There’s an old saying – muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed. But if your sleep quality rivals that of an insomniac on triple-scooped pre workout, chances are you’re missing out on some big muscle recovery gains.
The effect that sleep has on health, wellness and performance can’t be overstated.
A good night’s slumber serves a number of vital purposes for bodybuilders – from regulating your immune system during hard training to keeping your brain and body sharp.
Not only is improving sleep quality a good way of optimizing recovery, it’s also your number one tool for athleticism and crafting out some quality muscle mass too.
Without it you’d be a dark-eyed, grouchy guy with little to no gains.
And that’s not a good look.
So get comfy, grab your favorite Teddy bear and a mug of warm milk, and settle on down…
It’s time to sleep your way to new muscle growth.
Improve sleep quality and optimize recover
If you’re a real bro you’ll find the feeling of an intense muscle pump and exhausting high volume the best feeling in the world.
‘As satisfying as coming’ according to Arnold.
There’s just something about having to crawl out of the gym on your hands and knees after leg day. Or having to prise the door open because your triceps have given in after what felt like 100 sets of skull crushers.
Hell yes, obliterating your body in the iron house is the stuff that dreams are made of.
But pushing yourself to new levels of fitness is only a third of the whole muscle growth process. Each rep and every set you complete is there for one reason and one reason only; to create as much muscle damage as you can.
It’s what you do away from the gym that makes your muscle cells grow.
The benefits of sleep include:
- Repairs damaged muscles and allows growth to take place
- Optimizes brain and nervous system health
- Recharges energy levels like a battery
- Regulates lean mass and keeps fat mass at bay
- Vital for health and well-being
- Improves memory, decision making, mood and cognitive skills
- Keeps your immune system in check
The research shows you should sleep more to grow, bro
Can you remember the old school guys that would purposely wake up in the middle of the night to chug on a protein shake, thinking it’d boost muscle mass results?
Well they’d have been much better having a shake before bed and one in the morning. And instead of getting a sh*tty night’s sleep, rested like a baby and got jacked.
Because sleep is one of the most anabolic things you could ever do.
In fact, to maintain an anabolic state, your body needs sleep.
Without rest and recovery you just won’t grow.
In 2011, researchers published a report in a journal called Medical Hypotheses discussing the importance of improving sleep quality as a bodybuilder to promote and optimize recovery.
In the report, the authors stated that not only was sleep “essential for cellular and organic function”, but was also a big player when it comes to maintaining muscle protein synthesis.
How much sleep should you aim for?
The exact amount of sleep you need to optimize performance and muscle recovery is pretty individual.
You hear stories of people like Winston Churchill and Donald Trump surviving on 4 hours per night.
But do they even lift bro?
As a bodybuilder, you should be aiming for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. More if you still feel tired.
The more active you are, the more rest and recuperation you’ll need. If you’re going through a mega intense training phase you might need a much as 11-12 hours.
Lebron James for example gets 12 hours sleep every night. Tennis player Roger Federer enjoys a good 10 hours every night.
Possibly cuddling their millions of dollars. Who knows?
Studies have shown that when athletes get proper rest, their mental and physical abilities improve massively. Those that skimp on sleep suffer huge reductions in performance, concentration and are much more likely to get injured too.
How to improve sleep quality and boost muscle recovery
You manage to crawl out of bed and stagger into the kitchen. You stumble around for a clean mug for your strong, black coffee, feeling like an extra from a George Romero movie.
You had a god damn awful night’s sleep.
For the tenth night in a row.
Does it really matter that you’re a bodybuilder who doesn’t sleep that well?
Well yes. It really does.
Here’s how to make sure you get that kind of good quality Sleeping Beauty style slumber bro…
Sleep in a cave
Not literally. It’s pretty cold and wet. And the cave honies are too hairy.
What we mean is that your bedroom set up should be free of all lights. Get some blackout curtains, nail some wooden boards to the windows, do whatever you need to do.
Block out any lights that pierce your bedroom.
Don’t use a smartphone and don’t leave the TV running in the background either.
Lastly, make sure the temperature is ambient. Cooler is better than warmer.
Too hot and you’ll be tossing and turning all night.
And not in a good way.
Don’t go to bed hungry
Forget all this nonsense about digestion not being optimized when you go to sleep on a full stomach. That’s bullsh*t.
If you’re hungry your body just won’t let you get that quality rest it deserves.
This isn’t a free pass to an all-you-can eat. Just a light meal which helps you feel satiated is cool.
Get that last meal in (a few carbs for serotonin and some protein to keep that protein synthesis elevated) and rest assured that you’ll be making gains all night.
Avoid caffeine last thing at night
We’re huge fans of using a premium pre workout to get jacked in the gym. caffeine-based supplements like these help to boost our energy, ramp up muscle building and strength results, and make us feel invincible in the battle against the free weights.
But after dark when you’ve destroyed the gym once again, it’s time to wind down and relax.
Caffeine is a stimulant.
It sits on your adenosine receptors to hijack your nervous system. And because these are the very receptors that exert calmness and relaxation, late night caffeine will leave you feeling wired and tired.
Unless you are the sort of bro that hits the gym after dark, avoid pre workout late at night.
Go with the rhythm
You can’t expect to get those sleep gains if your bedtime schedule is all over the place.
Having a set time when you turn off the electronics, nestle under your duvet and count sheep is a great way to improve sleep.
Consistency is key when it comes to building a bedtime routine. It’ll be difficult at first, but given time you’ll teach your body that it’s time for bed.
Remember, you’re in charge.
You should also build a bedtime ritual too. Whether that involves a hot bath or some chill out music is up to you. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with some scented candles and a bit of minor key classic either if that’s your thing bro.