Are you overlooking the sleep factor? When it comes to building muscle, there is nothing like sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the major reasons you are not gaining muscle size - even with those
hardcore workouts you put in during the week. Muscles do not grow during the workout. They grow during sleep. That is a significant factor if you are concerned about maximizing muscle size. Some
people don't realize this. Most bodybuilders are somewhat aware of the fact, but even so, they often overlook the importance of sleep. It is one of the most important elements in bodybuilding. Since
sleep plays such a big role in making the muscles bigger, spotlighting it is critical for bodybuilding success.
The sleep factor gets taken for granted by everyone from rank beginners to top professionals. Peter Nielsen, Mr. International Universe, relates in his book Will of Iron: "I tried to be a party animal while simultaneously keeping my body in top form. It can't be done." Late nights on the town are not conducive to building muscle. Lack of sleep hits the body with a double whammy. Since muscles grow during sleep, lack of sleep means they cannot grow as much as they otherwise could. Moreover, sleeplessness robs the body of the energy necessary for the next workout. When you miss sleep you fail to maximize muscle growth, and you automatically shortchange tomorrow's session at the gym.
Lack of sleep can put an end to your workouts - permanently. Dr. William Dement, the leading authority on sleep and sleep disorders, notes in his book, The Promise of Sleep, that lack of adequate sleep can be very debilitating, and even downright deadly. For example, the wreck of the Exxon Valdez was attributed to sleep deprivation, as was the error that led to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. A quarter of the population admits to falling asleep while driving during the past year, and an estimated 24,000 people die every year in accidents caused by falling asleep. Missing out on your sleep is no small problem. For bodybuilders sleep is twice as important. The excess stress that bodybuilders put on their body creates a high sleep requirement.
A bodybuilder's best example for sleeping is probably a baby. Because they are growing so much, babies sleep all the time. A bodybuilder also seeks growth, and sleep is your best way to promote it (provided, of course, that you are putting in some nasty workouts to boot). Many professional athletes recognize the importance of sleep, and how it affects performance. NBA players are known for sleeping all they can. Some sleep as much as 11 hours a day to recharge their body for the next game. Sleep is of vital importance to them, as it is for all athletes who push their body to the limit.
Bodybuilders have a dual need for sleep. Like other athletes, they must have energy for their workouts, both the weight-training and cardiovascular/aerobic sessions. But bodybuilders also want to grow more muscle size, and that means more sleep. A bodybuilder needs a lot more sleep than the average person, even more than other athletes. He desperately needs to sleep like a baby to grow bigger muscles. Unfortunately, if a bodybuilder tries to manage on the eight hours of sleep that most people get (some sleep as little as five to six hours per night), he or she may be seriously shortchanged. Over time this need for sleep accumulates, just like debt. In fact, that is the term professional sleep physicians have coined to note the problem - sleep debt. In his book Dr. Dement points out that just like the daily requirement for vitamins and minerals, each person has his own daily sleep requirement. Missing that amount, consistently getting less than you need, puts your body into sleep debt. The effect of each successive night of partial sleep loss carries over and adds up.
Your body will extract that lost sleep from you at some point whether you want to go along with it or not. The size of your sleep debt is directly related to the amount of sleep you have lost in the previous several nights. When your sleep debt piles up high enough, your body starts to shut down, even over your protests. This is why you may suddenly start to nod off unexpectedly at the very times you don't want to go to sleep - even in the gym! Some of the byproducts of sleep loss are diminished performance, diminished mental acuity, forgetfulness, poor concentration, disorientation, and -for the bodybuilder worst of all - lack of muscle growth.
How do you know if you are one of the many people who are not getting enough sleep? Lack of gains from your routine is a strong indicator. If you feel drowsy during the day, your body is trying to force you to get more sleep. It is like the warning light in your car - a signal you cannot afford to ignore.
If you suspect you need more sleep, start getting it. While other people may get by on seven or eight hours, you may need nine, ten, or even more. The only way to find out for certain how much you need is to experiment. When you begin waking up well rested and you are not nodding off during the day, you will be at the level of sleep your body needs. Note how many hours you required to reach this sleep saturation point, and aim at getting as much again the next night. After several nights at this level you will probably find you need 15 to 20 minutes less sleep. Stay at that level as long as you are working out.
If you are in a situation that does not allow you to get in as many hours of sleep as you need, take a nap. A good 20-minute nap can help cut down on your sleep debt. Add naps to your day if you can't get the straight sleep you need at night.
Not getting the returns from your workouts that you think you should given your level of training intensity? The problem may not be the exercise program. It very well may be a lack of sleep. Don't overlook the importance of a good night's sleep. Getting your "beauty sleep" is essential if you want to have that extra muscle size.