If you think improving fitness is all about exercising more and doing tougher workouts, here’s your wake-up call on the importance of sleep – to see better fitness results, you need to get that shut-eye.
Over my 26 years in the fitness industry, I’ve seen a ton of crazy things people will do to get that rock hard and fit looking body: crazy exercise “modifications”, a grocery cart full of supplements, 4–5 hour workouts, and of course those “ergogenic aids” which mostly go unmentioned. I can’t say I blame them for thinking outside the box when it comes to their ways of fitness. But, the funny thing is, the one thing they could do to immediately get on the fast track to total body growth and maximum productivity isn’t in their Bag O Fitness.
I’m talking about sleep – nature’s most complete cure-all. And the best thing is… it’s 100% free!
If you understand and embrace the relationship between sleep and fitness, improving your fitness overnight is a lot closer than you think. Simply start spending more time in dream land and your entire body will operate at optimal levels with regard to:
- Total muscle recuperation
- A healthier heart
- Efficient hormone production and metabolism
- Better mood and disposition
Read on to learn more about how powerful sleep really is on your way to better fitness, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start spending more time in bed and spending less money at the supplement store.
DOES SLEEP ADD MUSCLE?
Sleep is the time when most of your body’s chemical and physiological renewal processes take place – with many of those processes taking place in the muscles you beat up during your workout.
Exercise depletes muscles of many nutrients, breaks down muscle tissue (micro trauma), and leaves them basically in a vulnerable state. Although you may not be very active after your workout, your muscles are still working when you walk around, sit and stand, and other daily activities.
These activities may not seem like much, but your muscles think differently. Sleep is the only time your muscles can fully recuperate, and if you want those gains in strength, quicker running times, and a better-looking body, you’ll spend more time counting sheep than counting reps.
But wait a minute. Isn’t the heart one big muscle? Yes, it most certainly is.
HOW DOES SLEEP AFFECT HEART HEALTH?
Do you wear your heart on your sleeve? You should! It’s the most important muscle in your entire body so it makes a lot of sense to be aware of what your heart needs?
It’s pretty straight forward: Nothing in your body is going to work without your heart – nothing! It’s also obvious that the heart is the only muscle that never gets time off. The only chance your heart has to take it easy is when you sleep and even then, it still has to work.
When you sleep well, your heart beats less and your blood pressure falls.
Basically, it’s a game of numbers: When you sleep well, your heart beats less and your blood pressure falls. This means less wear and tear on your heart and arteries. If your sleep isn’t enough or is of bad quality, your heart rate and blood pressure will typically be higher than usual in the daytime.
WHY SLEEP DEPRIVATION MAY CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
There’s a hormone producing factory in your body, and it’s called the endocrine system. This system releases hormones into your circulatory system according to what, when, and how much you need.
With a lack of sleep or quality of sleep, your endocrine system is stressed and your entire body feels it, especially during and after your workouts. It’s during good-quality sleep that your hormones are in peak working and efficient order and are being delivered to all parts of your body to replenish them for the next day’s work.
Growth hormone, the hormone from your pituitary gland, is primarily responsible for muscle growth and recuperation. When you are sleep deprived, the production of this muscle building hormone is greatly lessened which affects your body’s ability to fully recuperate and to perform.
As if this wasn’t enough, poor sleep habits can wreck your metabolism and increase the production of a stress hormone called cortisol. When more than normal cortisol is released, abnormal amounts of glucose enter your blood, your immune system is suppressed, and bone formation is decreased. Without getting complicated, your hormones regulate or greatly affect every single function in your body. When your body is over-taxed, your hormones get way out of whack and everything is effected in a not-so-good way. Lack of good quality sleep will cause the body to do things it’s not used to doing.
And what about your disposition? Can it go awry as well?
HOW LACK OF SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR MOOD?
Oh yes. We’ve all had the experience of a bad night’s sleep and the drag of the day after.
Most people can recuperate fairly quickly after one night of poor sleep but when you string two or more together the compounding effects show up in our mood. Let’s just say we aren’t as likely to smile or be as happy to see someone as we usually are.
If and when a lack of sleep becomes the norm, a person’s bad mood can methodically become depression in a relatively short amount of time. The old saying, “Where the head goes, the body follows” holds true. The longer your thoughts and mood stay negative, the less active you’ll become, workouts will be missed, a once healthy diet gets replaced with drive up windows, and projects and work production can get bogged in the mud.
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs sleep so it too can have a break, recuperate from the normal stresses of life, and feel free to do what it wants for a change.
SLEEP AND FITNESS – THE ESSENTIAL COMBO
There are millions of people in this world looking tirelessly for the fountain of youth. They spend countless days and hours on their workouts, they repeatedly place their hopes on the latest and greatest supplements, and they do their best to eat like a champion – all in the effort of staying and looking young and fit.
Although these things are indeed essential to obtain ultimate fitness, their effectiveness is dependent on one supplement you can’t find in any store: A good night’s sleep. There’s really no way around it – sleep and fitness go hand-in-hand.
When your well rested, your muscles and your heart wake up ready to take on another workout, your hormones have you at even keel, and you might not even get mad when someone is bigger, faster, or stronger than you.