Can You Build Muscle with Little Sleep?

How Does Sleep Affects Exercise
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Are you one of those busy fitness buffs who sacrifices an hour or two of sleep each day to workout? Then you might never actually lose any weight or gain muscle, no matter how hard you stick to the exercise schedule. Sleep, it turns out, is essential for overall health and wellbeing, especially in the exercise department.


Why Your Workout Routine Absolutely Requires Adequate Sleep?

Missing out on sleep is no longer an option if you want to get fit. Mounting scientific evidence shows how losing sleep can work against any fitness health goals we may have. The tricky thing about this is that you can’t actually make up for lost sleep. Sleep doesn’t have rollover points. If you lose sleep on work days, then sleeping in on the weekends will not fix things.

In case you are still skeptical about prioritizing sleep over late night cardio, here are several compelling reasons why you should do so:

How Sleep Affects Your Workout


Sleep Deprivation Actually Causes You to Lose Muscle

Most of us hit the gym and glug down protein shakes hoping to build muscles. More muscle means your body burns more fat. However, if you lose sleep, all the work you put into building muscle will simply go down the drain. Recently a scientific study conducted in Brazil found that, sleep deprivation decreases your body’s ability to synthesize protein. 

As you know, your muscles are made from proteins. Your body doesn’t necessarily absorb all the amino acids (which make up proteins) from food. The cells in your body actually use nutrients to synthesize or make new proteins that go into building muscle mass. This process essentially goes into disarray when you lose sleep.

Sleep deprivation, thus, can actually cause you to lose muscle, even if you do strength training three times a week. In other words, no sleep means no summertime six-packs to show off.


Sleep Deprivation is Bad for Muscle but Great for Fat

There are actually two things that happen when you lose sleep at night. First, you will lose out on slow wave sleep. It’s during this stage of sleep that growth hormones are released, causing you to gain muscle. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, releases cortisol, the infamous stress hormone. Cortisol also inhibits the function of growth hormones. 
Here’s another unsettling fact about cortisol: it’s strongly associated with storing fat. You may not gain muscle when you don’t get enough sleep, but you will surely gain weight. In other words, you will lose out on all fronts. 
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Lack of Sleep Wreaks Havoc on Diet Plans 

Workout routines are carefully combined with diet plans for optimal results. Your diet may differ based on your fitness goals. You may hope to cut down sugar to lose weight or eat more proteins to gain muscle. In any case, your diet plans will not fare well when you are sleep deprived. 
Your hormones tend to go haywire when your brain is sleep deprived. One of the hormonal changes you’ll experience relate to hunger. Your appetite is controlled by two hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin makes your stomach feel full while ghrelin causes you to feel hungry. Ghrelin actually lowers the number of calories your body burns to stimulate hunger, a process that increases the amount of fat the body stores. 
When you lose sleep, your brain produces more ghrelin and less leptin, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The researchers found that in people who slept less than 6 hours a day, leptin production was depressed while ghrelin production was in overdrive. What this means is that increased ghrelin would cause you to feel hungry more, so you inadvertently end up consuming more calories. Your diet plan would not fare well under these conditions. 
Keep in mind that increased ghrelin is combined with fewer amounts of leptin, so you will actually begin to crave food. Remember how cortisol levels also increase when you lose sleep? That will cause you to lose the willpower to control your eating habits. This is a deadly combination for your diet and healthy eating plans overall. You will find yourself gaining fat even if you work out if you don’t sleep properly. 

Your Body Stores More Fat When You Lose Sleep

Hunger and stress hormones are not the only aspects affected by sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep affects your insulin levels too. A study at the University of Chicago found that when you lose sleep several days in a row, your body loses its ability to properly issue insulin. Your body becomes slightly insulin resistant, which is a condition typically experienced by diabetics. 
Insulin resistance causes fat cells to hold onto the stored fat. Insulin is what causes adipose tissue to shed excess lipids and keep your bloodstream clean of unwanted fat. But when proper utilization of insulin is disrupted, your fat tissue keeps the lipids in. The fat content in your bloodstream may end up in places it shouldn’t be, such as in the tissues of your liver. So even if you work out, your body will continue to store excess fat in the worst way possible when you are sleep deprived. 
Simply put, sleep deprivation causes you to lose all the positive benefits of a good workout program. Instead of gaining muscle, your body will only store fat because of hormonal disruptions. This is on top of an array of non-weight related health issues you will face. Therefore, learn to prioritize proper sleep. Instead of thinking of sleep as a hindrance, think of it as part of your workout regime to get fit. 
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Author Bio:

Joi Bellis is a graduate student in the clinical and health psychology field. She is academically interested in sleep disorders and how lack of sleep affects our lives. She is also a yoga enthusiast.