Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sleep… for your muscles!

When it comes to getting the dream physique, there is no pick and choose; you have to cover all aspects of diet, exercise, and timing in addition to the extremely important -but unfortunately often underestimated-: sleep.

Sleep duration and quality have huge impact on your physical, mental and physiological health, above that it is crucial for your muscle building and recovery. Keep on reading to find out what sleep –or lack of it- would do to your hard-earned muscles.


Sleep – muscles relationship!

Adequate sleep is one of the factors that you can play on to speed up training recovery; due to its effect on different body functions that influences muscle/protein building which take place during sleep, and are mainly represented in the next points:


  • Sleep and cortisol production

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced form the adrenal glands above the kidneys, it is a multi-function hormone, but mainly released in response to stress. Many studies point that cortisol is counter to muscle synthesis since it increase amino acid supply to the liver for energy by stimulating protein catabolism (break down).

The higher the level stress (including training intensity and lack of rest), the higher cortisol release is. Cortisol production reaches its lowest levels after 3-5 hours from sleeping, so the more sleep deprived you are the more cortisol you have in your system, hence the less you’re serving your muscles recovery.


  • Sleep and testosterone levels

In a study performed on this manner; they found that men who got less than 5 hours sleep a night for one week had significantly lowered levels of testosterone compared to when they had a full night’s sleep.

Testosterone is the muscle building hormone, and a diminished level of it is related to reduced well-being and strength, in addition to reduced muscle synthesis. Not so good if you’re trying to sculpt your abs right!!


  • Sleep and growth hormone

Growth hormone (a.k.a GH or HGH) is a complex protein produced by the pituitary gland; it is responsible for stimulating growth and healing of tissues. GH release is found to be induced by exercise and it reaches its peak production while a sleep.

Because GH naturally decline in production by middle age, some athletes take it as supplemental hormone to keep their young and vigor, but most of sports and health associations consider it banned. Click here to know more about some common ergogenic aids.


How much sleep is enough?

Every person –or fitness trainee- has different level of stress and training intensity in his life, so sleep requirements could differ according to that, but in general; evidence points that adults need at least eight hours of sleep per night, and nine hours or more for individuals with elevated stress levels.

Some people might see that they can get by with less than 8 hours per night, but eventually it will catch up with you after stress accumulates in your system, that’s why maintenance and prevention is supreme.


Tips for improved sleep quality

Adhere to whatever works for you from these tips to get better sleep quality and quantity:

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages. It is widely know that caffeinated drinks of all types cause alertness, so you need to eliminate these drinks or at least avoid them about 4 hours before bedtime.


  • Take a hot bath. Hot baths are commonly used as a relaxation stimulus, that’s why it is a good idea to take a hot shower if you’re finding trouble to sleep.


  • Drink something warm. Having a cup of warm herbs such as Chamomile, Anise, Sage, Thyme or anything else of your choice would help smooth you down and prepare you for sleep.


  • Have some bedtime rituals. Every one of us has his own sleeping stimulations, some like it too dark, some like it with music and others like it with complete silence; so whatever works for you, provide it in the atmosphere to ease the process of falling into sleep.


  • Learn some time-management skills. For some folks; getting early to bed is a dream due to their buzzy schedule and lots of things to be done before the end of the day. It’s true that it is difficult, but learning some time management skills can do you good in prioritizing your tasks.


  • Consume smart last meal. Don’t overeat before bedtime as that would cause you discomfort and heartburn, neither go to bed on a very empty stomach as that would cause your muscles to go through catabolic state due to lack of nutrients supply – especially protein- during night hours.

Consumption of casein protein before sleeping is ideal to prevent muscle catabolism during at night, read more about casein and protein supplementation.


  • Keep a rhythm. You should keep a constant time of going to bed and waking up as possible in order to set your Circadian Rhythm right (CR is physical, mental and behavioral changes that goes around 24-hours cycle, responding to primarily light and darkness in the individuals’ environment).


Do you have another sleeping tip you’d like to share it with others? Write it in the comment below.




F. Hatfield. Fitness: the complete guide. Edition 8.6.6

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