When trying to build muscle and make gains, you’re told to focus on killing it in the gym and eating out protein and calories. But there’s a crucial third leg to the muscle building trifecta that’s often neglected by trainers, coaches, and even athletes themselves -- sleep.
In fact, sleep might the most important facet to muscle growth. Make no mistake, you’re not going to grow if you’re not eating enough or progressively training harder and heavier in the gym, those are certainly necessary, but sleep is even more important than diet and training.
Here’s why sleep is so critical when trying to build muscle:
Greater Anabolic Environment
When we sleep, your body is flooded with important muscle building hormones, including testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which are critical to the muscle repair, recovery, and growth process.[1,2,3] Skipping out on sleep, reduces secretion of these key hormones, which limits muscle repair and stunts growth.
On top of that, sleep also lowers levels of cortisol, an incredibly catabolic (“muscle wasting”) hormone that left unchecked can seriously reduce your capacity to build muscle, and even worse, it can even encourage your body to store more fat, particularly abdominal fat.[4,5]
Maintaining optimal hormone homeostasis is critical to building muscle and burning fat, and that starts and ends with getting a quality night’s sleep.
Sleep Impacts Performance
You know that to build muscle you have to train hard in the gym, and that means constantly performing more work than you previously did. But, if you’re not getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, your mind and muscles aren’t going to have the energy to perform at a high level day after day.
Sure, you might start off your workout guns ablazing, but inevitably, you’ll tire much quicker than normal, meaning you’ll perform less sets and less overall work which results in no gains.
Furthermore, lack of sleep also reduces mental focus and heightens your chance of injury, and if you do get injured that’s only going to prolong your muscle building aspirations.
Sleep Alters Appetite
In addition to impacting your anabolic and catabolic hormones like testosterone and cortisol, sleep also affects the hormones that regulate your appetite. Ghrelin is the hormone that increases your appetite, while leptin is the one that impacts fullness and satiety. Skimping on sleep can lead to elevated ghrelin levels and depressed leptin levels[6,7], which is why you tend to feel hungrier on the days following a poor night’s sleep.
Having these out of sick hunger cues can lead you to blow your muscle building diet by consuming too many calories, thus promoting unwanted fat gain.
As you can see, sleep plays an extremely pivotal role in your ability to build muscle and forge the ultimate physique. With that in mind, here’s some tips on how to get a better night’s sleep and support your muscle building endeavors.
How to Improve Sleep (and Muscle Building!)
Establish a Nighttime Ritual
Everyday you follow a routine. You wake up, shower, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, etc. Following a set routine helps get your mind and body “in the zone” and be ready for a productive day.
The same methodology that ensures success for your daytime activities should be applied to your nighttime ones, too! That means establishing a set nighttime routine that helps your body wind down after a long and stressful day at work
Setting up a nighttime routine entails limiting exposure to blue light about two hours prior to bed (so turn off those smartphones!), and also stop checking emails, texts, etc as that only further stimulates the mind and brings up a host of other concerns that prohibit you from settling down for the night. Additionally, try doing some light stretching, gentle yoga, or reading prior to sleep to relax your body and put your mind at peace.
Doing the same things (at the same time) helps program your body that when nighttime rolls around, it’s time to get ready for bed and thus the stage is set for a peaceful, restorative, and muscle building night’s rest.
Stop Stims After 3PM
We all know the benefits of caffeine. It helps jumpstart our day and power us through a tough training session, but at the same time, if taken too late in the day, it can also seriously impact our sleep.
Caffeine has a half-life of about 5-6 hours, depending on how fast your body clears it out, which means that if you have some coffee or a sip of pre workout around 4PM, your body could still be metabolizing it by 10PM, exactly when you’re trying to get to sleep!
If you do partake of caffeine regularly, but find yourself having trouble getting to sleep at night, consider cutting off your intake of stimulants no later than 3PM. If you’re particularly sensitive to stims, you might want to stop consuming them around noon.
What about after work and late night workouts?
Some people can handle caffeinated pre workouts in the evening and still sleep soundly. If that happens to be you, then feel free to keep to your routine, but if you’re one of those people sensitive to caffeine, but still need something to get you focused for a late training session, RedCon1 has created a powerful, focus-boosting, stimulant-free pre workout in Big Noise, which delivers enhanced mental energy and massive pumps, without messing up your sleep!
Have Some Tea
As part of your nighttime ritual, it can be helpful to have a cup of decaf or herbal tea. The reason we’re suggesting this is that tea leaves are packed with an amino acid called L-Theanine, which promotes a state of calm and relaxation. Studies using L-Theanine have documented it significantly improves sleep quality.
The key to tea time is to choose a tea that does not contain caffeine. Black, green, and even white teas have varying levels of caffeine, which as we just discussed, can impact your sleep. If you do opt for one of those teas, make sure it’s a decaffeinated on, or another option is to select an herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint, which is caffeine free.
No, we’re not talking about a widespread power outage, or even cutting the circuit breaker to your house, but we are talking about making your room as pitch black as possible talking. The reason is, is that light exposure disrupts melatonin production. Melatonin is a key hormone affecting your sleep-wake cycle, and is heavily involved in getting you to go to sleep at night. Bombarding your eyes with TV, alarm clocks, laptops, smartphones, and tablets blunts melatonin production and sets you up for a night of tossing and turning, impairing your muscle building.
Try to make your room as dark as possible. That means turning off the TV, purchasing blackout curtains, and even unplugging the alarm clock. If you need an alarm, use your smartphone and set it across the room from you. Doing this ensures you won’t check it in the middle of the night, and also encourages you to get up to turn it off, stopping you from hitting the snooze button and possibly oversleeping!
Cool as a Cucumber
The final trick to help you get a better night’s rest has to do with getting cool….real cool.
Research has shown that we sleep better when our core temperature is lower, and the opposite is also true -- we sleep worse when it’s hotter. The key to getting sound sleep is to make your bedroom cool at night. Science has proven that we get a better night’s sleep when our core temperature is lower, and on the flip side, we sleep worse when we’re hotter.
Ideally, the temperature in your bedroom needs to be somewhere between 60-67°F, play with a temperature that is most comfortable for you and the one that gives the best night’s sleep. It might be different than what you’re used to, but it’ll make for a significantly better night’s sleep
With these tips, you should have everything you need to have a stellar night’s rest, but for those days when you really need to get a great night of sleep, RedCon1 has you covered with Fade Out .
Fade Out -- Your Nighttime Muscle Builder
Getting a full night’s sleep is essential to optimal recovery, brain function and muscle growth. Failure to get quality sleep ultimately sets your mind and body up for failure on all fronts.
Fade Out is your ultimate bedtime buddy that helps quiet your mind and lull your body into a calm, peaceful, and pleasant state for an extremely productive night’s rest. With each serving of Fade Out, you’ll experience extremely deep sleep so that you wake up feeling refreshed and energetic, never groggy or foggy headed.
Start making sleep a priority TONIGHT and for those times when sleep is as elusive as your gains, grab a serving of Fade Out.
- Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism. Endocrine development. 2010;17:11-21. doi:10.1159/000262524.
- Sassin, J. F., Parker, D. C., Johnson, L. C., Rossman, L. G., Mace, J. W., & Gotlin, R. W. (1969). Effects of slow wave sleep deprivation on human growth hormone release in sleep: Preliminary study. Life Sciences, 8(23, Part 1), 1299–1307. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/0024-3205(69)90034-4
- Tae Won Kim, Jong-Hyun Jeong, and Seung-Chul Hong, “The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism,” International Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 2015, Article ID 591729, 9 pages, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/591729.
- Jackson, S. E., Kirschbaum, C. and Steptoe, A. (2017), Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population‐based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25: 539-544. doi:10.1002/oby.21733
- Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M., & Rebuffe-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity Research, 2(3), 255–262.
- Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. Froguel P, ed. PLoS Medicine. 2004;1(3):e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062.
- Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2008). A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of Sleep Research, 17(3), 331–334. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00662.x
- Lyon, M. R., Kapoor, M. P., & Juneja, L. R. (2011). The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine(R)) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 16(4), 348–354.
- Onen, S. H., Onen, F., Bailly, D., & Parquet, P. (1994). [Prevention and treatment of sleep disorders through regulation] of sleeping habits]. Presse medicale (Paris, France : 1983), 23(10), 485–489.
- Okamoto-Mizuno K, Mizuno K. Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2012;31(1):14. doi:10.1186/1880-6805-31-14.