A lot of people (and you may be one of them) think that the more they are in the gym, the more results they are going to get. However, it simply isn’t true that more time working out equals more or better results. As with a lot of things in life, results depend on the striking the right balance between multiple different variables e.g. training volume, proper nutrition, mental strength, vitamins and supplements, rest & recovery.
Proper sleep is often overlooked as THE critical factor when it comes to maximising muscle gains, increasing muscle mass and improving performance. That bit of knowledge may be the hidden key to successfully hitting your goals.
How Does Sleep Affect Muscle Growth?
Glucose is a type of sugar that is stored within the body and used for energy. It is, in fact, the only kind of sugar that the body can break down for energy. Any other kind of sugar that we ingest is broken down into glucose before our muscles can use it for energy.
During sleep, blood glucose gets stored in the muscle as muscle glycogen. While glucose exists in other locations in the body (the blood and liver), muscle glycogen is a preferred location because it produces more energy than when glucose comes from the blood.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t get maximum replenishment of muscle glycogen.
Human growth hormone (HGH), on the other hand, is one of the primary compounds that allows muscles to recover and grow. Among other functions, our bodies need it to actually use the amino acids present in the protein we eat. As it happens, the time when the bloodstream is flooded with the stuff is… yep you guessed it – during sleep.
Without a good quantity and quality of sleep, the body simply cannot do these things well.
Shrinking Sleep Time = Shrinking Muscles
It’s not only that getting enough sleep helps muscles grow. Without adequate sleep muscle mass decreases.
A study in 2011 examined how sleep deprivation affected muscle gains and recovery.1 The study followed individuals who were on a strict sleep schedule for 72 hours. During this time, one group was allowed 5.5 hours of sleep; another was allowed 8.5 hours per day. All individuals followed a calorie-regulated diet.
What researchers discovered was that the individuals who slept only 5.5 hours had 60% less muscle mass at the end of the study, while those who slept 8.5 hours had 40% more muscle mass.
Obviously, we can see the powerful effect that sleep has on muscle recovery and growth.
Poor Sleep, Poor Performance
According to the 2008 study by Dr. Bert Jacobson, lack of sleep will negatively affect energy levels and leaves us susceptible to mood swings. You might be thinking that “mood swings” are nothing to worry about. However, there is enough research showing that our emotional state can directly affect our athletic performance, that it merits consideration.
Proper sleep is vital to help you perform optimally during training sessions, boost endurance, and enhance mindset for the best results. In the end, all of this leads to better and faster muscle growth.
Summing Up Sleep
Poor sleep means poor energy and probably a poor attitude. Chances are that this will translate to a sub-maximal effort, poor technique, and overall poor performance. Ultimately this means you won’t be maximising your opportunity to grow muscle and get better.
Most average gym-goers and even some trainers, bodybuilders and athletes, overlook sleep as one of the pillars of a proper training regimen. With busy lives, getting by with just a few hours of sleep is the norm for many people – but it won’t lead to maximising muscle gains and consequently doesn’t lead to maximising your fat loss either. If those kinds of objectives are a priority for you (and quite frankly nearly everyone who is training falls into one of those buckets) then sorting out the sleep situation also needs to be a priority.
LESS IS MORE!
As a personal trainer and coach I wear many hats. We are motivators, psychologists, and teachers. I’ve had clients tell me I don’t charge enough for the service I provide precisely because of the multiple hats I have to wear. My clients may have been taught to build muscle and lose weight with strength training, nutrition, and supplements (if needed). I also teach them to build muscle with one of the most basic human actions—rest.
Tips for Proper Rest/Sleep
1 – Avoid high intense activity just before bed
Performing high-intensity activities gives the body a boost of energy. Therefore, it is important that these kinds of activities are completed no later than three hours before bedtime. Otherwise, the subsequent energy-boost is likely to get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Do not forget to factor any other high-intensity activities that are part of your life.
2 – Stay on a good sleep schedule
Though you may think you’re getting the same quality of sleep by going to sleep late and waking up later, this is not true. These types of patterns tend to interfere with the body’s natural 24-hour cycle (also called the circadian rhythm).
It really is best for us all to go to sleep and wake up at similar times every day.
If you can afford it, consider getting a sleep tracker to monitor the quantity & quality of your sleep. Personally I use WHOOP, and I would highly recommend it. I am NOT a brand ambassador or an affiliate of the brand, and I don’t get commission if you end up subscribing. It’s simply an excellent product that I believe would help anyone who is serious about their health and performance.
3 – Drink a protein shake before bed
The body has a tougher time controlling the breakdown of protein during sleep. This is problematic for muscle growth because our bodies have to break down proteins into their constituent amino acids before they can be made into new muscle tissue. Protein shakes are usually composed of protein in forms that are quickly and easily broken down, so downing one of them before bed can make this process a lot easier on the body.
“Sleep is simply the greatest performance enhancing drug, that few athletes are abusing enough.” – Professor Matthew Walker
Do the same training, and sleep more for better results? That sounds like a no brainer proposition to me. What do you think? Let me know and check out some of the training deals we have created for you. Click Here for ALL Training Programmes