Want Results? Get Sleep.

Going downhill

Earlier last month, things were starting to go downhill for me.  I was in a bad mood a lot of the time.  I couldn’t focus well at work, my productivity was suffering and I was falling behind.  Worse yet, even though I was still eating well and exercising regularly, my fitness results were stagnating.    I wasn’t progressing in the weight room.   I would get really sore in my hamstrings after doing legpress.  My trainer immediately blamed it on my vegan diet.  Let’s face it most of the fitness community, especially the weight-training community thinks animal foods and lots of protein are the key to getting stronger.  It’s strange, because I’ve been vegan for a while, but this was the first full on plateau she’d seen.

I was frustrated, but when I took a good hard look at myself I knew what was wrong.  I wasn’t getting enough sleep.  This had really been going on for a while, and I was starting to feel the effects.  I was going to bed at midnight, sometimes later, and then getting up at 6-7am for work almost every weekday.  I would stay up late surfing the web, reading books or chatting with my wife.  It was fun, but it was absolutely killing me in other areas of life.

Undersleeping is common

Undersleeping seems to be more and more common in the first world today.  We have a sleep deprivation “macho” mentality where we like to brag about how little sleep we get.  We load up on stimulants life caffeine to “power through” it.  I did that for years, but after my hypnosis, that’s no longer an option.  We wake up after a short night’s sleep and feel fine.  Why?  Because our body overcompensates for the lack of rest.  We feel like we’re still functioning at 100%, but when we go back and look at our results whether it’s the gym, the workplace, the classroom, the playing field, or somewhere else and we’re just not performing our best.  It just doesn’t work, we need rest.

For exercise, if you don’t get enough rest, your body can’t recover.  If you can’t recover, you can’t build strength, endurance or speed.  Think about it, babies are the fastest bodybuilders we know, gaining the most relative mass in the shortest amount of time and they usually sleep 12+ hrs per day!  (and mother’s milk is only 6% protein ;))

Check out this great video from ultrarunner Michael Arnstein called “Sleep or die” about how he caught pneumonia, ended up in the hospital and almost died from pushing it too hard on too little sleep.

Getting back on the wagon

I had my work cut out for me.  I couldn’t let myself stay up late any more.  I had to catch up on sleep, and stay caught up.  I put down 2 ground rules for myself:

  1. Screens off by 9pm, in bed by 10pm
  2. If I screwed up one night, I had to make it up the next night
I had one night where I went to bed at 8:45pm, just because I had stayed up so late other nights that week.  It was actually really nice, I was tired and fell right asleep.  I woke up early the next morning really refreshed.  After a couple weeks of this, the results started coming back.  My mood was better, my work productivity shot back up, I was caught up at work and cruising AND… killing it in the gym once again.  My trainer was amazed.  How had I suddenly broken this plateau in the past couple weeks?  She asked me if I had started eating eggs.  I told her I haven’t eaten eggs since I was 4, and never will.  I just started making sure I was getting enough sleep.

Vegan Gym Rat is a blog about health, fitness, and pushing your limits on a plant based diet. You can get in touch with me via email ironcladben at mailbolt dot com or on twitter @IronCladBen

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About Iron Clad Ben

Just a dude who loves fruits, vegetables and exercise.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Veganism, Weightlifting and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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