JED WIGHTMAN PERFORMANCE/SPORTS NUTRITIONIST ADVANTAGE FITNESS LTD
This article has been written for Canadian Physique Alliance – Nov/Dec 2021 Edition
We’ve all heard the phrase or even maybe used it once or twice ourselves. “I’ll rest when I’m dead”. A very bold and determinant statement in which we tell ourselves and others, “I work so hard and have so much to do, I don’t have time to properly rest”. Unbeknownst to most of us, this phrase might be a little darker and more accurate than we give credit to.
You see, something that poses one of the greatest risks to our performance, recovery, CNS, PNS and health of our mind-body and organs is, simply not enough restful sleep and downtime. I believe our mental health, along with organs and body is a priority. Longevity in our sport and in our lifestyle is crucial, let alone wanting to look good, be strong to live long healthy and capable lives.
So what does this all mean? Sleep! Yes, simple sleep is the answer. Why is this so important?
Here is a good example to give us an idea.
Take the top 5 finishers in the highest level of men’s 100 m sprint, they are separated by .56 hundredths of one second. This is such a small margin, like a competitor in stage shredded but holding a film of water. So the highest level of physical athleticism, pushing bodies to the most intense physique effort (like we do in the gym every day, to produce the most elite result), and the thing that allows this to be reality is the rest we have as a foundation of the above scenarios. The sprinters rest gets compromised and reflects on slower recovery, healing and explosive power of the start. The stage athletes film of water from staying up all night, not going into the necessary REM of 25 % (rapid eye movement) and SWS of 25% (slow-wave movement) of our sleep time results in inflammation fluid retention and smoothing out.
We can see how “time”, the compartments of time we sleep and rest, and the time we train is of utmost importance, absolutely crucial.
Mental acuity, mood, strength, focus cognition, CNS (central nervous system), heart and lungs, our PNS (peripheral nervous system), our skeletal muscles, life, health, performance lifting and allowing what we eat to actually do the job necessary, is all deeply connected to our sleep.
If our CNS is overtired exhausted and stressed because of no rest our Parasympathetic nervous system won’t allow for proper digestion, nutrient partitioning or metabolism. The food won’t do what we need, our most anabolic and lipolytic tools will be useless. When our body is triggered (remember metabolic resetting, from a previous article of mine) to survival not recovery and performance priority, biological imperative will always win. “Eat muscle don’t burn fat, store fat”.
So let’s dig into the relationship to training, training effect, recovery and performance, mental (thinking) performance and physical performance, and their dependence on sleep.
Current studies show that human beings need for sleep and recovery has been drastically compromised in just our lifetimes alone, most recently more than EVER.
We have been reducing the amount of attention paid to sleep and the actual sleep that we have been getting drastically.
Oddly enough we live in a world where we have to do less for ourselves to survive than ever before in recited history. But still, we cram more and more and more waking time into daily life much of it is crap we don’t need. Video games, technology, social media, social relationships, work, again video games!, drug and alcohol use. Depression from lack of sleep, drug and alcohol abuse has shown a massive increase in the last decade due to these factors.
I know people that work eight hours a day and play video games eight hours a day and sleep 4 fill the other 4 with unproductive nonsense and tell me that it’s normal for them. What we are doing to ourselves it’s completely ludicrous, and it’s not being addressed.
Are 8 Hours of Rest Enough?
We’ve all heard the recommendation of 8 hours of sleep; this is not a recent study by any means. It’s been around a long time. Long before any scientific studies on sleep were addressed, it’s been common knowledge that getting enough sleep and rest is essential for daily life and regular people’s responsibilities. And this was when people were physically labouring doing everything they could to provide food and shelter, take care of animals and ensure the health of the family and success of that family unit. This was back when this was just regular folk, not the performance athletes of today.
Current studies show us that elite athletes, with the intense workload, training multiple times a day and week need even more rest to counter the impact on the bodies’ organs, physiology, biology, neural function, and mental health.
The Human Performance Project or HPP is advising that Olympic, NCAA and Professional athletes and teams get 9 hours and 15 minutes every night. Our nervous system is a disaster without proper rest.
The CNS controls every aspect of performance. Our skills, biomechanical movements, the accuracy of their application, firing sequences of muscles during activity, reflexes and reactions, and countless interrelated physiological functions, including both the central system (heart and lungs), and the peripheral system (muscles). For all of this to function at our best, well REST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR. This means quality and amount of sleep.
Six hours or less of sleep per night for only four days in a row has shown to have drastic negative effects on mental acuity, cognition, the firing of muscles and the metabolic factors of the athletes’ body. We legitimately get slower, dumber, weaker and we burn muscle and store fat. We need to be focused, process the information from the weight to the muscle quickly i.e. mind-muscle connection, we need to be able to fire intensity and have staying power for our repetition volume workout duration etc.
I do not like the word motivation as it is a feeling, (feelings are fickle do not be “controlled” by feelings), so I’ll use discipline. Discipline is the key factor in all of this. So how disappointed do we “feel” when all we’re thinking about is how tired we are? I have gone through the most intense training for weeks on end with sleep deprivation, PT upon wake without food and no none of us got sharper we just ground it out because of the discipline. But it was only for three months but that cannot be sustained season after season after season, nor does it produce better speed, strength or muscle. So no matter how strong your discipline is, rest ensures discipline can be effectively applied.
The nutritional side of this is so equally and incredibly important also.
As I mentioned before about metabolic triggers, lack of sleep will inhibit so many critical factors such as glucose metabolism, which fuels the brain and the body for mental and physical performance. In the absence of glucose or glycogen fat is being used as the #1 fuel source. It will interrupt good insulin sensitivity, increase our fasting blood sugars and apply more demand on the pancreas to compensate. This promotes hunger, sugar cravings and fat storage, stunts protein synthesis, getting our amino acids linked up 3 x 3 over the cell membrane to get in there and heal muscles and our bodies’ ability to tap into storage fat as a source of available energy.
There is a cascading effect of issues leading from this. Increased blood pressure, stress to the kidneys etc. I could go on. But I’ll leave it as our body suffers terrible damage.
Circling back,. This means stored fat is held onto. We do not burn it because it ensures the bodies’ biological imperative which is survival and literally crushes Immune function. We stopped producing the amount of lymphocytes we need, our T and B cells “fighter killer cells” that protect us from viruses, heal wounds, recover muscles and avoid infection.
I’m asked all the time what supplements are…, what protein powder is…, what vitamins are…, what ancillary components for anabolism and lipolysisare…, healing and on and on… when the most important is the simplest, sleep. So let’s each one of us focus on how to get in 24 hours deep sleep with 50% of it coming from our REM 25% and our SWS the other 25% and the other 50% can be rest time light sleep. Consider those naps and downtime. Prioritize, plan, coordinate the way we do with meals and training, our sleep. Personally, I’ve suffered from poor sleep for many years, just couldn’t shut my brain off and I’ve worked with many who have come from the same, with their own origins of issue. There is a multitude of things that we can do to encourage falling asleep faster, sleeping deeper, and getting quality rest. The tactics I have implemented myself have changed my sleep patterns 100%.
Ok my friends, I have an assignment for you all. We need 9 hours 15 minutes in our 24 hour period. So let’s all try that for the next 2 weeks, even a week shows incredible positive return. The simplicity of this foundational part of our programs is so beautiful. It just takes consistency, and yes discipline. DM or email me if you have any questions about natural effective non-habit forming methods to get that rest. Let’s not wait till we are dead 😉