Working out on a regular basis is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. It’s a surefire way to keep yourself physically fit, plus the fact that having a good workout routine will leave you feeling and looking fantastic doesn’t hurt either. Going to the gym every day is not an easy task. It takes an insane amount of focus and determination to be able to push your body day after day, come rain or shine. Bodybuilding amateurs, enthusiasts, and professionals dedicate their lives to this pursuit. It’s not just pumping iron once a day; it’s a lifestyle.
Your personal life, schedules and especially your diet will be heavily influenced into conforming to what’s best for your body. It will be a shame if, after all, this effort, you don’t get to reap the benefits of your hard work, your body doesn’t get in the shape it deserves simply because due to ignorance you missed out on one easy thing you needed to do to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of your workout.
Your Muscles Need Sleep to Regenerate!
You might not be aware of this but, when you pump iron, your muscle is breaking down(1). It may come as a shock to many since the activity is called body “building.” The “building” part takes place AFTER you are done exercising and rest. After a long strenuous workout, the best thing you can do for your body’s well being and overall gains from exercise is to get proper sleep. That is not just the duration of it, but also the quality. Muscles break down from the exertion, and sleep helps muscle regeneration. Your broken muscle regenerating results in stronger and larger muscles, which leads towards the shape and size you were after. Here is what happens after you fall asleep(2):
- Your body’s energy consumption is lowered to a minimum
- Due to the lower energy consumption all the nutrient rich food and supplements, that you have consumed are put to good use towards building up muscle.
- The human growth hormone (GH) is released naturally while we sleep. In men, this can be up to 60-70% of the hormones released(3).
- REM sleep plays a crucial role in the growth hormone being used optimally. It is during the REM sleep cycles that the human body regenerates and restores organs, bones, and tissues.
Sleeping well is equal in importance to getting in shape, as the workout routine itself. Sleeping on time and for the recommended period ensures that all those hours in the gym and those expensive protein shakes, are giving you the best bang for the buck.
Don’t Just Work(out) Hard, Work(out) Smart!
It’s a common fallacy that you will gain more muscle mass and strength if you spend more hours working out. A lot of studies point towards the positive effect of sleeping well and giving your muscles the rest they deserve has on achieving your workout goals. If you are stuck at the same point in training and cannot seem to make progress. Putting in more hours at the gym, sweating over the treadmill like a proverbial hamster on a wheel, isn’t going to make you achieve your goal any faster. Being smart about your workout and giving your body time to recuperate and regenerate your muscles will.
According to wellness expert, Dr. Felecia Stoler “You give your body the chance to repair, recharge, and regrow during sleep. It’s the ideal time to replenish nutrients, and since your body isn’t moving, it allows the muscles to repair themselves.”
No wonder you come across people at the gym who are cranky all the time, they might be doing extra reps and lifting badass amounts of iron, but if they aren’t giving their body the chance to recuperate and keep up with what they are exerting, it’s not going to yield the best results.
Here is what you should be doing instead(4):
Get Enough Sleep
This one is of paramount importance. It doesn’t even matter if you’re workout out that day or not. Getting 8 hours of sleep per night is one of the best gifts that you can give to your body. Around 25% of our sleeping time is REM sleep, which is when the body regenerates and heals. So if you are sleeping any less, you’re just taking away time form the healing process.
Count Those Drinks!
Although this is pretty good advice under ANY circumstance, it gains extra importance if you are exercising towards a goal. Consuming alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to regenerate and its production of testosterone. You should cut back on alcohol (or stop drinking it entirely) during the later part of the day. Drinking before or near to bedtime will also mess up your circadian rhythm, severely affecting your sleep quality and quantity.
A Big NO to That Late Cup of Joe
Coffee does boost your metabolism, which is a good thing if you’re working out. However, have it too late in the day, and it will affect your ability to fall asleep adversely. That is not what you want.
Shake it Off!
If you are serious about gaining mass while working out, you must have learned to love the taste of protein shakes by now. It might even be the highlight of your day, but hold off on gulping it down until before bedtime. Different proteins release amino acids at various rates. Having it before bed ensures that you have good amino acid coverage all night, which is crucial to rebuilding your muscle.
Know When It’s Time to Stop
Sure, you might be determined to become a hunk and adamant on putting in the hours but working out too close to bedtime is not beneficial. In fact, it is about as counterproductive as you can get. You are going to have trouble falling asleep. A suitable buffer is not to exercise at least 2 hours before you know you are going to bed.