The majority of our success with our health, fitness and physique goals come from eating the right nutrient dense foods to complement our intense training sessions. This is what I call the 80/20 percent split, with the majority of your results being centered around what you consume each day (food and liquids). However, there are two other extremely important factors that we frequently ignore and they are absolutely imperative. These two factors include proper sleep and hydration.
Sleep – Getting Adequate Rest for Optimal Recovery
The importance of sleep cannot be forgotten when it comes to reaching our fitness goals. When we are sleeping, our bodies are recovering from the wear and tear inflicted on it from our daily activities and our hardcore training sessions in the gym. It’s important to remember that we are not actually building muscle while we are in the gym working out. What we are doing during these resistance training sessions is breaking down our muscles (minor tears in our muscle fibers). The rebuilding process takes place when we are resting and sleeping. This is when our muscles recover, repair and grow to get bigger and stronger. If we have provided our bodies with enough calories coming from nutrient dense food sources, our body will repair itself and our muscles will grow stronger while we are at rest. This is why the myth of not eating later at night and going to bed on an empty stomach is not the most ideal situation for providing the nutrients your muscles need to recover optimally.
If you eat your last meal at 7pm and then your next meal is breakfast at 7am, that is a long 12 hour gap in-between meals. Would you go 12 hours during the day without eating? If you had breakfast at 7am, could you easily go without eating again until 7pm and feel fine? Would you be able to function at work, with your family and during training sessions without having any food for 12 hours? No way! Remember that your body is still working while you sleep and it needs sustenance for recovery and repair.
Therefore, it is very important to have a protein-based meal in the evening like a chicken breast, egg whites or a slow-acting protein powder (casein protein). Avoid heavy foods that will fill you up and make you feel uncomfortable when you’re trying to fall sleep. Just make sure to have something to provide your body with what it needs in order to repair itself. Never go to bed hungry!
The old saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is very true. If you wake up and skip breakfast and then do not eat until lunch time, your body has gone far too long between meals and you will be depriving your body of the essential nutrients it needs to run optimally. These are a couple of basic mistakes that could be seriously harming your chances of fitness success. So, make sure to eat a lean protein later at night and have a nutrient dense breakfast when you wake up!
Another important reason why you need to get adequate sleep is because you will function so much better the next day. You will have more energy and avoid suffering from fatigue, irritability and restlessness. Another great benefit is that it will help decrease any food cravings you might have. The times when I am most tempted to break away from my healthy eating plan and feel intense cravings for junk food are when I am tired. When I wake up after a short or restless sleep cycle and I am not feeling 100% rested, these are the days when I am more likely to grab some sugary snacks to give myself that needed boost to get me through my busy day. Most people think that the body needs this type of sugar since we are craving it, but what the body really wants is proper rest.
Getting proper rest gives me the energy to get up feeling properly refreshed and ready for my day. It gives me the energy to train harder and to prepare my meals, and therefore, get better results. So, stop staying up late watching worthless television shows or staying on your computer. Stop eating sugary foods later at night while giving your body a fake energy surge and then going to bed and expecting to get a good night’s sleep. Do the things that give you the best chance of getting optimal sleep and this will give you the best chance of getting the rest and recovery your body needs.
When it comes to success, you need to think about it as a big cycle. Consistently eating clean helps you get consistently good sleep, which in turn, ensures you can get consistently good training sessions in. Alternatively, not getting proper sleep leads to you being tired and irritable, being less likely to handle the events of the day, reaching for sugary junk food to give yourself an “energy boost” and then feeling bad at the inevitable sugar crash that your body goes through. This leads you to being less likely to train at your best and the vicious cycle continues. So, let’s break the bad cycle and start a good one!
The second element we regularly ignore is keeping ourselves properly hydrated. Our bodies are made up of around 45-65% water. Your brain and physical abilities can start to be affected by just a 1% drop in hydration. This is how vital it is to drink enough water each day. Negative effects can include headaches, loss of concentration, lethargy, dry skin, constipation and overeating. If you suffer from any of these ailments, have a close look at your water intake since you might not be adequately hydrating your body.
Staying properly hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy and maintain the ideal body shape you desire. However, most of us are dehydrated without even realizing it. The key is to avoid waiting until you feel thirsty before you drink water. Take a bottle of water with you wherever you go and drink water throughout the day to ensure you’re properly hydrated.
When we are dehydrated, our bodies receive mixed signals. You feel tired and think you need to eat to get more energy, but what you really need is just some water. This lack of being properly hydrated leads to overeating, fatigue and more issues.
Remember, what you drink is also very important. Sugar-laden juices, teas and coffees should not be used as a substitute for water. If you find water too bland, add some fresh fruit to a big water bottle overnight to infuse it with delicious flavors and then drink it throughout the day. If you still enjoy teas and coffees, then make sure to drink a glass of water along with it. By combining proper hydration and optimal sleep in conjunction with your training and nutrition plan, you will set yourself up for achieving the ultimate body you desire!