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Give it a Rest: Sleep Cycles & Your Workout

March 22, 2017

While having a routine and schedule for working out has its benefits, it is important to map out your days and do what makes the most sense for your body and its recovery. There are many benefits to working out at the same time every day. Your body starts to adapt and release hormones around your normal workout time that aids in strength, stamina, and focus.

However, if your schedule allows you to work out at a later time than five in the morning, you may want to take advantage of it and catch some extra zZzs. For adults, getting at least seven hours of sleep every night is crucial for:

  • Hormone balance
  • Muscle growth & recovery
  • Sharp cognitive function
  • Reducing unnecessary water retention in the body

Ask Clients About Their Sleep Habits

Even with the most consistent nutrition and workout program, if our sleep cycle is off our body will never be working in our favor. As a personal trainer, I am always customizing meal plans and workout programs for each individual client. Some are getting results and some aren’t. My first question is always, “How compliant and consistent are they being to the program I have them on and what do we need to work on as a team to be better in certain areas of the plan?”

I have many clients who are killing their short term goals and getting closer and closer to their long term goal every time we do our monthly check-ins. These clients are getting enough sleep the majority of the time and are thus on track with their fat loss goals for the month.

On the other hand, I also have clients that are following their fitness plan and not getting the results either of us expects during our monthly weigh-ins. When this scenario happens, their stress levels and sleep cycles are always the first thing I talk to them about. It never fails: the clients that are behind on their goals are struggling with their sleep patterns.

Despite their nutrition and physical efforts, the clients that are not getting enough sleep are shy of hitting their results or simply maintaining them. Not only are these clients not getting the results they are working so hard for, but the process is harder for them. They tend to experience more intense cravings for sweets and fatty foods because their body is simply in need of energy, making it harder to resist temptation.

This is raw, real-life research I continue to see month after month, year after year. The struggles vary from client to client:

  • I have clients with chronic insomnia.
  • I have clients that need prescribed down time and things to do and not to do while preparing for bed in order to better fall and stay asleep.
  • I have clients that sleep fine, but simply don’t get enough.

In order to create a workout program for your clients that will work, it’s essential that you ask them about their sleeping habits. In doing so, you can get a better picture of their health and health needs.

Getting Enough Sleep is the Key to Success

During quality sleep hours our body is able to release growth hormones that allow our muscles to recover from workouts and maximize fat loss. When someone is not getting into their REM sleep or not spending enough time there, cortisol levels are elevated and growth hormone is not. Cortisol reduces muscle growth and development and encourages fat storage and significantly slows our metabolism.

Build Lean Mass & Lose Weight

Not only will a proper sleep schedule help build lean mass, in return it will help eliminate water retention and unnecessary fat storage. Fat is an insulator of water. Therefore, when we don’t get the proper amount of sleep to recover from daily physical demands, our body doesn’t remove water like it should. This retention causes us to look and feel bloated and carry extra weight in our midsection. I can always tell when I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should because my lower stomach is holding extra water. Then, after I get to sleep in one morning or I go to bed early I am always feeling better about the appearance of my stomach.

When you get enough sleep, your muscles will be able to grow and develop. The more efficiently our muscles recover during the night, the more fat mass we are capable of losing because our muscles will require more energy to sustain them. Essentially, the more calories we burn while we sleep, the more muscle we will develop.

Regulate Hormones

Fat cells are not only affected by water during poor sleep patterns. When our body doesn’t get the sleep it needs to function optimally it can negatively affect our hormone levels which negatively affect our body’s metabolic functions. For example, our body becomes incapable of properly using insulin. Insulin is a hormone in our body that has rightfully earned the name the “storing hormone”. For our fat cells, that means their only job is to store fat, and they’re really good at it. Along with fat cells being affected by insulin levels, our fat cells will decrease the productivity of a hormone called leptin. When this hormone is reduced, the body increases the production of the hormone ghrelin, which causes us to uncontrollably crave sweets and other foods that are not on our meal plan.

Make Sleep a Priority

Everyone’s sleep demands and requirements will vary, so there is no one number to recommend. Regardless, sleep needs to be a priority in your life and the life of your clients. Poor sleep patterns, even just for a couple of days, can be so detrimental to our fitness goals. The mental struggle that develops alone can be enough to make us feel unmotivated because our healthy options are going to be undesirable to us, our energy levels will be shot, and our workouts will not be as intense as they could be.

Whatever end of the sleep spectrum you may be on, poor sleep negatively affects you in more ways than just your energy levels. When you and your client puts in such great efforts with your workouts and nutrition, sleep is what allows you to see the benefits of those efforts. If you and your clients are grinding through your workouts, you need to be able to fully recover while you sleep. So please stop masking your energy struggles with coffee and other caffeinated beverages and get the sleep you need and get the results you deserve!

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