Sleep is important

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From training to eating, sleeping is very important to any fitness routine or healthy lifestyle. For many years I have been exploring the world of sleep to improve my own health and lifestyle. Sleep is essential if you want to make those muscle gains or reduce that body fat mass.

During sleep we go through phases of non-REM sleep and REM sleep. An average person will go through 5 cycles of sleep stages each night. Each phase allows the body and mind to reset and recover. Muscles when you train are torn apart and need time to recover, regrow and develop. Getting your 8 hours in is important to allow your body to complete this muscle repair and growth.

Sleep is the time where the body releases the most growth hormone and uses the protein you have eaten to repair muscle (protein synthesis). Also, this time is when the body is in a state of reduced body energy usage and the brain is allowed to restore, order and adapt from the day’s knowledge intake.

Two affects that 8-10 hours of sleep has on the body. Going to bed without eating is similar to have a fast, forcing the body to use other stores of energy to function (fat or glucose) thus not eating before bed can stimulate the body to use stores of energy thus burning fat and helping to reduce fat mass. On the other hand this can have a negative effect on muscle growth as this is a catabolic state. When in a fasted state muscles break down to give the stomach essential amino acids so eating before bed can reduce this effect on the muscle and promote better synthesis of proteins.

Growth hormone is released at its highest percentage during sleep up to 75% and is essential if you want to make gains. Poor sleep or interrupted sleep drastically affects these growth hormones thus if you’re training hard and eating you may not maximise your efforts because you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. Take the time to sleep and create a healthy and maintainable sleep routine.

Sleep is a reduced body energy state which means all the hard work during the day with your diet benefits from good quality sleep (between 8-10 hours). If you have reduced sleep or low-quality sleep, you may find you need to eat more to replenish your energy stores as your awake more thus burning more energy. The energy replenishment that goes on during sleep helps replenish the basic energy stores and allows muscle building to take place. As your body isn’t as active during these hours the body goes into homeostasis mode and uses surplus energy from foods eaten to make sure your BMR is prepared for the next day. Remember that your body will store energy as fat when it is under stress and not receiving enough energy to function and will reduce muscle mass in order to balance to energy it is given.

Top tips for a good night sleep:

1. Do not oversleep – as this upsets the body clock and makes falling asleep harder.

2. Avoid stimulants – no caffeine (tea and coffee), alcohol or sugary drinks before bed.

3. A warm bath – help the muscle and mind relax with a warm bath before bed.

4. Switch it off – don’t watch TV or use electrical devices before bed. Make a break between this and going to bed.

Work on a good routine and make this a habit over 14 to 28 days to embed it into your lifestyle. Like anything in your training you have to make a change, adhere to that change for a period of time, review and adjust.