Squeezing the Most Out of Every Minute is Bad for Muscle Gains
We live in a society that values multitasking. How many things can you check off your list and how involved can you be? An “on-the-go” mindset translates into our professional lives, our personal lives, and even our training programs. In an attempt to accomplish more, we often sacrifice sleep. We have a hard time saying ‘No’ and are therefore always responsible for another task. This lifestyle puts us under constant mental and physical stress.
Why does it matter? No Rest and High Stress hinder muscle growth!
You understand that in order to gain muscle you must lift weights and eat food. While the specifics of an exercise program and nutrition plan can vary, we have an understanding that these two components are essential when trying to gain size. Adequate sleep and low stress must also be included in your muscle growth blueprint.
Follow this time allocation rubric: Eat-Train-Eat-Sleep. You may need to add work and spending time with your significant others, but make sure to fit them in between the above segments.
How Does Sleep Affect Muscle Growth?
Given that we only have 24 hours in a day, we default to thinking that getting less sleep will allow us to re-coup some time that we can allocate to other areas of our lives. Decreasing sleep can have drastic negative physiological, psychological, and emotional impacts. The effects of sleep deprivation can either be seen over time, or may present immediately. Similarly, stress can occur with just one bad bout of sleep or it may be cumulative over days/week/months. Let’s review some negative effects that lack of sleep causes.
Types of Stress
Stress response can be broken down into two categories: eustress and distress. Eustress is a positive response to stress that we can correlate to well being, hope, and satisfaction. A situation that seems like an achievable goal that you must stretch for will likely elicit a eustress response. Lifting weights and going for a run is often interpreted as Eustress.
Negative responses to stress are deemed as Distress. Distress may result from one incident, but it usually builds over time. Constant periods of distress manifest in the body as well as the mind.
For the remainder of this article, we will not differentiate between eustress and distress. When discussing stress, we will imply a negative, or distress, response.
How Stress Can Affect Muscle Growth
- Release of Cortisol: Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It will be released by the body in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. Cortisol has a deleterious effect on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Constant stress means a constant release of cortisol which has a negative effect on muscle building and has been linked to increases in body fat.
- Low Grade Inflammation: Inflammation is a natural response to injury as the body attempts healing. Low grade inflammation puts the body in constant defense mode, and like Cortisol can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to process sugar correctly. Stress, obesity, and certain foods can cause low grade inflammation. Because your body feels it has to fight for recovery, it may not be able to focus on muscle growth.
- Decrease Insulin Sensitivity: As we have discussed, stress either directly or indirectly alters insulin sensitivity. Suppressed insulin sensitivity alters your body’s ability to process sugar, and may lead to the body shuttling sugar into fat cells. When sugar cannot be moved into your muscles effectively, their ability to grow is hindered.
- Decreased Immune System: Lack of sleep and high levels of stress decrease your immune system. A lowered immune system increases the chances of getting sick and also forces your your body to defer any muscle building efforts.
Lack of sleep and stress both work against your body when it is trying to gain mass. High levels of stress can cause lack of sleep or it may be that lack of sleep contributes to stress. It is imperative that your stress is controlled and that you get quality sleep every night. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. You must get at least 6 hours in order to function properly and to enhance muscle growth. Read the following tips for getting better sleep and reducing stress.