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Sleep Will Make You Leaner and Faster – Here is the Proof!

To those of you out there struggling with fatigue, weight loss, anxiety, sleep disorders and/or performance plateaus, consider sleeping more to allow your body to recover and rebuilt naturally. There are no short cuts. High intensity and high volume will destroy you unless you have the time to sleep and eat enough to ABSORB what you do – plain and simple.

Sleep Project Overview
For the last 20+  years, I have asked all my clients to train with a heart rate monitor to keep them from training too hard on their easy days leaving them fresh for their high quality days.

This methodology has been challenged by many coaches and athletes for many reasons: “grey zone”, “wattage”, “perceived exertion”, etc. I have personally watched clients leave to go to a another program with more volume, more intensity, calorie restriction, etc. only to become injured (sometimes career ending), have a performance regression and/or become exhausted mentally and physically resulting in creams, injections or oral supplementation to turn their “symptoms” around. Sad but true.

In addition to having my clients train with a heart rate monitor I have required all my clients to maintain a Body Analysis spreadsheet to evaluate their body’s feedback to training volume, intensity and frequency along with ensuring that they are consuming enough quality calories and fluids to support their training loads and life’s other stress sources (work, family, etc.).

To prove my theory I conducted a sleep study over an eight month period where I asked 10 clients to wear their Garmin strapless heart monitor for every workout as well as when they sleep. With the permission of one of these clients, I have documented her sleep data averages and performance results below.

Parameters
Sleep goal: 9 hours (difficult but necessary)
Food: raw fruits, vegetables and clean fats; eaten every 2 hours
Training: 7 Hours a week
1 hour per day Mon-Friday
1 complete rest day per week – Saturday
2 hours on Sunday
Training Intensity:
2 hours anaerobic
5 hours aerobic

Sleep Log Observations/Take Away
Hours of sleep: increased from 6 to 9 hours
Deep sleep average: increased from 23 min avg to 1 hour 40′
Light sleep average: increased 3 hour avg to 5 hours 17′
Note:
Deep sleep allows the body to rebuild NATURALLY
Light sleep allows the brain to rebuild NATURALLY

Performance Results
Swim Time Trial: 17 seconds faster
Bike Time Trial: 36 seconds faster / at a lower HR of 8 beats
Run Time Trial: 18 seconds faster / at a lower HR of 5 beats
Body Fat Percentage: decrease of 4%
Note: body fat, not muscle or dehydration

Numbers don’t lie.

How Rest Improves Performance

Exercise is a great habit to have within your daily life; however, when it becomes an obsession it can actually become counter-productive to your overall health.  Excessive training (in the form of volume and/or intensity) without adequate rest causes the body to become “numb” to external indicators of over training such as mood swings, simple sugar cravings, interrupted sleep, loss of sex drive, loss of body weight, suppressed appetite and an elevated resting heart rate.

Research indicates that after 12 weeks of consistent training, Cytochome C (a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the production of energy at a cellular level), reaches a peak and then beings to decline. In addition to Cytochrome C levels, so does your maximum oxygen uptake (also known as your VO2 Max.).  At this point, the body must be allowed to rest and re-group for continued progress.

Training creates adaptations within the body’s various systems (muscular, cardio-pulmonary, lymphatic, nervous and connective) and needs to be supported with rest and food for positive adaptations.  Inadequate amounts (and quality) of sleep and food set the body up for a physical break down which leads to negative effects on the body (i.e. suppressed immune system and muscles with less power and endurance).

In addition to adaptations within the body’s systems, training causes changes at a cellular level – cell mitochondria swell, metabolic wastes accumulate, essential nutrients (particularly electrolytes and stored glycogen) deplete, and muscle tissue is torn.  This tearing is known as microtrauma of the cells, and torn muscle tissue doesn’t work efficiently.  As popularly noted, it takes 48 hours for the body to recover from this micro-trauma and has to be supported with rest and food for proper recovery and improved overall health.

If the body doesn’t get the opportunity to rebuild from the “work phase” of training, overall health and associated performance begin to slow down (and in extreme circumstances, cease all together).

The concept of hard training days followed with easy-active recovery days incorporated into your weekly training schedule establishes the balance necessary for maximum improvements in your overall health and ultimately your performance.  Consistent training without physical or mental setbacks provides the foundation for your body absorb your training volumes.  The larger the foundation (i.e. quality of overall health) the quicker you will recover from workouts and the quicker your body will progress to new levels of performance.

The key to overcoming your fear of taking time off is to understand how much it will help, rather than hinder, your performance.  Think about it this way, if you are not fresh, you will not have the energy (or desire) to push to the next level of performance.  If your body doesn’t experience the next level, you will begin to stagnate within your performance cycles. So, the next time you see a recovery workout on your schedule, don’t ignore it! Remember, that rest allows your body to recover, rebuild, and ultimately become stronger.