Tag Archives: muscle

Sleep Your Way To The Top

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Sleep: every single creature does it, it takes up about a third of life, if we skip it just for one day we lose the same amount of mental function as being legally drunk, and scientists don’t know what it really does.

Earlier today, I decided that a visit to ted.com was in order. This video caught my attention:

In it, Russell Foster explains that sleep is not “an illness that needs some sort of cure,” but rather one of, if not the most important behavioral mechanism that controls us.  Though no one knows definitively why we do it, science does know that it is tied to memory consolidation and problem solving, and without it, we become stupid.

Lately, however, sleep deprivation has become somewhat of a thing to be proud of. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed (or been guilty of) bragging about only getting a few hours of sleep and then going to work or school the next day. The braggart may have gone, but were they anywhere near as productive?

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Depriving yourself of sleep wreaks havoc on both the mind and the body, yet it’s become a norm in Western society. But what are the effects?

Mental

Does sleeping 6 hours a night sound fairly normal to you? Perhaps the effects don’t seem that bad, you’ll catch up on the weekend…right?

Chronic Sleep Deprivation

A study by Van Dongen showed that though the effects seemed benign, restricting sleep to 6 hours or less a night over 14 days reduced cognitive ability to a level similar to skipping two days of sleep in a row. However, participants did not rate themselves as feeling impaired, which is why it can seem fairly harmless to consistently restrict snooze time.

Sleep Deprivation and Mental Illness

Sleep is also a prime time for the formation and cementing of memories. In a Q&A session following the above presentation, Foster also explains that regular trouble sleeping can be connecting to a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD. He and his colleagues have found that those who are sleep deprived have much more difficulty remembering traumatic memories than those who are fully rested, and hypothesize that excessive wakefulness may be a natural coping mechanism.

Physical

As every athlete (at any level) knows, a huge part of exercise performance is based on mental stamina and willpower. The body also needs time to repair itself after heavy exercise sessions, and to be ready for the next physical trials we throw at it.

Length of Physical Effort

It should come as no surprise that sleep loss has detrimental effects on exercise. In a study that deprived participants of sleep for 36 hours, then stuck those poor souls on treadmills, an 11% decrease in time able to exercise was witnessed, despite a doubling of prize money for completing the assigned goal. Two groups seemed to form: “resistant,” and “susceptible,” with the resistant group losing as little as 5% of their productive time, but the susceptible group losing up to 40% of theirs.

Metabolic Changes

When you are sleep deprived, your body starts releasing higher levels of ghrelin, and decreasing leptin. This surge causes you to feel hungry more often, especially for carbohydrates, as they are a quick way to “boost” energy.

At the same time, because growth hormone (GH) is released in it’s highest amount during the first portion of each sleep cycle, those who miss out have slower metabolic functioning. In addition, sleep deprivation increases the rate at which the gastrointestinal tract absorbs glucose, which can lead to increased insulin resistance if chronic. (Mullington)

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Thinking of hitting the sack a little earlier tonight? Good! Here’s how:

  • Make your bedroom as dark as you possibly can. This helps tell your brain that it’s time to shut down.
  • If you can cool down your room, do! It will help you sleep.
  • Spend 30 minutes or so not looking at a screen.
  • Think, talk, and do happy things in the hours leading up to bedtime. It will help you sleep deeper, and will lower the chance of you waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after lunch time, no matter how tolerant you think you are!
  • Above all, give yourself enough time before waking. There’s no definitive time that adults need to sleep, but we do know that 7-9 fits most of the population. If you need an alarm clock to wake up, you need to go to bed earlier!

Parting Thoughts

There are many more effects that chronic sleep deprivation can have, including some very scary statistic on cardiovascular health. My goal for this article was to point out the effects that are more immediate, and therefore, more inconvenient for us in the short term.

Hopefully I’ve helped motivate some people to put their phone down and get that extra hour or two of sleep!

Comments?

How many hours do you sleep when you don’t have an alarm set?

Do you often deprive yourself of sleep? Why? How do you feel it affects you?

 

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How Important is a Good Workout Playlist?

Need to go to the gym, but not feeling motivated? Feeling run down by the world? Craving that pre-workout supplement, or maybe having a moment where you considering purchasing some? Science says that you can get similar benefits from your ear buds as from your local GNC.

Music as a Supplement

Music, undeniably, affects our bodies production and regulation of hormones, cytokines, peptides, and signalling molecules for neurotransmitters. Our emotions, stress levels, and immune function are thus altered while we listen to those sweet beats (Gangrade). It stands to reason that the right tunes can give us a physiological boost, as well as a psychological one.

Techno music, specifically, has been found to cause a significant increase in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and a raise in emotional state. A 1998 study suggests that 30 minutes of fast techno music would out perform many pre-workout supplements, by boosting not only your heart rate and blood pressure, but also by increasing your endorphines, GH, and noripenephrine by about 50%.

Effect of 30 minutes of techno and classical music on heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure (data adapted from Gerra. 1998 by Suppversity)

Relative (to baseline) neurotransmitter, catecholamine and hormone response to 30 minutes of techno vs. 30 minutes of classical music (data adapted from Gerra. 1998 by Suppversity )

What if you don’t like techno? Don’t listen to it! Being subjected to music you don’t like can make you feel tired faster, and raise your perceived exertion without any actual increase in heart rate(Nakamura).

You’ll get similar benefits by listening to any music that syncs with your heartbeat. As you exert yourself further, you’ll get more bang for your [heart] pump by listening to music that matches the tempo of your body (Karageorghis).

Resources for the Perfect Playlist

I’m a huge fan of Steady130, a site that creates monthly original mixes and organizes them by beats per minute. They have a few different genres of songs, and I either stream them from my phone or download them (depending on how reliable the WiFi will be where I’m working out). 

If you want to look up the beats per minute of any song, check out songbpm or runningplaylist.

Closing Thoughts

Do you run to music?

What kind of music do you perform cardio to, vs. anaerobic (lifting)?

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Is The Post-Exercise Anabolic Window a Myth?

Referencing:

Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?
Alan Albert Aragon and Brad Jon Schoenfeld

(published in January of 2013)

What is this about?

This study challenges the belief that a specific type or timing of a “recovery meal” is necessary to get the most bang for your buck after a workout.

The researchers approach this by reviewing existing literature on the effects of nutrient timing and reanalyzing the results.

Results

There are several reasons given for eating post workout meals. This study addresses each in its own section, so I will follow suite:

Glycogen repletion

The most common reason given for eating a “recovery meal” is to replace the glycogen lost during heavy exercise.

Glycogen is a type of sugar which our body produces from the food we eat. It is very useful in “explosive,” or short and intense movements, such as jumping, or lifting something heavy. Our muscles can store glycogen within themselves, and can quickly turn it into energy (in the form of ATP) extremely quickly in a process called glycolysis.

There is some evidence that glycogen is also a mediator in intracellular signaling, and has an effect on the rate at which muscles are catabolized (reabsorbed to fuel the body).

Previous research in the field has indicated that:

  • Glycogen has been shown to be a defining factor in protein breakdown, and in reducing catabolism of muscle protein
  • When carbohydrates are consumed immediately post exercise, muscle glycogen is replenished twice as effectively as when the athletes waited to eat for 2 hours.
  • Consuming protein and carbohydrates together enhances glycogen resynthesis, or the process of muscles “filling up” with fuel again.

Aragon and Schoenfield’s thoughts on the matter are that there is not a significant amount of evidence supporting the “anabolic threshold.” Studies have, in their minds, proven that there are very select cases where the timing of eating will affect importance, such as endurance events (long enough to deplete glycogen, generally over 2 hours in duration) that are less than 8 hours apart, or those who train the same muscles more than once a day.

However, there is no evidence that there is any urgency for refueling for the majority of athletes and casual exercisers. 

Protein breakdown

As mentioned in the previous section, muscle catabolism is directly affected by insulin levels, which are almost entirely controlled by ingested carbohydrates. One of the arguments for the importance of eating directly after exercise it to prevent muscle loss. However, science, at this time, does not fully understand the control insulin has on catabolism.

Aragon and Schoenfield point to several studies that prove spiking insulin directly after a resistance training workout has trivial benefits, if any, unless the athlete is in a fasted state prior to the workout beginning.

Protein Synthesis

This, by far, is the most touted reason to have a post-workout meal as soon as possible. However, Aragon and Schoenfield state that there is almost literally no reliable outcomes in studies that address how muscle protein synthesis is affected by post workout nutrient intake. Each study gets a different result, and, in their words:

Thus, the utility of acute studies is limited to providing clues and generating hypotheses regarding hypertrophic adaptations; any attempt to extrapolate findings from such data to changes in lean body mass is speculative, at best.

Muscle hypertrophy

At this point, honestly, you can feel the authors’ blood pressure rising. Throughout the article, they have presented the findings of various studies, and then addressed how the studies were, essentially, worthless, or at least overvalued.

This section is more of the same. The table presented after explaining that each study in the field had a completely different design is all that needs to be restated:

Post-exercise nutrition and muscle hypertrophy

Essentially, there was no conclusive evidence of significant muscle volume changes in between groups.

Their conclusion and advice for practical application

According to Aragon and Schoenfield’s article, there is no conclusive evidence that the anabolic window exists in any significant way except for those most extreme competitive athletes.

Their suggestion to the majority of the population is to instead focus on all around nutrition throughout the day and week. There is some evidence that the preworkout meal is more important, but the studies for that theory are no more thorough than those outlined in this paper.

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