Why You Should Catch More Zzz’s

I recently posted about my thoughts on taking rest days (they are crucial!). In this post, I am going to speak specifically about sleep and its relation to recovery and performance.

As I said in my last post, sleep is necessary for the body and brain to recover and it is when muscle growth occurs (not when you train). Here’s how: your body produces new muscle fiber formations to replace damaged proteins (the ones you damaged while training) when you sleep. So, no matter how much protein you consume after you train, you still need to sleep! Even you were connected to an IV that drips coffee into your body so that you never feel tired…you still need to sleep!

Okay, so now you’re wondering: how much sleep? 7-9 hours/night is recommended. Part of this is a little personal. For example, I feel energized getting 7 hours of sleep each night, but my sister needs 9 to feel rested. Find out what works for you and stick to it!

Here are a few other numbers and facts related to how much you should sleep each night that I learned in my Sport and Exercise Psychology class at Ithaca College, taught by Dr. Greg Shelley:

  • Minimal sleep (6 hours or less) for 4 days decreases cognitive functioning, mood, reaction time, coordination, focus and motivation
  • Less than 8 hours of sleep can decrease testosterone, which is the primary muscle building hormone, levels by 15%,
  • For every 2 hours of time an athlete spends awake & stressed*, it takes 1 hour of sleep to recover
    • *all types of stress (relational, educational, or physical) decrease the body’s ability to recover

Here are some tips to improve your sleep (which means you will also improve your recovery and performance!):

  • Avoid electronic screens before going to sleep and turn on “night shift” mode if possible (I know iPhones have this feature, I’m not sure about other devices)
    • Blue light (used on nearly all cell phones, laptops, and TV Screens) is detrimental to sleep because seeing it decreases the body’s output of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you sleepy, which delays falling asleep for up to 90 minutes
    • “Night shift” uses orange light, which does not inhibit melatonin production
  • Create a healthy habit of sleep
    • Go to bed and get up around the same time each night/day
    • Your body will adjust to this pattern, making it easier to wake up and fall asleep each day
  • Keep in mind that alcohol and marijuana negatively impact sleep quality
    • While a glass of wine may make sleepy, the quality of that nights sleep will not be as good as it would have been if you had avoided drinking alcohol (even though you fell asleep faster)
  • Stop all caffeine consumption at least 5 hours before going to bed

6 Reasons to Meal Prep

There is a lot of variety in what you can do when preparing your meals ahead of time; some people will prepare every meal they will eat for an entire week in one day, some will prepare 3 lunches, and others will simply cut up fruit and vegetables ahead of time but leave the rest of the cooking for later. Whatever variation of meal prep you may do will come with some serious benefits! Below are a few reasons why I recommend meal prepping.

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I chop up veggies ahead of time and put them in Tupperware so in the morning I can make veggie omelettes without a lot of effort. It saves me time in the morning, and the vegetables I buy for this are usually on sale, so I save money too.

1. Meal prep helps you make healthy choices

If you have a healthy breakfast already prepared or partially prepared (for example, you have fruit already cut up), it is easy to reach for a muffin or stop for donuts on your way to work because it is fast and easy. However, if you already have breakfast ready, you can grab that healthy option instead. Same thing goes for other meals, when you may want to go for the fast option (like stopping at McDonald’s for dinner), but know you should make better choices. Planning your meals ahead can also help you create meals that are balanced throughout the day so you are eating appropriate macro and micronutrients.

2. Meal prep reduces decision fatigue

Even though you know you should make healthy choices, after a long day of making decisions, our brains get tired! You don’t want to have to make decisions, so it is easier to grab something fast (again, this could be McDonald’s). If you have a meal you prepared ahead of time, you don’t have to spend energy deciding what or where to eat, and that fast option has just become something that, as I said in point #1, is healthy.

3. Meal prep saves time during your busy day/busy week

Maybe you want to make some roasted vegetables and chicken for dinner on Wednesday night, but you don’t have the time because of your busy schedule. If you set aside the time to meal prep on one day, then you won’t have to spend time cooking during the rest of the week.

4. Meal prep helps you reduce your food waste

If you plan out what you will be making for each meal, you will know exactly what to buy. Instead of guessing what you might need and not using it, you will be using everything you buy. This means you won’t have food leftover that has gone bad and you will have to throw out.

5. Meal prep saves money

You can plan your meals around what is on sale at the grocery store so that you are spending less on the food you buy. Also, less food waste means you won’t be throwing money down the drain.

6. It’s fun!

I always listen to music or podcasts or watch TV while I cook to make it more fun! Whether or not you love cooking, you can pair your meal preparation with something you enjoy to make it fun.

Celebrating Rest Days

We build muscle when we rest. We know this. Too much stress is bad for our bodies. We know this too. So why is there such a culture in the fitness world surrounding #thegrind”, “#nodaysoff”, and “#teamnosleep”?

I don’t have a good answer for that. But maybe we can work to promote change so that we don’t need to ask this question. We can promote recovery as an essential component to progress. We can remind ourselves, our peers, and our clients that without rest, we inhibit growth and can even cause fatigue and burnout. We can celebrate our rest days, guilt free. We can avoid labeling these days as being lazy or as cheating, which create a negative stigma around recovery days. And that’s just unfair. After all, didn’t we just agree that rest days are necessary for positive growth? Plus let’s be real, every once in a while, it feels amazing to binge watch an entire season of Game of Thrones in one day.

If you’re going to post about your #dailygrind, I challenge you to also post about your #restday and bask in its glory. Show the world what your favorite ways to improve are in all forms: in the gym, in the kitchen, and on the couch. Enjoy taking the elevator, instead of the stairs on your rest days, and don’t feel guilty for taking that 2-hour nap—your body will thank you for it.

Welcome

Hi there!

My name is Jill and I am currently a Physical Therapy student at Ithaca College. I have experience interning as a PT Aide at Achieve Physical Therapy and as a Strength Coach at Young Performance. I am also a vegetarian and run a food blog on Instagram, where you can find me @theveggiequesadilla. My goal is to share my knowledge and experience with you to help you achieve your goals!

Thanks for reading.

Jill