If you want to feel and perform your best, you probably already know it’s important to fuel your activities with quality food and be consistent with your workouts throughout the week. Whether you train at the beginning of your day or at the end, you’ve made your fitness goals are a priority – but what about your sleep goals? If your fitness goals don’t incorporate a healthy sleep routine, you are doing yourself and your hard work at the gym a disservice. Recovery builds lean muscles and sleep is the best recovery.
The problem in today’s busy society is that sleep does not receive the credit it deserves and is often put on the back burner. It’s seen as a waste of time rather than a vital process to embrace. Over thirty percent of Americans are sleep deprived and are not sleeping the recommended seven to eight hours per night. This, in turn, is leading to a host of health problems. A healthy sleep regime is foundational to your overall health and fitness goals as it gives the body the chance to preserve energy, recover, and repair, as well as time to develop, muscles worked during gym sessions.
Growth Hormone (GH) in Sleep
When trying to build muscle, one of the most essential natural hormones in your body is the Growth Hormone. As its name implies, it contributes to muscle growth and is released during sleep. According to research published by The Journal of Pediatrics, 70% of the growth hormone is secreted in Stage 3 sleep. The amount of sleep you get during this stage determines how much of the hormone is released into your body.
Preventing Muscle Grown
The stress hormone, cortisol, is released in response to stress and breaks down the muscle tissue that you’ve worked hard to gain through exercise. More specifically, it breaks down tissue to give the body energy to process whatever stress the body is experiencing. Cortisol therefore has a catabolic, or muscle reducing, effect. When combined with a lack of sleep, it inhibits muscle development and increases the likelihood of fat gain.
Less Sleep, More Fat
You may think you’re doing the right thing when you choose that 6am workout over an extra hour of sleep after only resting for a total of five hours, but you’re not. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for weight gain, which is likely the opposite of what you want to achieve. This happens because when you lack sleep, your appetite increases. This causes you to eat foods that offer no nutritional value and are high in sugar, like energy drinks. Leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full, also decreases as your sleep deficit increases. And, of course, Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, rises when your sleep decreases.
If lean muscle mass is what you hope to gain from your exercise routine, a healthy sleep routine must also be a priority. It might seem like cutting your rest short to fit in another bout of exercise is the right option, but you could be doing more harm than good. Get plenty of rest to see the results you deserve.
Coach Lesley Adds....
But what if just building muscle isn’t your priority? There is no doubt that quality sleep serves many important functions. Quality sleep typically means you fall asleep within 30 minutes, sleep soundly through the night with minimal waking up and when you do wake up you fall back asleep within 20 minutes. If you are in a heavy training period, you can expect to need more sleep. Without it, your recovery from that heavily training can be delayed, your immune function can be decreased and you can make poorer choices with food.
We often follow the mindset that “we can sleep when we are dead” but to achieve your best, making sleep a priority can help you achieve your goals, whatever they are.
Guest Blog by Lisa Smalls
Lisa is a freelance writer and cycle instructor from NC. Her life's passion is to help others find physical, mental, and emotional balance. You can see more of her work at Mattress Advisor, where she regularly contributes sleep health content.