How does sleep affect your workout?

 July 5, 2020|  Lauren

When it comes to gains we know you’re constantly on the lookout for new and effective ways to improve. 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 doesn’t stand a chance against insufficient sleep as this is when growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis occurs.

Sleep serves many vital functions. For bodybuilders the main functions are growth and mental alertness. Without enough sleep, time in the gym could be, to a large degree, wasted.

Sleeping for 8-10 hours a night is similar to fasting, however, eating just prior to sleeping, can help to reverse this process and increase protein synthesis. While protein synthesis does occur during sleep, it occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, not the muscles.
Muscle is broken down under while sleeping to provide our stomach with amino acids during this time of starvation. Eating before bed is crucial in offsetting this.

Human growth hormone is also released while asleep. 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.
During REM sleep the body can restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenish immune cells; and circulate human growth hormone. Sleep has a huge effect on muscle growth and physical wellbeing.

When we sleep our energy consumption is lowered, this is a biological mechanism for resource conservation. You would need many more meals in a day if you didn’t get enough sleep.

If you’re looking for gains energy conservation out of the gym is paramount. You need several meals throughout the day and plenty of sleep to ensure that food is used to replace energy and rebuild muscle.

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 benefits given that mental alertness is key during training, plus motivation is at it’s highest when mental alertness is highest. Studies suggest that it is during REM sleep that proper functioning of the brain and alertness is assisted.

So how do you get the best nights sleep?

Avoid Over-sleeping

Over-sleeping may set the bodies clock to a different cycle. This will make trying to fall asleep much harder.

Take A Warm Bath

A warm bath not only help relieve aching muscles but it will help you relax, however, a shower will have the opposite effect so these should be avoided.


Exercising, particularly aerobic, during the day will sufficiently tire one out and sleep will come faster at night but an intense training sessions during the late evening will have the opposite effect.

Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine & Tyrosine-Rich Foods At Night

This should really go without saying but caffeine causes hyperactivity and wakefulness while tyrosine – rich foods are brain stimulating and may keep you awake. Alcohol significantly disrupts sleep by interfering with the stages of sleep.

Avoid Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills may work temporarily but in the long term will cause disturbed sleep patterns.

Correct Sleeping Environment

Keep your room reasonably cool to get the best night’s sleep. If you struggle to fall asleep try having a fan running or soft background music may help to relax.

Prepare your Brain for Sleep

Avoid watching TV in bed, or scrolling through your phone right before you turn in. The blue light from screens tells your brain to wake up rather than prepare for sleep.

So is it time to readjust your sleep schedule? After all, sleep enhances muscular recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release so getting eight to ten hours of quality sleep every night help you improve your gains more than anything else.

 July 5, 2020 | Lauren

About the Author

Lauren Jacobsen is the Director of Nutrition for Kcal Brands and the Head of Fuel Up. Lauren has over 15 years of experience in nutrition and supplementation focused on physique athlete development. Lauren is also a former IFBB competitive figure athlete, and long time contributor to fitness magazines worldwide.

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