Gainzzzz: The science and nutrition of sleep and muscles

With the right mix of nutrition and exercise, muscles grow during sleep, but the quality, consistency and duration of slumber matter.

Steve Myers, Senior Editor

April 22, 2020

2 Min Read
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Hormones rise and muscles grow occurs during sleep. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can negatively impact the process of building new lean mass, also known as anabolism. Nutrition can help improve sleep as well as encourage muscle growth.

Stage 3 non-REM (NREM) is deep sleep marked by delta waves and relaxed muscles. It tends to start about 30 to 45 minutes after falling asleep. Blood flow increases, and growth hormone levels rise during this stage, helping to grow and repair tissues, including the muscles. During the November2019 inaugural conference of the Society for NeuroSports, Jonathon Mike, Ph.D., professor of exercise science and sports performance, Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, noted the final “slow wave” stage of NREM sleep is when muscle gains and performance benefits are developed. He called sleep the “single most effective strategy for recovery from exercise.”

Research on muscle growth and testosterone, naturally occurring or supplemental, has been mixed. Still, whether an athlete or consumer believes boosting testosterone will accelerate and amplify muscle growth, most would at least prefer to maintain and not reduce their normal testosterone stores. Thus, high quality, regular sleep is important.

Beyond hormonal consequences, inadequate sleep may also alter cytokines (signaling molecules) involved in skeletal muscle recovery following resistance or eccentric exercise.

Cheri D. Mah, researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, California, and her team conducted a series of studies on sleep restriction in athletes. They found three days of sleep restriction in elite athletes decreased maximal jump performance and impaired both joint coordination and reaction time, all of which increase injury risk.9 On the other hand, sleep extension in athletes may improve cognitive and motor function, as their study of basketball players found adding a couple of hours of sleep each night improved reaction time, basketball skill performance and even mood.

To read this article in its entirety, check out the January 2020 digital magazine, Muscle quest: Developing products to promote lean mass.

About the Author(s)

Steve Myers

Senior Editor

Steve Myers is a graduate of the English program at Arizona State University. He first entered the natural products industry and Virgo Publishing in 1997, right out of college, but escaped the searing Arizona heat by relocating to the East Coast. He left Informa Markets in 2022, after a formidable career focused on financial, regulatory and quality control issues, in addition to writing stories ranging research results to manufacturing. In his final years with the company, he spearheaded the editorial direction of Natural Products Insider.

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