Sleep. Everyone does it. Some just do it better than others. If your goal is to make gains in terms of muscle mass, size, and strength, then you are going to want to enjoy the best possible sleep on a regular basis. Let’s examine some of the common mistakes that lifters make when preparing to crash for the evening. Make sure you aren’t making any of these errors, and your sleep and lifting gains will be better as a result!
All day long, you consume protein. Every three hours, you find a way to eat or drink at least 30 grams, assuring yourself that the amino acid assimilation is resulting in the best possible environment for building muscle. And that’s all fine and good. But once night time arrives, many of us just assume the body operates by a different set of rules. We eat dinner then indulge our bodies with a 9 to 10 hour “break” from anything protein related. Just as our bodies are trying to sleep, and grow, we suddenly introduce a nightly protein shortage. You don’t have to let your body do without protein each night, however. Opt for a casein shake before bed, and the slow-digesting nature of the protein will keep your blood levels optimal for the next 8 hours. The top lifters all do it, and so should you!
Just because you ARE consuming protein before bed, doesn’t mean in any way that you should NOT consume carbohydrates. You still need energy to function, and you’ll still need those calories in your body in the morning when you hit the gym for that 6 AM CrossFit class. Find a slow-burning carb that is easy on your stomach, such as a banana, and eat it with your nightly casein shake. Your body needs that energy. If you’re on a strict diet to lose body fat, it’s okay to drop the carbs. Most of the time, you should be using them as a standard food source, however.
About 90% of the adult population in America uses caffeine in some way on a daily basis. And we don’t just use it to get out of bed. Most of us use caffeine throughout the day to keep us moving and focused in a big way. This is fine, as long as we stay hydrated. However, consuming too much caffeine late in the day can lead to you being wired and wide awake when your schedule is telling you to crash. If you try to fall asleep at 10pm, you should consume your last caffeine for the day at 3 or 4 pm. If you’re drinking coffee at bedtime, and wondering why you’re missing out on muscle building sleep, then it’s time to make a change!
A lot of people, both inside and outside of the lifting world, enjoy a bit of alcohol to put them to sleep each night. While this may be a great benefit now and then, it is not a desirable practice to use in the long term. First off, alcohol dehydrates the body. No matter how many water bottles you’re sipping, your muscles are going to be flat and weak in the following day’s workout. Additionally, drinking alcohol before bed reduces the amount of time you will spend in the very valuable REM sleep phase. This will inhibit the release of growth hormone as well. You grow while you sleep, and not when you’re in the gym. If you drink wine, liquor or beer before bed, you will be stifling GH release in your body. You’ll also sleep less sound, putting you in a less than ideal situation for your next day’s workout. You’re smarter than that!
Ever-changing sleep pattern
Mr. Olympia “comebacker” Kevin Levrone is very well known for his years of playing music, in addition to his champion bodybuilding ways. He may be one of the rare lifters who can live the rock star lifestyle “Full Blown” and still make the time to train, eat, and recover on a solid basis. Regularity matters! Think about how many of your body’s functions operate better when they’re on a clock. Your meals, your workouts, your study and work patterns – your output is always more outstanding when you’re using a regular pattern. Sleep is no different. If you want muscle building success, you should work to find work, school, and relationship patterns which allow you to sleep on a regular pattern. Your body’s growth system will thank you. Late nights are NOT the muscle builder’s friend!
Many lifters use sleep aids, such as melatonin, to help them to fall asleep each night. While it is true these medicines can offer an early boost to getting back on a regular sleep schedule, it is also true that lifters who use them religiously have a VERY difficult time trying to fall asleep without them. While it may not be classified as an actual addiction, it does create the situation in which an athlete immediately experiences restless nights once the sleep medicine is halted – and the resulting energy and recovery crash shuts down the muscle building process for quite some time! If you must use melatonin to get on a schedule, be sure to use it sparingly and instead, opt for baths, yoga, and other relaxation techniques, along with a hefty dose of discipline, to get you back on your desired sleep schedule.
Sleep is a highly important, and often overlooked, part of the muscle building cycle. If you value your results and wish to make optimal gains in terms of muscle size and strength, then you are going to want to sleep regular hours on a regular basis. Find 7.5 to 8.5 hours of rest each night, and you’ll make the best gains. Stop sabotaging yourself with poor diet and choices, and you’ll sleep so much more soundly!