In my next few posts, I will discuss various ways athletes can build muscle, from using strength training principles to nutrition tips. Today, I’ll focus on a key to developing muscle: sufficient sleep. Getting enough rest is essential for muscle development, so I’ll provide quality sleep tips for busy student-athletes juggling schoolwork and sports.
Sleep and Building Muscle Go Together
Where does muscle-building take place—in the weight room or in the bedroom? The answer may surprise you. Strength training is actually a stimulus—not the end result—for building muscle. After you’ve worked out, your recovery and muscle building occurs during periods of deep sleep. This is when human growth hormone (HGH) is released in the body.
The information below can help you make your hard work in the weight room pay off with added muscle.
A Powerful Duo
Sleep is one way to naturally produce muscle-building growth hormone. Another is intense strength training—i.e., three to five exercises with moderate to heavy resistance (80 to 90 percent of your one-rep maximum)—using multi-joint lifts such as Deadlifts, Bar Dips, Bench Presses, Chin-Ups, Leg Presses and Squats. In contrast to single-joint exercises like Bicep Curls and Tricep Extensions, these lifts promote the greatest release of muscle-building testosterone and HGH. Strength training and sleep are a potent duo for releasing those powerful muscle-building growth hormones.
Research shows that teens regularly need eight to nine hours of sleep for top mental and physical performance. Getting a minimum of eight hours of deep sleep each night greatly benefits student-athletes—in the classroom, weight room and during sports practices and games.
Young athletes perform their best in all areas when they get enough sleep and proper nutrition. A tired, dehydrated athlete is a detriment to his or her team. Follow these guidelines to ensure you get a great night’s sleep:
- Stick to a regular schedule. Go to bed around the same time and get up at the same time—even on the weekends.
- Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet to enhance sleep.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Avoid large meals and excessive beverages before bedtime. Large meals take longer to digest, and excess liquids consumed before bedtime mean trips to the bathroom during the night—disrupting the vital deep sleep that promotes those muscle-building growth hormones. Instead, have a light meal with a four to one ratio of carbohydrates to protein—e.g., cereal and sliced banana with a little milk—to help induce sleep.
Read even more muscle-building sleep tips.
Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.