sleep and bodybuilding

Posted 2 years ago

Poor sleep equals poor results

Do you find yourself constantly tired? Does your performance during workouts suffer because of a lack of energy at times

Without a shadow of a doubt, two of the most common things that are overlooked in developing a physique are sleep duration and the quality of that sleep; and this only happens because sleep isn’t “cool”.

I constantly see people over-analyse their nutrition and programming: they spend so much time trying to figure out works best for them and their body, when in reality both elements are spot on, and it’s simply poor recovery which is halting their progress.

Here’s the truth: if we choose to stay up to watch Netflix and get 5 hours sleep, as opposed to going to be early and getting 8 hours of sleep, then there will inevitably be a negative cascade of side effects.

On the one hand, stress on the body will increase, and when the body is stressed, it is less efficient at burning fat and adding muscle mass.

Were you aware that heightened levels of cortisol – which is directly related to increased levels of stress – has been shown to promote muscle wasting?! It’s at this point you may start to think sleep is kind of ‘cool’, or at least more important on the priorities list.

On the other hand, the increased feelings of tiredness that come from poor sleep can lead to performance drops, which will impact on your ability to get stronger. Moreover, not only will poor sleep impact your motivation to train, but it can also affect your motivation to adhere to your diet.

This can result in an overconsumption of calories, a loss of muscle mass and retention/addition of body fat. Neither of these will be what you set out for, whether you are bulking or cutting.

Having seen this happen to so many people, over time I have developed a set of strategies which I implement with my clients to ensure that sleep does not impact on their ability to make progress.

Set a bed time and awake time

This might sound simple, but if sleep is an issue for you, it’s worth looking at your weekly bed times. You might then realise that you rarely go to bed at the same time each night. No wonder you struggle to sleep well! The human body is a master adaption and likes structure; so, by regulating your body’s own internal clock (circadian rhythm) your sleep efficiency will skyrocket. Therefore, set yourself a bedtime and an awake time for every day, and in doing so, ensure you leave yourself enough time to get a minimum of 8 hours.

No phone/TV 1 hour prior to bed

We all use screens as a way to wind down, but in fact, both devices will emit blue blight which will have a direct impact on your body’s ability to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. That is, blue light is inhibiting you to get to sleep! Not only that, but how often have you seen a post or text and instantly gotten angry? It happens all too often in today society, meaning that these devices are moving your body towards a state of stress, which we do not want before we go to bed.

You could get around this by wearing blue light blockers, but if you remove the devices it could help get the body toward a state of ‘anti-stress’ and improve sleep quality and duration.

Learn to chill

You might have been blissfully unaware that your mobile or TV show was causing such a problem with your sleep, but both are undoubtedly increasing levels of adrenaline in the blood which we do not want pre-bed.
That being said, implementing strategies which relax you and reduce levels of adrenaline will allow the body to move towards the state of ‘anti-stress’ and allow you to fall in a deeper sleep and stay in it for longer. This might be reading, journaling, spending time with the pets, having a bath or even meditating.

In this industry, people are on a never-ending search for the latest thing which will help with anabolism (growing). Yet, what they fail to realise is that sleep is by far one of the most powerful anabolic tools out there that is overlooked. And guess what? It’s free.

If you’ve not considered any of the factors I’ve discussed in this article, I welcome you to trial these for one month and simply let me know how things have improved in your workouts, energy levels and your physique. I can promise you’ll start to see sleep as being much cooler than before!

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons