As bodybuilders we are constantly on the lookout for new and effective ways to gain muscle. The latest supplement, a sophisticated training routine, a new diet. Granted, all of these things are crucially important but what is possibly most important of all is sleep.
The best training routine, diet and supplement program will not compensate for insufficient rest, and sleep is the best, and only (in some instances), way of getting this rest. Professor Michael Colgan went as far as to say: even if your training and nutrition program can straight for the mouth of God almighty, without adequate rest your body will fail to adapt.
During sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis (provided protein is consumed prior to sleep) occurs. These are only two beneficial aspects of sleep. Energy consumption reduction and brain cell restoration are two other aspects equally important for bodybuilders.
Throughout this article I will explain the various stages of sleep and their implications for bodybuilders. Outlined also will be the benefits sleep has in terms of muscle recovery and growth.
Why Do We Sleep?
Sleep serves many vital functions. For bodybuilders the main functions are growth and mental alertness. Sleep provides these effects directly. Without adequate sleep, time in the gym could be, to a large degree, wasted. The following are important functions of sleep.
The Repairing Of Muscle And Other Tissues, And Replacement Of Aging Or Dead Cells
Sleeping for 8-10 hours per night is similar to fasting and this is catabolic to muscle growth. However, eating just prior to sleeping, can help to reverse this
process and increase protein synthesis. Protein synthesis does occur under conditions of sleep but it occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, not the muscles.
Muscle is actually broken down under these conditions to provide our stomach with amino acids during this time of starvation. Eating before bed is crucial in offsetting this. Some reports suggest waking up in the middle of the night to eat (nocturnal eating).
Human growth hormone is also released under conditions of sleep. In men, 60% to 70% of daily human growth hormone secretion occurs during early sleep which is typically when the deepest sleep cycles occur. Poor quality sleep can negatively impact human growth hormone levels.
Research suggests that it’s during REM (Rapid Eye Movement: explained later) sleep that the body is able to: restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenish immune cells; and circulate human growth hormone. Sleep has a profound effect on muscle growth and physical well being.
During Sleep Energy Consumption Is Lowered
Lowered energy consumption is a biological mechanism for resource conservation. We would need many meals per day (rather than the normal 4-6 for bodybuilders) if we did not get enough sleep.
With bodybuilders, the name of the game is increased size, so energy conservation out of the gym is paramount. Several meals throughout the day also assists growth, and sleep helps to ensure that food is used to replace energy and rebuild muscle (pre-sleep meals and nocturnal eating help to intensify this effect).
Sleep To Recharge The Brain
Adenosine (a neurotransmitter that produces ATP, the energy-storage molecule that powers most of the biochemical reactions inside cells) is used as a signal to tell the brain that it needs to rest. Rising and declining concentrations of adenosine suggest that the brain is actually resting during sleep given that adenosine secretion reflects brain activity.
During sleep, levels of adenosine decline. Blocking adenosine in the brain has been shown to increase alertness, so this suggests that during sleep the brain is recharging. During the day heightened levels of adenosine, particularly toward the end of the day, suggest that the brain is getting tired.
Resting the brain has obvious implications for bodybuilders given that mental alertness is desired during the day, especially during training. Motivation levels are highest when mental alertness is highest. Studies suggest that it is during REM sleep that proper functioning of the brain and alertness is assisted