So, I get asked the same question pretty much on a daily basis in my job as a Personal Trainer – especially since the place i spend most of my time is a University Gym. That Question…”Whats the best way to get BIG!!” this question is usually accompanied by a gesture of inflating chest/shoulders/arms etc.
I usually start by asking “Well, what are you doing right now to get bigger?” And the usual suspects of “Well I’m taking the MonsterPex2000 protein shake, training 3-4 times a week and doing…insert generic bodybuilding workout here…”
Then i ask the question that gets the same response from almost everyone “What time do you go to bed and how many hours sleep are you getting?”
Not only is it a good way to get someones attention – well, get their eyes to glaze over at least – but its a hugely underestimated and often ignored variable when it comes to getting the most benefit from ANY exercise programme – whether that be fat loss, muscle building, or sports performance.
As Paul Chek says “You can’t out-train a bad diet” You can’t out-train bad sleep patterns either.
The importance of sleep and its relationship to optimal health & maximum performance is nicely described and illustrated in Paul Chek’s book “How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy”
The illustrations below show how our stress hormones and repair hormones are produced in a synergistic but opposing pattern called the Circadian Rhythm – a naturally occuring 24 hour cycle. As you can see from the first image, our stress/activating hormones (cortisol) should start high in the mornings and gradually reduce throughout the day.
Ideally, when the sun goes down, our bodies start to wind down and prepare for the physical repair (this is the part you should be interested in if you want to create more muscle mass and reduced body fat). This process happens roughly between 10pm and 2am. The only problem is, that since we are overly exposed to artificial light. we vary rarely experience this ‘Sunset’ phenomenon. This can have the effect of elevating cortisol much later in to the night and disrupting our repair processes as well as the overall quality of our sleep. Not only does this lead to slower repair (muscle growth) but this poor nights sleep makes us much more insulin resistant the next day – This is the same as being diabetic according to Robb Wolf in his book The Paleo Solution.
In the image below, Paul Chek shows the impact of a disrupted circadian rhythm. This puts a huge dent in the amount of time the body can allocate to physical repair processes and will ultimately, if repeated over a long enough period of time, will ensure that those guns will remain looking a little more like water pistols.
It is recommended getting to bed by 10:30pm and waking by 6am. This has the added benefit of allowing to complete early morning workouts which, as long as your cortisol rhythm is normal, will allow for even more effective fat-burning workouts.
READ ALL ABOUT YOUR SLEEP/WAKE CYCLES AND MUCH MUCH MORE IN PAUL CHEKS BOOK ‘HOW TO EAT, MOVE & BE HEALTHY’ PAULS BOOK CAN BE PURCHASED HERE
I hope this gives you a little more insight in to the importance of getting enough sleep to your health and fitness goals – no matter what they may be. As usual, I look forward to any comments or questions you might have.
‘How to Eat, Move & Be Healthy” by Paul Chek
“The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf
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