Lets talk about sleep. Most people know that taking rest days, making sure your nutrition is good and supports your training, mobilizing and getting massages are the most important factors to recovery. Of course, all of these points play a major role in your recovery so that you can continue to perform at your best and allow your body to rest. But, many people neglect the most important factor to recovery: SLEEP.
Before I explain how sleep will get you stronger and fitter, lets discuss what sleep does to the body. During sleep, the body restores its organs, bones and tissues. When you sleep your body replenishes the immune cells and circulates human growth hormone. Sleep provides the human body with mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. There is definitely more detailed research that provides lots of explanation of what happens to your body during sleep, but I’ll stop here. In general, sleep has an overwhelmingly huge effect on your physical well being.
So how does sleep relate to making you a better athlete? Let’s start with the simplest one: motivation. You need motivation to get yourself into the gym. You need motivation to work hard to reach your goals. You need motivation to stick to your clean diet and eat healthy. Motivation can come easy if you are focused on what you are doing and focused on your path in fitness. But how can you be motivated without being mentally alert? When you sleep, you are recharging your brain and that helps you to have mental alertness during the day. This is needed for your motivation levels. Once you are in the gym, you still need to be mentally alert to be able to perform your best. If you are so tired that you can’t focus, you won’t be training very well. Days at the gym can be wasted without enough sleep.
If you want to get stronger, grow your muscles, or get a leaner body composition, its nearly impossible if you aren’t sleeping. Sleep provides growth for muscles and hormonal balance. During sleep, your body repairs and recovers your muscles, which allows them to grow and get stronger to prepare you for your next training session.
There are of course people who are able to train with barely any sleep but that will catch up to them soon and they will reach a plateau. Everyone is different in terms of how much you train, how hard you train, your lifestyle, your genetics, how good your diet is, but overall most people need a minimum of 7 to 10 hours of sleep a night. The harder you train, the more sleep you need.
Did you know that most CrossFit Games athletes take naps in between their training sessions and throughout the day? With all the amount of work they put in, their body needs the time to rest, recover, and restore itself so they can keep training at their intensity level.
Okay, so I know we are in Ramadan and everyone’s sleeping is messed up. But that is not an excuse to completely neglect allowing your body to recover. As for myself, I sleep much later in Ramadan but still wake up at the same time as usual (6am with my lovely early rising daughter). So in order to make sure that I am getting enough sleep in a day, I started napping. I try to nap 1 to 2 hours a day. Without those extra hours of sleep, I probably won’t have energy to train well. And I won’t be able to focus during training because my brain will be exhausted. My body will probably be sore and not recovered enough to allow me to perform as hard as I would like.
So remember that the best training and most perfect diet routine can be ineffective in reaching your goal without adequate amount of sleep.
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