Recovery for Dummies Idiots: THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
We hear this word thrown around every YMCA in existence, but what does it really mean? For most people, recovery is the amount of “off days” they have. So, if somebody works out six days per week, to them, recovery is that seventh day.
Recovery is a very simple topic, but it’s not sexy. Recovery is sleep. We get so focused on stimulants and energy, and making sure our nutrition is perfect, so the idea of sleep isn’t as exciting as a brutal workout or an Instagram worthy meal. Perhaps this is why, according to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention, one in three people are not getting enough sleep each night.
For a vast majority of your local gym bros, avoiding the squat rack like the plague, the gym is where you put on size. To be fair, this notion is one many people carry. So, let’s break down what exactly is taking place while you work out. When you lift, you place your muscles under a level of stress they are not accustomed to being under. Your body was not designed to be a weight lifter. So, when your brain sees you doing curls, it essentially says, “hey shoulder, this guy is trying to move that object from point A (beside their legs) to point B (close to their face), if you do not step in and help, their bicep is going to be destroyed.” What happens next? Well, your shoulder gets involved and you start swinging curls, getting less attention on the target area (biceps). This is why it is very important to lift which a strict mind. Our goal in the gym is to make our bodies do something it wasn’t designed to do. So, as you lift with a strict mind, each muscle group is placed under a level of stress it does not see in any other area of life. What does this stress mean? Well… tears in the muscle fibers.
While that sounds dramatic, it’s needed. You see, while weight lifting forces the body to do something seemingly unnatural, these micro-traumatic tears is the natural way your body heals itself. Where does sleep fall in with this whole discussion? Simple. To repair itself, your body needs a time when you aren’t running through a hectic schedule, eating every couple of hours, and constantly moving. So, when is the best time?
Yes! While you sleep. It’s kind of like when road construction is needed on the interstate, most places will wait until night to do the construction, because that is the one time of day where the roads are less populated and people are less likely to interfere with the work needing to be done. While you drift off into la-la land, your body gets to work repairing the areas that need construction the most. The result is that this method of repair helps muscles get both bigger and stronger. You tear muscles in the gym and repair muscles while you sleep.
If you are somebody that has been on a strict diet plan, as well as a strict training plan, for a while, but you are not making many changes, take a look at your sleep. Are you only getting 3-4 hours each night, and fueling your mornings with energy drinks and coffee? If so, be boring. Get in bed in enough time to give your body the amount of sleep it needs.
How much Sleep?
This will vary from person to person. If you are not an active person, your body may not need as much sleep as someone who is more active. If you are a college student, you may feel as if you can “get away” with staying up all night, but our need for sleep actually decreases with age. So, the younger you are, the more sleep you need. According to The National Sleep Foundation:
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours per night
- Young Adults (18-25): 7-9 hours per night
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours per night
- Older Adults (65+): 7-8 hours per night
If you are an athlete, and your performance is your top priority, it is best to get as much sleep as you can. I can already hear the excuse makers crying, “there is no way that I can get nine hours of sleep per night,” or “I have way too much going on to sleep that much.” Yes, you do. Once nine o’clock hits, you sit on your couch or bed and binge watch whatever streaming site you prefer until one or two in the morning. Then, when your alarm goes off five hours later, you are groggy, and proceed to walk around with a “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” face. If you want to be your best you, you have to get your priorities in line. Sleep needs to be one of the top, if not the top, priority. Sure, no one post on Instagram about their sleep PR.
NEW PR! I GOT 9 HOURS OF SLEEP LAST NIGHT!
But, the only way to hit PRs in the gym, and make a positive change on your physique, is to optimize good sleep. When you begin discussing sleep for performance, one of the most common questions you will receive is:
“I’m not a performance athlete, and I care nothing about getting bigger or stronger. I just want to lose weight. Is sleep as important for me as it is everyone else?”
YES. YES. YES!
At the core, weight management is simply a matter of adjusting calories. If you are looking to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. I know logically it would seem as if you slept less and exercised more, that you would burn more calories and make a bigger change. However, this could not be further from the truth. If you check out our BMR calculator, you will see the amount of calories that your body would burn in a 24-hour rest period. 70% of your daily calories are burned at rest. 15% of your daily calories are burned from daily activities. 10% of your calories are burned from digesting food. So, where does exercise come in? A mere 5%! If you are a 30-year-old male, that is 6’0, weighs 250 lbs., and works out 2-3 days per week, you may burn 500 calories in one cardio session. That sounds amazing, but when you factor in that your body burns 3,000 calories on a daily basis, that 500 doesn’t sound as impressive anymore, does it? The key to weight loss is not found in non-stop sessions. 95% of your daily calories will be burned from going through your normal day-to-day activities, digesting food, and getting optimal sleep. That is not saying that you need to ditch your cardio sessions all together! You just need to make sure that you are not attempting to trade sleep for sessions.