Whether you agree with it or not, everyone needs to build muscle and gain strength. Not everyone has to do an iron pumping bodybuilder workout to gain Hulk like muscles. You just want to build muscle and strength and maintain it, especially as when you get older you start to lose strength and muscle mass. Once you lose muscle mass it can take a lot of time and effort trying to regain it. A lack of muscle strength makes you more susceptible to injury and you don’t want that.
If you are currently doing a strength building routine there are other things you need to do to maintain the muscle. Sleep is one of the essentials. It was important for you as a kid, and is just as important for you today as an adult.
Muscles Break Down
Not many people are aware of this, but when you workout you are actually breaking down your muscles. Cardio junkies especially like to sit on the treadmill or elliptical building endurance and strengthening their heart, which is great; however from time to time stepping off the machine and lifting weights to build muscle is important, (aim to include strength training in your workout schedule at least a couple of times a week) too much cardio can see you lose muscle mass as your body can start to use it for energy. Cardio may be the favourite for burning fat but strength training and the result of building muscle is what gives you the toned and shapely look to your body. On a side note, strength training will actually help you burn fat faster so don’t believe that cardio is the be all and end all for a fantastic physique.
When you lift weights, your muscle fibers are breaking down and tearing – it is the repairing of those small tears that makes the muscle stronger. Therefore in order to help those muscles repair themselves you need to do a few things.
Aiding Muscle Recovery
One of the things you can do before you get to sleep is replenish your body with nutrients with a post workout snack or meal. A protein shake is an easy and quick way of doing this – 30 minutes to an hour is the window you have after your workout to help restore the nutrients lost during your workout so if you are going to eat after a workout (whether a snack or a healthy meal) this is the optimal time for you to do it.
Another way to help the muscles repair is to give them ample time to recover. Ensure when creating your strength training program that you allow for recovery – if you are working all muscle groups (full body workout) you leave a day of rest between workouts (these days can be used for cardio). If you have only worked your upper body then you can work your lower body the next day, the aim is not to work the same muscles two days in a row.
Ensure you get enough sleep, when we sleep our body uses this time to rejuvenate – as discussed in further detail below.
What Does Sleep Do For You?
Sleep is essential for growth. Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents would tell you to get some sleep so you can become big and strong? Well despite how you felt about your parents intelligence, they were absolutely right. Sleep does factor into your size and strength, or lack there of.
When you sleep, growth hormones are produced, muscles are repaired and even brain cell restoration happens. These things happen in the later stages (3 & 4) of sleep.
When you don’t get enough sleep you don’t get to complete the phases needed for the muscle repair and recovery. So if you are getting only 4-6 hours of sleep over time you’re cheating your body from major gains from your hard work.
There are four stages of sleep. Some very important and interesting things happen during sleep stages three and four.
During stage three of sleep your muscles become more relaxed, tissue growth and repairs occur and energy is restored.
Think about it like charging your phone. When you charge your phone to 100% you get the full use of it and it runs faster. The same goes with our body. If you let it recharge completely and into a REM cycle you’ll be more effective the following day and during your workouts.
Stage 4 counts for 25% of your sleep.
During this stage energy is restored, to both the brain and body. Your muscles are also turned off and you are completely relaxed.
Hours of Sleep
The National Foundation of Sleep suggests a “rule of thumb” amount of sleep which many doctors and scientist have agreed on 7-8 hours a day of sleep.
Sleep is not only essential for muscle growth but your overall health.
If you are in the habit of only sleeping for short periods of time you may be interested to know that laboratory evidence shows short 4-5 hour sleep durations have a negative physiological and neurobehavioral consequence. Some areas that that sleep deprivation has been linked to is as follows:
- Increased risk of drowsy driving
- A greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
- Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
- Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
- Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information
A good way to judge if you are getting enough sleep is to pay attention to and listen to your body. If you constantly need coffee as soon as you get up in the morning ‘in order to be able to function/start your day’, or have trouble remembering things, lack of energy etc this may be because you are not getting enough sleep and therefore you mind and body aren’t running as optimally as they could be.