If you put in a really heavy session at the gym, when are you going to get the results and start building the muscle you worked hard for? Does it happen during the session itself? Is it when you relax afterwards and enjoy a protein shake?
Perhaps it’s later in the afternoon when you’re gobbling your sweet potato, beets, spinach and tuna salad?
The truth is, you’re breaking muscle down in the gym; essentially damaging yourself. If we thought exercise was the action and the reward in one then we’d soon learn the hard way. Do nothing but work out and you’d quickly waste away to nothing. Lifting weights doesn’t make you stronger, it stimulates growth called overcompensation.
Even during the hours after your workout, you are fighting catabolism more than you are building muscle per se. Catabolism is the continued breakdown of proteins that make up your muscle fibres. By eating and drinking the right things, and relaxing of course, this process is slowed and eventually stalled. Some of the best intra-workout supplements are so good because they don’t just fuel your workout, they help recovery by slowing catabolism afterwards.
The real benefits from resistance training come while you are sleeping. In fact, the real benefits from all sorts of training are gained as you slumber. Your body and brain are machines, and machines need downtime to be effectively repaired and rebuilt. So, whether you’ve studied for an exam, rehearsed for a music recital, or done five sets of 8 on the deadlift that day, you are going to be better at those things after a good nights sleep.
How can you ensure a good night of deep sleep?
Melatonin (and light)
Melatonin is a hormone that we secrete naturally; it regulates sleep. It also triggers the largest release of growth hormone within the 24 hour period. Luckily, melatonin is available in supplement form and it can be used for a period of time to re-regulate sleep patterns if they have fallen out of whack.
Too much bright light can upset the cyclic release of melatonin, specifically in the blue end of the spectrum. So if you look at computer screens, phone screens, or watch the TV right up until you go to bed, it may disrupt your sleep pattern.
Disruptive sound at night can not only keep us awake but increase our stress levels and adrenaline to the point that anger or alertness stops us from falling asleep, even after the source of noise disappears. Frustrating as it is, you can never shut your ears off like you can close your eyelids.
The solutions are still available though.
Earplugs: if you can’t turn it off, block it. Simple and effective. The foam kind seem to work best because you can squish them up, put them in your ears and let them expand to block out a good level of decibels.
White Noise Makers: sometimes, even earplugs aren’t enough. They weren’t for me when I lived below some terrible neighbours. Use a white noise maker. There are apps for most smart phones which you can then plug into a speaker. White noise is that which spans a wide range of the spectrum and is constant, therefore flooding your audible senses and blocking other more variable and annoying sounds.
The circadian rhythm is called that for a reason. Naturally, we are supposed to go to bed when the sun goes down and wake up when it rises. It made sense to the caveman, but modern-day society doesn’t really accommodate that behaviour too well. Imagine going to bed at 4pm in the depth of Winter (depending where you are in the world of course).
We can, however, create our own rhythms and going to bed at a specific time – or within an envelope of time – every night is one way we can induce our own sleep cycle. This is easier said than done, but there are always people who succeed at doing this, and don’t they always seem bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning? If those people irritate you, then you probably need more sleep!
Caffeine and Other Stimulants
Which madman came up with the after-dinner coffee idea?
Great plan! Maybe we should put ice down our backs and endure some electro-shock therapy just before bedtime!
Do yourself a favour and don’t drink coffee or take anything else stimulatory within 4 or 5 hours of bed time.
Sleep Aids and Supplements
We did another article which covered this a little. If you want more specific advice on muscle-building sleep then click here.
Melatonin has already been mentioned as an effective sedative. Lemon balm is another, which also appears to calm an over-active mind.
Lavender is a non-sedative aid, the aroma of which reduces anxiety. You can get it in the form of oils (for your pillow), lip balms.
This website is concerned primarily with building muscle via endogenous hormone maximization. Sleep time is the best parts of the days to bank some serious muscle growth.
While you are out for the count and dreaming of being a champion mud-wrestler (or you know, whatever), your body is doing so much more than you can imagine.
After a good stretch of regular sleep, quality training and nutrition, the results will astound you.