According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people in the U.S. are sleep deprived, which means that one in three people aren’t getting enough sleep. Interestingly, some people can function well on little to no sleep, while others feel more of an impact.
As we all know, exercise exerts stress on the body. It’s during the post-exercise recovery between workouts that the body actually changes as a result of the exercise. One of the most effective methods for recovering from a hard workout is sleep. Quality sleep promotes recovery so that an exercise regimen produces the desired results.
Achieving results from any exercise program requires having a post-workout recovery strategy. Getting the optimal quality and quantity of sleep is one of the most efficient means of allowing your body to recover from a workout and to prepare for the next training session. To help ensure that you are getting the most out of your training, the following will elaborate on how sleep can truly provide profound benefits for recovery after exercise.
Sleep and exercise are both key components to a healthy lifestyle. When you lead an active lifestyle, your body needs sleep. People that are well rested perform at higher levels when training. Ideally, if you exercise, you’ll need at least eight hours of sleep per night. If your exercise regimen has intense workout days, you may need more than that eight hours in order to effectively recover. When it comes to planning your training, it is important to understand that the end of one workout is the beginning of the next. Recovery, including food, hydration and sleep, will allow you to be fully prepared and recovered for that next workout.
Sleep also provides time for muscles to repair themselves. Anabolic hormones produced during stage three of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or dreamless sleep helps to repair tissues damaged during exercise. The longer the sleep session, the more time for muscle tissues to regenerate and grow. A full night’s sleep allows time for anabolic hormones to perform the function of tissue repair. That said, insufficient sleep could result in higher levels of catabolic hormones responsible for energy production. If you have ever been completely exhausted but couldn’t fall asleep, you could be experiencing elevated sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and higher levels of the hormone cortisol. The SNS releases cortisol, which helps convert free fatty acids into energy for exercise. However, when glycogen is low, cortisol can also convert amino acids into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which inhibits muscle growth.
It is also important to understand how sleep impacts cognition. One important benefit of sleep is that it allows time for the removal of unnecessary metabolic waste from brain cells. This also enhances blood flow to cells allowing for oxygen and glycogen production for optimal performance. Further, be cognizant of metabolic overload. This occurs when muscles get to the point of fatigue, exhausting the amount of glycogen available for energy production. While sleeping, the body continues to digest carbohydrates from the food consumed that day and metabolizes these carbohydrates into glycogen, which is then stored in muscle cells to fuel muscle performance.
Finally, often forgotten is the impact sleep has on the immune system. No matter what your training level, optimal sleep habits support a strong immune system, which, in turn, reduces the risk of becoming sick. This allows you to optimize your training regimen.
As is so often the case, stress (including the dreaded cortisol), intense workouts, and life often get in the way of sleep—and ultimately, recovery. That said, there are supplements that can easily be found on retail shelves that will help you sleep better and recover faster for yet another day of training:
Casein: There’s more to life than whey protein. Casein is the “other protein” in milk. It’s more slowly absorbed and digested than whey. Casein is the ideal choice for your final protein meal of the night before heading off to bed. Casein will slowly feed your body with protein, amino acids and BCAAs for hours while you sleep.
Melatonin: A hormone the body produces naturally. It signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Time of day influences this hormone’s cycle of production and release—melatonin levels naturally rise in the evening and fall in the morning. For this reason, melatonin supplements have become a popular sleeping supplement, particularly in instances where the melatonin cycle is disrupted, such as jet lag. Moreover, melatonin reduces the time people need to fall asleep.
L-theanine: An amino acid that is naturally found in green tea. Research has shown that it is one of the ingredients that makes green tea so healthy. Known for its range of positive health benefits, L-theanine also improves sleep quality, mood, and mental health. According to Food Science and Nutrition, it likely has a positive impact on sleep quality.
L-tryptophan: This amino acid is found naturally in plenty of foods, but we’d need to eat a lot of these foods to realize any benefits. L-tryptophan increases serotonin levels and is a precursor of melatonin. Not only can L-tryptophan support healthy sleep patterns and quality of sleep, but also improves mood and general well-being.
Valerian Root: An herb that has been used for centuries to promote relaxation. It contains valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and a variety of antioxidants, all of which may promote sleep and reduce anxiety. According to studies, valerian root works by interacting with GABA and serotonin. Low GABA levels have been associated with anxiety and low-quality sleep. Valeric acid impedes the breakdown of GABA in the brain, leading to feelings of calmness.
It is very important to be cognizant of short-term recovery and how crucial it is to maintaining and improving performance and preventing injury in training. Short-term recovery includes the lower intensity cool-down phase after a tough workout, replenishing fluid lost during exercise and getting adequate sleep. The benefits of sleep cannot be understated. Sleep is the most potent recovery tool known to science. Nothing else comes close. If you’re not getting enough sleep, there’s no other recovery method you can use that will make up the difference. VR
Mark Becker is a senior account manager for Vivion Inc, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 35 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/marklbecker/posts/387591877933686#!/energyatlast. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com, www.alliedbionutrition.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.