If only I had known these essential ingredients for getting stronger, leaner and more energetic when I was competing in bodybuilding, I would have made things a whole lot easier. On second thought, I did know these things and many of you will know them too. It is only a matter of putting them into practice. If you are neurotic about your strength training and body, you will more than likely be of the mindset that more is better and sleep is for sissies. I have been fighting that problem all my life, but then something changed.
I was at a seminar in which I got the chance to see elite strength coach, Martin Rooney, speak. I actually saw him a few times and each time he talked about the importance of sleep. The first time, it kind of stuck, the second time, I listened and dug deeper. I made a promise to myself that for two months I would get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. This would be two more than my usual 6. At this time, I also started to supplement more with fish oils, taking in 12-20 grams per day.
Without changing anything else, I lost ten pounds of body fat and had the best strength producing workouts of my life. Notice, I did not change anything with my nutrition, yet lost 10 pounds. I did not add in any extra conditioning either. My energy throughout the day was also superb. I was also getting just as much stuff accomplished every day on my daily “to do” list. I did not get sick during the winter for the first time in the five years that I have been teaching physical education.
I read the book, Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers by Sapolsky and that shed some more light on the issue. Sleep is critical. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you are never fully entering a parasympathetic state, the state in which you recover and make your best gains. This is the state after the stress is applied and the tissue must adapt. Also, lack of sleep will lead to raised cortisol levels. Some cortisol is fine but too much is the strength athlete’s enemy! The double whammy of fish oil and sleep was the best “upper” medicine I could ever find. I can’t emphasize enough to my students, athletes and clients how much sleep will aid in their growth, fat loss, muscle gain, cognitive function and everything else in between. Something simple and something overlooked too often. So, turn off the TV and sleep! Also, don’t forget the fish oil.
For more info on how to train for strength, check out my showcase page and read some of my past articles. Stay tuned for more to come!