Most Common Mistakes - Lack of Sleep
One of the most anabolic things you can do is sleep.
It’s not training in the gym that makes you grow - training is actually catabolic, meaning it breaks down muscle, not builds it!
For your workouts to be effective at building muscle mass, you need to stimulate your muscles in the gym, then rest, rest, rest.
To quote Matthew Walker (a sleep scientist who wrote the amazing book “Why we sleep” - definitely pick yourself up a copy and have a read!)
“Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason”
There really is no good reason to be staying up late into the night, binge watching box sets and snacking as you go.
If you want muscle growth or fat loss (or both), you need to be getting your full 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
You may be one of those people who think you can get away with less sleep than this, but to quote Matt again, “The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percentage of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero”
In other words, there’s a less than 0.5% chance that you’re one of those people! Even if you think it doesn’t affect you, you can almost guarantee that if you tested for reaction speed or cognitive function, you’d perform badly on the days you’ve had less sleep.
If you’re chronically underslept (i.e. regularly get less than 7-9 hours of sleep per night), chances are you don’t even know what it feels like to not be tired!
The best way to fix your sleep is to have a set wake up and bed time.
Decide what time you’re going to get up every day (and make it every day - even weekends), then work backwards 8 or 9 hours from there to get your bedtime.
So, if you’re getting up at 7am, you need to be in bed by around 10pm so you’re asleep by around 10.30pm.
If you get up at 6am, then 9pm is your target.
Sound too early?
It’s not. It’s the time you should be aiming to get to bed.
Naturally, we’d have been getting ready for sleep as the sun goes down and it gets dark.
Our endless summer and 24 hours of daylight (via lighting) keeps us awake and negatively affects our sleep patterns.
Dim the lights of an evening, at least an hour before you go to bed, but ideally earlier. Mimic the daylight outside.
Going back to our muscle growth/fat loss perspective, you need that rest to recover and grow and to prevent overtraining or under-recovering.
You can train as hard as you like in the gym, but if you’re not recovering from your workouts (with rest and good nutrition), you’re just breaking down your muscles again and again, without giving them the chance to grow between these sessions - the net result will be almost zero progress, or maybe even some muscle loss!
The more you train, the harder you train, the more sleep you’ll need.
Also, the better rested you are, the harder you can work in the next workout - this is the definition of progress!
Work hard. Rest as much as you need. Go back stronger than before.
If you go into the gym tired and not recovered from a previous workout (even if that was 3 or 4 days ago), you’re not going to perform well. That means little or no progress. You can’t keep doing this and expect to see results?! You’ll burn out or get injured, or at the very least end up frustrated by the lack of results from your efforts. This leads to program hopping, always looking for the magic workout that suddenly brings muscle growth, but you won’t find it, because without adequate rest, no training plan can do this!
For fat loss it’s also very important - don’t think that because you’re not too interested in building muscle that this doesn’t apply to you. It does.
When we’re tired, we crave energy. That means poor food choices and unnecessary snacking, especially if you’re awake into the night - that’s a few more hours of being awake for you to snack, and it’s rarely the most healthy snacks we crave late at night!
On top of this, sleep is when our bodies work their recovery magic and hormones are rebalanced, muscle is built and repaired, fat is burned for fuel (because your muscles aren’t doing much at this point), and your brain consolidates the day’s experiences and memories.
I won’t even pretend to be an expert on sleep, but trust me when I say, it’s not something you want to sacrifice for the sake of watching the next episode, or even for work! (if you want to join the 4am club then be my guest, but don’t fall for the BS that it’s more productive unless you’re going to bed at 8pm!).
Even just staying up later at the weekend will leave you with a sleep deficit that you’ll need to make up as soon as you can.
For most people, average sleep time is far less than the 7-9 hours per night.
Much like a calorie deficit Monday-Friday is ruined by a weekend of indulgence, sleeping 8 hours Monday-Friday then staying up late at the weekend will negatively affect your body… and the slate isn’t magically wiped clean on Monday! You’ll enter the next week with a sleep deficit, which will just compound every weekend that you repeat those actions.
If you really want to lose fat or build muscle, you will have to decide what you’re willing to do for it, but sleep should be at the top of your list.
Don’t short-change yourself.
Who doesn’t want to sleep more?!