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Fun and Fitness: Sleeping beauties, buff bodies

Rick Melo | Sports | April 3rd, 2006

You've thought long and hard about how you can enhance your physique through better eating and sound training principles. But have you considered what getting a quality night's sleep can do for your workouts? Sleep is one of your most valuable tools for growth, and often the most overlooked. Athletes may even require more than the average recommended eight hours a night, and perhaps up to nine hours, according to recent studies.

What many bodybuilders don't realize is that the muscle adaptation, or growth, they're looking for is actually occurring during this crucial recovery process following their workout. Rest provides your body with exactly what you've been begging it to do ever since you lifted that first dumbbell: build muscle. But if you're one of the millions of everyday people who don't get enough sleep, you need to take a good look at just how much your sleeping habits can affect your body's own muscle-building potential.

Many high-level weight lifters train quite frequently, sometimes more than five times per week, but this may not be a good idea for the novice. If you've just started lifting, give your body at least 48 hours to recover. Otherwise, you'll likely become more exhausted than your body can handle and will need more sleep than you can afford. Resting ensures that your muscles have enough time to repair and replenish their energy stores for your next trip to the gym.

Sleep deprivation can jeopardize your ability to have an effective workout, and consistently getting less sleep than you need could lead to overtraining. Regardless of how much caffeine you manage to cram into your system the next morning, both your mind and body feel the effects of a night of sleep deprivation. What you may not realize is that you've just taken a nice big crap all over your training program.

Now you're asking, what can I do to make sleep a more powerful ally? First of all, avoid exercising just before going to bed. Body temperature is an important regulator of your sleep cycle. As your body temperature drops, you become sleepy. Exercise significantly raises your core body temperature and makes you more vigilant. In fact, it could take several hours after a workout for your body temperature to return to normal. If your schedule absolutely demands that you have to train in the evening, try the early evening. The more time between your workout and the time you go to bed, the better. You need to allow your body to cool down enough to promote a better night's sleep.

In the end, the simplest rule of sleep is fairly straight forward; the more you're awake, the more sleep you'll need. Most health professionals recommend at least eight quality hours of sleep each night so you get the rest and recovery you need to make it through the next day. If you know you'll be cutting back on your sleep one night, take a brief nap during the day. While napping isn't nearly as effective as an entire night's sleep, it does help offset some negative effects of a total lack of sleep. Until next time, train hard, eat smart, sleep like a PRINCESS!

Want more sleep tips from Rick? Email him at
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