Strength training, good nutrition, and some aerobic exercise are your corner-stone modalities for improving your health and physique. But too often we overlook an important factor that is necessary to keep your exercise and nutrition going strong. I’m referring to Recovery.
Recovery encompasses many elements. The first one we should look at is the one that you should spend the most time doing: Sleeping!
Why It’s Important
Before even discussing it’s physique and performance implications, it’s important to know how crucial sleep is for your health. The most significant fact about lack of sleep is its correlation with…..mortality! Less sleep over the course of one’s lifetime is often correlated with a shorter lifespan. Is this a direct cause-and-effect? We don’t know, but the relationship is certainly worth noting!
Now let’s examine sleep’s effect on your body, particularly when it comes to fat loss. Here is a study that sought to discover the implications of sleep on dieting. 10 overweight subject were put on the same calorie-restricted diet. The variable the researchers played around with was, of course, sleep. All participants lost weight- just as we preach at GameChanger, calories-in vs. calories-out reigns supreme. But here’s the interesting part: the subjects who got less sleep lost more weight from lean tissue rather than just from fat! It’s only one study, and every study has its limitations, but it challenges us to think about the effect sleep has on our body composition.
How to Get More of It
Of course you want to sleep more, but how do you actually make it happen?? We know you can’t change your whole life around, but what you can do is make getting more sleep a priority. Just as you found time to train and eat healthier because you knew it was important for you, perhaps it’s time to do the same for your sleep. Here are some practical tips I’ve picked up from competitive lifter and coach, Greg Nuckols (who’s also written about the aforementioned sleep study):
- Get in bed at the same time every night
- Avoid white/blue lights (screens/florescent bulbs) as much as possible before bed
- Keep your room cool, around 65 degrees
- Keep your room as dark as possible and use your room only for sleep (and alone-time with your loved one)
- Stop drinking caffeinated beverages 10 hours before bedtime- caffeine can prevent you from sleeping even hours after ingestion, even if you don’t think you feel its effects
- Ask your doctor about melatonin supplementation
How Much Sleep Should You Get
Your first goal should simply be to sleep more than you do right now. Try increasing your nightly sleep by up to a half hour or one hour each night. An ultimate goal should be to aim for 7-8 total hours of sleep a night, but increase slowly towards that goal by implementing the habits above, until they are an easy part of your everyday lifestyle.
We often think of sleep as just a footnote towards our health, placing the premium on other factors- and maybe it doesn’t play a huge factor for many people. But it’s important to know that it DOES have an impact. So if you are happy with your training regimen and your dietary choices but aren’t happy with how you feel or look, maybe getting your sleep in order is the next step.
And sleep is just ONE aspect of your recovery. We’ll discuss more important recovery elements in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!