How Important Is Sleep For Muscle Growth, Fat Loss and Recovery?
With life as busy as it is today, getting a good nights sleep becomes harder and harder. There are work, family and all the other commitments that go along with modern life. Not to mention when you finally get to bed, your phone is buzzing from applications that are designed to keep you glued to your phone long into the night (unless you are ordering your Gym Meals, then it's okay). On top of that, you have to make time to get to the gym and workout. In all this, sleep often comes off second best.
Experts recommend that adults between the ages of 18-65 get around 7-9 hours sleep per night. This varies from individual to individual based on genetics and lifestyle. A 2013 survey showed that 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours sleep per night, compared to the 1940's where 84% got the required amount of sleep.
The above raises the question: how important is a good nights sleep for building muscle, burning body fat and recovering from a workout?
Sleep And Fat Loss
I am sure it comes as no surprise but depriving yourself of sleep can have a negative impact. One study looked at the effects lack of sleep would have on muscle loss when dieting. The study had ten people go on an almost identical diet and had one group go to bed for 8.5 hours, and another group for just 5.5 hours. Both groups lost around 3.3kg at the end of the study.
The alarming thing is the group that had only 5.5 hours sleep lost considerably more lean mass (1.6x more!) than the 8.5-hour group that lost 2.33x more fat.
What can you take from this? When dieting, a decrease in sleep could increase the amount of muscle you lose as opposed to fat when losing weight. So next time you diet, make sure you don't skimp on your sleep as you might be losing that precious muscle mass that you slaved to build.
Another critical point to consider is the effect sleep has on hunger. When dieting or attempting to lose weight, hunger can be a killer. Depriving yourself of sleep also seems to reliably make you more hungry - which is one thing you don't want when trying to lose weight.
Sleep For Recovery And Muscle Growth
Intuitively people know that sleep plays a crucial role in aiding recovery and supporting muscle growth, yet it's rarely prioritised. What does sleep do that is so important for muscle growth and recovery? A lot of it comes back to regulating hormones. A lack of sleep seems to decrease critical hormones associated with muscle growth such as testosterone and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) - while simultaneously increasing hormones that can reduce muscle growth and impede recovery such as cortisol. Depriving yourself of sleep produces a perfect hormonal storm of gains destruction.
As you probably well know, testosterone is one of the primary muscle building hormones in the human body. Research shows that even moderate sleep deprivation can cause a 10-30% reduction in testosterone levels. Furthermore, a single all-nighter can be enough to obliterate healthy testosterone levels.
Sleep And Exercise Performance
Whether you are an athlete or a weekend warrior that wants to bust personal records in the gym, performance is extremely important. Missing out on sleep can throw a spanner in the works when it comes to exercise performance too.
Research shows that a lack of sleep causes the following issues that are problematic when it comes to lifting heavy things, aerobic endurance and athletic performance:
- Decreased reaction times.
- A 9kg reduction in maximal bench press and 30kg reduction in maximal deadlift (after being restricted to three hours sleep for four nights).
- Slower sprint times.
- Decreased aerobic performance.
So, How Important Is Sleep?
A good nights sleep is integral for almost all aspects of exercise, from performing it, growing muscle from it, to recovering from it. Sleep is not just one of the key pieces to the puzzle of success and improvement when it comes to moving iron and exercising; it's the foundation.
If sleep is taking a back seat in your life, hopefully, this article can shed some light on what the implications of this are and help move it to pole position.
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