Does Lack of Sleep Hinder Muscle Growth or Performance?
Your clients may think that the more they are in the gym, the more results they are going to get. If you’re lucky, they might even be willing to spend more time training. However, it simply isn’t true that more time working out equals more or better results.
Proper sleep is often overlooked as a critical factor when it comes to maximizing muscle gains.
Proper sleep is also absolutely crucial when it comes to increasing muscle mass and improving performance.
That bit of knowledge may be the hidden gem to your client’s success - and yours too.
How Does Sleep Affect Muscle Growth?
Glucose is a type of sugar that is stored within the body and used for energy. It is, in fact, the only kind of sugar that the body can break down for energy. Any other kind of sugar that we ingest is broken down into glucose before our muscles can use it for energy.
During sleep, blood glucose gets stored in the muscle as muscle glycogen. While glucose exists in other locations in the body (the blood and liver), muscle glycogen is a preferred location because it produces more energy than when glucose comes from the blood.
When your clients don’t get enough sleep, they don’t get maximum replenishment of muscle glycogen.
Human growth hormone (HGH), on the other hand, is one of the primary compounds that allows muscles to recover and grow. Among other functions, our bodies need it to actually use the amino acids present in the protein we eat. As it happens, the time when the bloodstream is flooded with the stuff is - you guessed it - during sleep.
Without a good quantity and quality of sleep, the body simply cannot do these things well.
For an added bonus, you can tell your clients that by consuming a combination of protein and carbohydrates (what bodybuilders call “mass fuel”) within 30 minutes before and after a resistance training session, they will stimulate an even greater release of HGH during sleep.
Shrinking Sleep Time = Shrinking Muscles
It’s not only that getting enough sleep helps muscles grow. Without adequate sleep muscle mass decreases.
A study in 2011 examined how sleep deprivation affected muscle gains and recovery.1 The study followed individuals who were on a strict sleep schedule for 72 hours. During this time, one group was allowed 5.5 hours of sleep; another was allowed 8.5 hours per day. All individuals followed a calorie-regulated diet.
What researchers discovered was that the individuals who slept only 5.5 hours had 60% less muscle mass at the end of the study, while those who slept 8.5 hours had 40% more muscle mass.
Obviously, we can see the powerful effect that sleep has on muscle recovery and growth.
Poor Sleep, Poor Performance
According to the 2008 study by Dr. Bert Jacobson, lack of sleep will hinder energy levels and leaves us susceptible to mood swings.2 You might not think that “mood swings” are something we should be concerned about. However, there is enough research showing that our emotional state can directly affect our athletic performance, that it merits consideration.
Proper sleep is vital to help your clients perform optimally during training sessions, boost endurance, and enhance mindset for the best results. In the end, all of this leads to better and faster muscle growth.
It May Be Time for a New Mattress
The same study2 also showed that a newer mattress helps people sleep better, which in turn boosts energy levels during weight training sessions. Individuals who got seven to eight hours a night on a newer mattress were more likely to participate in more physical activities. As it pertains to our work as trainers, when our clients have newer mattresses, they are probably going to be more rested and more motivated to show up to work during training sessions.
As you can see in the graph below, sleeping on a newer mattress correlated with much higher levels of activity
This doesn’t mean that all of your clients need to be buying new mattresses every year, but it is important to know.
Summing Up Sleep
Poor sleep means poor energy and probably a poor attitude. Chances are that this will translate to a sub-maximal effort, poor technique, and overall poor performance. Ultimately this means your clients will experience sub-optimal muscle growth.
Most people - trainers, bodybuilders, athletes, and average gym-goers - overlook sleep as one of the pillars of a proper training regimen. With busy lives, getting by with just a few hours of sleep is the norm for many people - but it won't lead to maximum muscle gains. If those kinds of gains are a priority for you or your clients, then sorting out the sleep situation also needs to be a priority.
A personal trainer wears many hats. We are motivators, psychologists, and teachers. Our clients may have been taught to build muscle with weight training, nutrition, and supplements. Now we can teach them to build muscle with one of the most basic human actions—rest. Our clients put their trust in us, so we need to help them understand the power of sleep.
Tips for Proper Rest
#1 - Avoid high intense activity just before bed
Performing high-intensity activities gives the body a boost of energy. Therefore, it is important that these kinds of activities are completed no later than three hours before bedtime. Otherwise, the subsequent energy-boost is likely to get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Do not forget to factor any other high-intensity activities that are part of your clients’ lives outside of the gym.
#2 - Stay on a good sleep schedule
Though you (or your client) may think he or she is getting the same quality of sleep by going to sleep late and waking up later, this is not true. These types of patterns tend to interfere with the body’s natural 24-hour cycle (also called the circadian rhythm).
It really is best for us all to go to sleep and wake up at similar times every day.
#3 - Drink a protein shake before bed
The body has a tougher time controlling the breakdown of protein during sleep. This is problematic for muscle growth because our bodies have to break down proteins into their constituent amino acids before they can recombine them to make new muscle tissue. Protein shakes are usually composed of protein in forms that are quickly and easily broken down, so downing one of them before bed can make this process a lot easier on the body.
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