I get the feeling, often enough that you could say daily, that most people think that there are secrets to sports performance, secrets to health and fitness improvements. “Hidden” tips, tricks and my pet-peeve, “hacks” that provide shortcuts to success. A Those in the know, know situation, those out of that loop are on the back foot, destined to failure because they ain’t hacking their way to success.
With the above “spiel” in mind this series of very short blog posts aims to provide full-disclosure, no bull. Just straight up advice on what works and why in improving different areas of your sports performance and life.
In the fitness industry the pendulum swings from extreme to extreme; but time and again the truth and reality of sports performance improvement is stuck in the fuzzy grey middle. That’s not to say there are no “right” answers, but given how complex humans are the right answers evolve as you do!
I’ll be open to suggestions for topics to cover via social media…so get messaging and mailing.
First up in the series?
Sleep; sleep and a “subtraction” not “addition” approach to using it to improving your health and performance.
While sleep is seldom the questions it is often the answer. No matter what the performance related question I get these days a huge percentage of people who come my way for advice on the shiny pretty trinkets of training (like the best “H.I.I.T Protocol, supplement, diet restriction, fancy strength training method etc…) are lacking in quality & consistent sleep; the late night “treat” of box sets til 4am, the weekend lie in, the disturbed night of wall climbing after 16 snapchat laps and a Facebook frolic while the heads already on the pillow! Sound familiar?
If you want to learn from the consistent World Class performers in any sport and maybe apply some of their approaches to your own health, well-being and performance then sleep is #1. The linchpin of gainzzz. The consistent performers get quality, consistent sleep. That’s full disclosure on my behalf, because from the experience and data I have from Point1 athletes it’s a very obvious trend. Consistent & Quality Sleep = Consistent #Gainzzz
The ever evolving science and understanding about how sleep is regulated and how it affects life and well-being during waking hours is fascinating. With some recent papers published in the area of energy balance and sleep providing some much needed glue to hold many sleep/performance ideas together better than ever.
To list just a few of the key things sleep is responsible for:
- Tissue remodeling and muscle growth
- Regulation of Energy Balance
- Hormonal Health and Efficiency
- Metabolic Efficiency and Neuroendocrine Regeneration
- Appetite Regulation
- Memory Formation
- Immune Function and Innate Immunity regulation
- Skill/Motor Learning & Consolidation
Many of the above are regulated by a tight relationship between what and when you eat and sleep! It’s clearly a well regulated tightly coupled system that can be quickly derailed by the choices on offer to us in modern life, but now knowing that it’s basically the one two way system between our guts and brains that regulate appetite, metabolism and sleep means we can do things like; eating regular meals, going to bed “full”, avoiding stimulants like Caffeine, nicotine and cocaine (joke) in the 4-6hrs pre bed will all have profound effects on the quality of your sleep!
The point of these blogs is to not get to sciency, all the neurobiology and neurochemistry of sleep science is waaaay beyond me but the magic that happens when we get to REM or Stage 4 sleep seems to be pretty easy grasp! The brain acts like it’s awake but the body is all but paralyzed! True regeneration. The longer you sleep and better the quality the longer you’ll spend in REM sleep and the more of the above awesomeness will happen! Simples.
Pretty basic stuff that’s easy to implement but will require a no-bull, get shit done attitude
- Quality Sleep Environment
- Decent Bed
- No electronics 45min pre-sleep
- No caffeine in the 4hrs pre-bed
- Set Sleep time
- Set Wake up Time
- Going to bed well fed
- Breathing Drills and Relaxation if you’re a midfield of fidgeting in the bed!
The thousand pin pricks of modern responsibilities can wear the most resilient athlete down, sign hear, be hear, do this, remember that!? Sleep is the ultimate and primary off-set of these pin pricks! You can be as cool as you please but neglecting sleep will break you not make you. Fragility is no man’s friend and the sleep deprived athlete is always a fragile athlete!
It’s not about what fluff and glitter you can add to your training – it’s about removing limitations to performance like your poor sleep quality and consistency!
Further Scientific Reading
Sleep and energy balance: interactive homeostatic systems
Theodore B. VanItallie
Metabolic signals in sleep regulation: recent insights
Charu Shukla et al.
Sleep of professional athletes: Underexploited
potential to improve health and performance
Henri Tuomilehto et al.