Lose weight while you sleep - just like everyone else

Published2/11/2009 12:01 AM

Q. How many calories are burned while we sleep? Do you have information on dietary supplements that cause weight loss while you sleep?

S.Q., New Orleans, La.


A. The breakdown of how your calories are spent depends on your age, body composition and level and type of activity. Speaking in general terms, activity accounts for 15 percent to 30 percent of the day's calories. Ten percent of your daily energy expenditure comes from what's called the thermic effect of your meals, the energy used during the eating, digesting and storing of food. The largest component, accounting for a whopping 50 percent to 75 percent of calories, is the resting metabolic rate. The RMR is the energy needed to keep your body's "engine" at idle. It includes such things as breathing, maintaining body temperature and keeping the heart beating.

Sleep represents the longest period during which the body is idle. An online calculator at tinyurl.com/2knzrh can tell you how many calories you will be burning as a part of your RMR. Multiply this number by the number of hours you sleep, then divide by 24, and you will have an estimate of the calories burned while you sleep.

Regarding a dietary supplement that increases weight loss while you sleep, don't believe it. The weight we want to lose is our "excess weight," the excess calories that get put away as body fat every time we take in more than we need. Days, months and years on the positive side of the energy equation translate to rising numbers on the scale. We all lose weight when we sleep; in fact, we are losing weight whenever we are not eating or drinking.

Unless you are talking about stimulants - not the things you want if you are interested in sleep - the idea that a few pills can help you drop a size while you slumber is pure folly.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

One way to increase nighttime calorie burning is to exercise. Muscle is body tissue that is metabolically active. The larger and more active our muscle mass, the greater the number of calories we burn while we sleep or sit around doing nothing.

Q. I always read your column. I thought you might like to know what I do to increase the time I am able to keep sour cream in the fridge. (I read this somewhere a long time ago.) Store it upside down. Most containers leak slightly, so a plastic coffee-can lid placed underneath keeps the shelf from getting sticky. I can't tell you exactly how much this increases the storage life, but I haven't had to throw out any sour cream since I started doing this.

L.S., San Diego, Calif.

A. Air exposure is what needs to be controlled. Lids do not provide a perfect seal after the inner liner has been removed prior to the first use. Turning the container upside down would provide a better air seal, but there is an increased risk of seepage. There is some degree of trade-off, as you wouldn't want fluid leaking out to spoil or pick up refrigerator odors that pass back into the sour cream. I think it all comes down to buying the right size container for your typical use pattern.

• Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and the author. Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 of ed@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.