The Truth About Sleep and Strength Training

The Truth About Sleep and Strength Training

You train hard and smart with an effective program, you have a planned and structured diet, so you’ve got everything covered right?  Think again. An often overlooked but crucial aspect of any workout program is sleep. That’s right — the time of the day when everything comes to a standstill can have a significant impact on your success at the gym. Working out and sleep are interdependent, and it’s important to understand how they work together.

Let’s look at the impacts of working out and sleep.

Hormonal release

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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.

Muscular repair

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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.

When you sleep, the immune system works overtime to repair the body of all the damage that it experienced during the day (as a whole system, not just the muscle cells specifically). If you don’t give your body enough time to carry out this process, you may not see the muscle recovery you need. This leaves you weaker going into your next workout and slows the rate of progress down.

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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.  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.

Hormone Suppression

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.
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Don’t underestimate how much sleep can affect your success with regards to your training. If you want maximum results from your diet and workouts, you should be getting your eight hours of sleep. Far too many of us are letting unimportant events or activities creep into these late-night hours and it’s time you started rethinking that.

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