach the source of your weight gain problems, while improving your self-esteem and general well-being all at the same time.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter – a messenger in our brain that helps prevent anxiety and depression and that helps manage our appetite. Our bodies make serotonin from an amino acid known as L-Tryptophan. Our bodies then transform the L-Tryptophan into a metabolite called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytrptophan) and then with the help of Vitamin B6, it is converted into 5-HT (5-hydroxytrptamine) better known as plain old serotonin.
One of the first books I read when I started working at InVite was called “The Most Effective and Natural Cures on Earth,” by Jonny Bowden Ph.D., C.N.S. It was in this exact book that I first read about the magic of 5-HTP. Bowden predominantly suggests 5-HTP for depression, and in fact 5-HTP is also my number one go-to product for depression as well. However, Bowden also discusses the product as a weight-loss protocol as well, specifically because it may greatly reduce carbohydrate cravings. This in reality makes a lot of sense because when we alter levels of serotonin in the brain, it is possible that we will become much more likely to inhibit our own eating behaviors.
In a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study of obese females, those who were give 8mg per kg of body weight of 5-HTP for five weeks achieved a significant weight loss of about 5%. Those findings were confirmed by a second study conducted over a longer period of time. (1)
L-Theanine is a non-essential amino acid that is derived from tealeaves and mushrooms. It is most commonly known to assist in mental relaxation, and reduction of anxiety. “Research on human volunteers has demonstrated that L-Theanine creates a sense of relaxation in approximately 30-40 minutes after ingestion via at least two different mechanisms. First, this amino acid directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation coupled with mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation. Second, L-Theanine is involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA influences the levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, producing the key relaxation effect.” (1)
This relaxation effect is perfect for individuals that often have a hard time falling asleep; simply double the daytime serving size of LL-Theanine to induce a much deeper more refreshing level of sleep. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep is directly related to weight-gain over time. When our bodies have not acquired the adequate amount of sleep, our energy levels are lowered, and we are more likely to choose foods that have a higher amount of caffeine, fat, or sugar in order to temporarily fix fatigue. Moreover, we are also less likely to engage in physical activity as a result of these lower energy levels.
Lack of sleep will also cause our metabolism to function improperly. This primarily has to do with the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells our bodies when we are hungry, and leptin is the hormone that alerts us when we are full. When we are sleep deprived, our bodies create more ghrelin, and less leptin, which inevitably makes choosing the healthiest options in the ideal amount almost impossible; you tend to be hungry and never satisfied with this hormone imbalance.
L-Theanine is an InVite favorite for people suffering from sleep deprivation. A natural sleep-aid that will not cause undesirable side-effects like the typical “sleep-hangover” that the unhealthy alternatives are known for. Two capsules (or 200mg) before bedtime will help you relax and get the optimal 7.5 hours of sleep you desperately need, keeping you happy, healthy, and at ease for whatever may come your way.
(1) Bowden, Jonny. The most effective natural cures on Earth: the suprising, unbiased truth about what treatments work and why. Beverly, Mass.: Fair Winds Press, 2008. Print.
(2) Mason R. 200 mg of Zen; L-theanine boosts alpha waves, promotes alert relaxation. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 2001,April; 7:91-95