Let’s start with a question: Does weightlifting or resistance training make your muscles bigger and stronger?
Answer: No, it’s the repair process your body undergoes from the stress and damage lifting weights causes.
Muscle protein synthesis is the process of your body turning protein into muscle or protein turnover. This is usually balanced with breakdown (catabolism) and synthesis (creation or anabolism) on a day to day basis and that is why a non-exercising person doesn't gain or lose muscle at an accelerated rate. BUT when you resistance train your body kicks muscle protein synthesis into high gear and when you do the right things between weightlifting sessions, BAM you start building muscle. This all happens from the stressful event of lifting weights not during weight lifting.
Technically exercise, lifting weights, running, playing basketball, etc… is a catabolic activity (breakdown) and it’s very time dependent. The longer you exercise, the more repair, recovery, and growth needs to occur IF you are doing the right things between sessions.
Therefore, if you want to gain muscle as effectively as possible, then you want to do everything you can to keep protein synthesis rates at OR above breakdown rates. The more time your body spends in this anabolic (creation) state, the faster you gain muscle.
So what is the magic formula to recovering completely from exercise and maximizing muscle growth?
There are two major factors with the first one being sleep.
Maybe it's a surprise to you but sleep plays a vital role in this process because much of what your body does to recuperate and rebuild from the daily stresses of your life, happens in bed. This is why studies that show sleep deprivation directly inhibits muscle growth and fat loss (which we will talk about later) AND can even cause muscle loss long-term.
To really compound the importance of sleep these negative effects become even more pronounced when you're in a calorie deficit. Even a single night’s sleep can interfere with your performance not only in the gym but in life. Two nights is enough to erase any benefits of exercise all together.
Now that you understand the importance of sleep, you should also be aware that it's not just the duration of your sleep but the quality of your sleep. In different phases of sleep different hormones are produced like BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), HGH (human growth hormone), and testosterone. These hormones are all anabolic so they are necessary to grow new muscle and lay down new neural pathways.
There are several ways to track your sleep quality using wearable devices like the Oura ring or the Whoop strap. Remember my favorite saying, “If it gets measured, it can get managed.” So sleeping better should be a goal for everyone.
The bottom line is if you get good at sleeping, you are better in every aspect of life. You also will be more muscular and have a better body composition. That means health and longevity.
So stop reading this article and go get some sleep.
Sleep Well, Live Well