More Sleep = More Gains
Most of us by now are aware that getting enough sleep is imperative in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. With having been said it goes without saying that someone who workouts out a daily basis needs sleep even more. Why is so important you ask? Well, after a little bit of research I found the three main reasons getting sleep is important for all you body builders, athletes, and runners out there.
1.) Hormonal release
The first major way sleep will impact your results in the gym is with the hormonal release that it provides. Your body releases a growth hormone at its highest concentration during a 24-hour period when you’re at rest during the night. Since growth hormones are closely correlated to muscle-size increases, you want to maximize this hormone as much as you can.
In one study published in the Growth Hormone & IGF Research journal, researchers pointed to the fact that in women, the growth hormone is released in smaller bursts throughout the day. In men, however, there tends to be a single burst released, and it is heavily correlated with the onset of sleep, specifically slow-wave sleep. Guys who sleep less and spend less time in slow-wave sleep tend to notice a decline in the overall growth hormone released, and this slows down the rate of muscle building. In addition to growth hormone, men who are sleep-deprived also tend to show higher evening cortisol levels in the body, and cortisol is a hormone that directly opposes muscle building. Rather than encouraging new tissue to be built up throughout the day, it encourages the breakdown of body tissue. As a result, higher releases of cortisol will take you further from the optimum recovery state that you want to be in before your next workout.
2.) Muscular repair
The repair process that goes on while you’re at rest is more evidence of the interdependence of working out and sleep. Every time you lift weights in the gym and overload your muscles, you’re going to create tiny micro-tears in the muscle tissue. It’s when these micro-tears are repaired and built back up that you notice strength and size gains, so shorting yourself of the repair process is a severe hindrance.
3.) Metabolic maintenance
If you hope to build lean muscle mass without gaining body fat in the process or are looking to lose excess body fat while retaining all the lean tissue you currently have, making sure your metabolism is functioning optimally is essential. This means having a healthy response to carbohydrates consumed, maintaining a strong metabolic rate and showing a good regulatory system of hunger and appetite.
Unfortunately, when sleep levels are low, your metabolism tends to get altered. First, blood sugar levels are not regulated as well as they should be, putting you in a state similar to that of a diabetic.
Test subjects in a study who slept for 8 hours for 3 nights, 4 hours for the next 6 nights, and then were allowed a recovery period of 12 hours of sleep for the following week demonstrated that, at the peak of their sleep debt, they took 40% longer than normal to respond and regulate blood-glucose levels following a carbohydrate-rich meal. This may explain why, after a late night and little sleep, you find yourself constantly hungry despite having eaten a meal. Finally, lack of sleep tends to suppress the thyroid hormone, which is the primary regulator of how many calories you burn on a daily basis just to exist. If you want to burn off fat as best as possible, it’s important that you maximize your metabolism to move the process along.
So remember, sleep is just as important if not more than your workout itself. By getting the right amount of sleep every night your body will start to repay you with gains you haven’t yet expected and energy that will allow you to pump out that last set!
“Whether you think that you can or think that you can’t, you’re right.”
- Copinschi, G., Van Cauter, E. “Interrelationships between growth hormone and sleep.” Growth Hormone and IGF Research (2000): 10 Suppl B. S57-62.
- Copinschi, G. “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.” Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine. (1997): Vol 20(10). 865-870.