You, my friends, have been killing the game. You’ve set your goals, you’ve been showing up to the gym 4-6 days per week, you’ve been putting in the work and maybe even eating a little better…but do you ever feel like your progress in your health or fitness still isn’t where you want it to be? Well, you may not be overtraining…you may be under-recovering. Today’s blog will be the first of a series of topics related to Rest and Recovery…things you can do at home to make the most out of your time in the gym. Today’s topic: Sleep.
How much do you squat? How much do you deadlift? How much do you sleep every night? Chances are, you can tell me how much you lift right away, but you might have to stop and think about how much time you take to recover from your daily workouts. We all know sleep is important, but you may not know how much a lack of sleep can affect those big PR’s in the gym.
Why is sleep so important? Because you don’t actually get stronger while you’re awake. When you are sleeping, your body increases blood supply to your muscles and releases hormones that are key messengers for protein synthesis and tissue repair. During deep sleep, growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland, which plays a key role in fat burning, bone formation, and muscle growth and repair.1 Other important hormones for metabolism and protein synthesis include testosterone and IGF-1, which are signals for anabolic pathways and skeletal muscle growth.
What if you don’t sleep enough? Studies have shown that sleep loss actually decreases the activity of these protein-repairing pathways, and increases the protein degradation process…this means that muscle recovery is compromised, and lack of sleep may even cause loss of muscle mass2. Studies also show that sleep deprivation not only affects your mood and performance in the gym, but also your immune system, response to inflammation, cognitive function, ability to learn new skills, memory, and even pain perception3. As you can see, the benefits of sleep go beyond just muscle growth...your sleep has an impact on memory, motor learning, and skill work as well!
So how much sleep should you actually get? Sleep needs will vary based on the individual, but typically 7-10 hours per night are recommended. That might seem like a lot, but you can take little steps to make this more achievable. Writing down your waking and sleep schedule, reducing the time spent on your phone or computer before going to bed, blocking out light or noise in your bedroom, napping, or even using wearable technology to track your sleep habits can help.
Today’s takeaway? No matter how much work you do in the gym, the sleep you get at home may be one of the most important things you can do for recovery! Next time you are feeling worn out during your workouts or like you are hitting a plateau in your training, ask yourself: are you sleeping as much as you should be to support optimal performance and repair the muscular damage induced by a tough workout? If not, you might want to increase your nightly dose of vitamin ZZZZZZZ. Work hard, recover harder!
Davenne, D. (2009). Sleep of athletes–problems and possible solutions. Biological Rhythm Research, 40(1), 45-52.
Dattilo, M., Antunes, H. K. M., Medeiros, A., Neto, M. M., Souza, H. S., Tufik, S., & De Mello, M. T. (2011). Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical hypotheses, 77(2), 220-222.
Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 13-23.