You’re lifting weights, putting in 100% effort on your job, spending time with your family, and trying your hardest. Yet, you aren’t making gains and you’re not getting any stronger. Why? You’re burning the candle at both ends. You need sleep for growth in order to become stronger, fitter, and healthier.
Lifting Weights Doesn’t Actually Make You Stronger
In your excited rush to get stronger, you might forget that it’s not the actual weight lifting that makes you stronger. The weight lifting (or running, swimming, etc.) wears your muscles down. Then, your body has to build them back up stronger than before. So if you keep pushing yourself without adequate rest, especially sleep, you’ll just be driving yourself into the ground. You might even be overtraining, which is something you really want to avoid.
Exercise & Sleep, or, Yin and Yang
It takes sleep to build your body back up more powerful than before. Your body heals the micro-trauma that you did to the muscle cells. If you have ever been sore and achy and then had a good 8-10 hours of sleep, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s nothing better than sleeping for recovery and growth.
In terms of recovery time, overall sleep and spending enough time away from the gym will both help you. For example, with the High Intensity Training style advocated by Doug McGuff and John Little in their landmark book, “Body by Science”, they advocate a week or more between each weight lifting session. With good quality sleep and enough nutrient dense food, you will provide your muscles with enough fuel and recovery by the time you workout again. Of course, this means pushing yourself tortuously hard for the little time when you are at the gym.
So, you might be asking, how much sleep should I be getting to maximize recovery?
8 Hours of Cure
I know it’s been said way too often before, but it’s very true that a good 8 hours of sleep at night is best. I know you’re too busy, too hurried and have too much to do but I really want you to drop your excuses.
If you’re seriously looking for growth, and putting the time into exercise that you need, you owe it to yourself to get the sleep you need. Make sleep a priority, just like your exercise plan.
Sleep & Weight Loss
Even if you’re trying to lose weight, sleep can help you in this area also. There’s a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and being overweight and obese. Granted, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But it’s still worth noting that many of the people not getting enough sleep are putting on the pounds.
Not getting adequate sleep for growth causes issues with your body’s hormones, especially leptin, which is responsible for regulating metabolism and appetite. When that gets out of balance, you will probably end up eating more and the extra food will turn straight into body fat.
Sleep as a Supplement?
There are tons of supplements out on the market right now that promise to give you huge muscles and help you recover faster from your workouts. Most of them are completely worthless.
A few supplements will help you gain strength in the long-term (e.g. creatine, by supersaturating your muscles cells with glycogen), but none help you directly grow bigger muscle tissue. Except for the one you don’t even have to pay for. You know what I’m going to say now, right? Sleep is the only thing that will help you directly grow bigger muscles. It does this by giving you the time for your body to actually recover and build them bigger. It’s dirt cheap and it will help you immensely. More so than all the ginseng, special tonics and strange pills out there.
Okay, here’s your secret technique for sleep, it’s called napping! This is for those times when you have so much going on that you can’t get your full nights sleep and you desperately need a pick-me-up.
Taking a nap will help you get your needed sleep for growth, and it doesn’t take very long. It can be as long as an hour or two, or as short as 10 minutes of shuteye.
Don’t underestimate napping! It’s a great way to get in the sleep you need, despite the bad reputation it has received these days. A quick nap in the middle of the day will recharge you, help you grow and recover, and can also be very satisfying.
Don’t play the masochistic “I’m working harder than you and I only got 5 hours of sleep” games and one-upmanship. It isn’t worth it.
So, What Should You Do?
Make sure you sleep to get the most out of what you’re doing when you’re awake. You aren’t wasting time, you’re putting it to the best use you can when you sleep for growth. It’s an incredibly simple way to keep growing from your intense workouts.