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4 Ways Sleep Can Affect Athletic Performance

Editor’s Note: We are featuring a guest blogger for today’s post. Eric Bogy of Fit & Me was kind enough to share this interesting look at how sleep can enhance your athletic performance. (Can’t say we’re surprised.) Enjoy!

Stong woman lifting weightsYou may be jacked up about going to the gym and either moving some weights or hitting the track for hours on end, but did you know that your muscles are actually being built when you’re not doing anything? Rest and recovery are essential for any athlete, regardless of whether you’re bulking up or toning down.

This doesn’t mean that you should just rest on your laurels and expect to look like Sylvester Stallone, Conor McGregor, or Serena Williams overnight. Take up a comprehensive compound training program that stresses your body but not to the point of injury, and make sure you’re eating a proper diet to fuel your workouts. Most importantly, make sure you’re getting enough sleep; the more you get, the faster and more effectively you can attain the results you crave.

Here are several ways that sleep — or a lack thereof — can affect your performance:

1. More Sleep Means More Reps

According to Mehdi Hadim, the creator of the StrongLifts weight training program, rest is essential to lifting more weight. Hadim advises budding powerlifters to wait at least one day between workouts to give the body enough time to recover, especially if the last session was a tough one.

weightlifter sleeping.jpg“Rest days are crucial to get results,” writes Hadim, a renowned lifting coach. “The weight stresses your body every workout. This triggers it to get stronger and build muscle mass so it can better cope with the weight next workout.”

That doesn’t mean that you should just sit around and wait for the next session, especially if you have other goals in mind. Hadim suggests that you could supplement your main workouts with light cardiovascular activities such as biking, rowing, and even jogging, as long as they don’t interfere with your weightlifting program or the recovery process.

2. Less Sleep Means More Excess Pounds

You need at least seven hours a night to function effectively, whether you’re working, lifting, or going out with friends. What’s more: Experts say the less sleep you get, the more weight you may have to lose.

According to Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic, sleeping less than five hours a night appears to increase the likelihood of weight gain. Hensrud writes that sleep deprivation may adversely impact the hormones that regulate hunger. As a result, drowsy folks are more likely to go on a junk food binge and lack the energy and desire to burn it off through exercise.

Whether you’re looking to build muscle or sculpt that beach body, sleep more to keep off the fat.

3. More Sleep Means More Testosterone

man doing reps with weights.jpgSleep, diet, and exercise increase your testosterone, which is essential to building more muscle and shedding fat.

A government study found that well-rested men had considerably more testosterone than those who had only slept for four hours. Anabolic Men’s Ali Kuoppala agrees and adds a caveat: It’s not just about how much sleep you get, but how well you get it.

Kuoppala came up with a list of recommendations that can help you get a much better night’s sleep. You should sleep in complete darkness and turn off all electronic devices. This includes WiFi and LED lights, both of which can disturb the pineal gland’s ability to secrete the sleep hormone melatonin. If you must watch something on your smartphone or portable device, he recommends programs that dim the screen and reduce those dreaded blue lights that can inhibit your sleep patterns.

Finally, Kuoppala adds that you should be exercising regularly — run, hike, bike, lift, or even walk — as it can help improve your sleep and naturally raise your testosterone levels. The more you move and the better you sleep, the more testosterone your body produces.

4. Sleep Boosts Physical and Mental Performance

We spend more than a third of our lives asleep — and for good reason: Sleep rebuilds our muscles, restores our energy, and allows our brain to store and recall what we’ve learned. The effects of sleep deprivation are dramatic: someone who’s tired will perform just as poorly as someone who’s drunk.

On the other hand, a Stanford University study found that well-rested basketball players ran faster and performed much more effectively on the field; their sprint times improved, along with did their shooting percentages.

“The athletes were training and competing during their regular season with moderate-to-high levels of daytime sleepiness and were unaware that it could be negatively impacting their performance,” said Cheri Mah, who helped conduct the research. “But as the season wore on and they reduced their sleep debt, many athletes testified that a focus on sleep was beneficial to their training and performance.”

The conclusion is obvious: If you want to improve on the field or in the weight room, you can never have enough sleep.

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