Sunday, 22 September 2013

Are you getting enough sleep?

You may have heard of the saying Train. Eat. Sleep. In my opinion sleep is the most crucial aspect not just for your training goals, but for general health and well being.

It is during our sleep where our body is allowed time to rest and recover. Several important processes happen to your body while you sleep. The bottom line is not getting enough sleep will virtually make it impossible for you to either gain muscle or lose body fat. Sleep is not only important for your training goals but crucial for your health. Lack of sleep has been linked to Hypertension, increased stress hormones and an irregular heart beat.

A recent study from Amercia showed that adults who were getting less than 5 hours sleep were more likely to be overweight. More importantly children who were getting less than 10 hours sleep were putting on weight at a rapid pace! The reason for this alarming link between sleep debt and weight gain, is due to the fact that sleep effects many important hormones in the body. Lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin in your blood and heightens the levels of ghrelin, which results in an increase of appetite. The reverse is also true, getting enough sleep decreases hunger and will therefore help you lose weight.

As mentioned before lack of sleep dramatically increases the stress hormone cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol lead to a lower metabolism. Getting 8 hours sleep will lower cortisol levels and allow to lose body fat and build lean muscle.

The problem for many people is that they find falling asleep hard and become restless. I myself had this trouble and put several measures in place to help this:

  • Firstly I started eating a tiny bit of carbohydrates before bed, ignore the no carbs before bed myth. Carbs in fact encourage the brain to release serotonin, which helps the body relax and regulates sleep.
  • I also take 400mg of magnesium before bed, this mineral is great for relaxing the nervous system and helps you switch off.
  • Make sure your room is at a cool temperature and not too hot. Also your room should be pitch black. Think of it as a bat cave!
  • 30 minutes before bed try and stop watching tv and turn off your laptop. Try listening to some music in your bat cave.

Above I have attached a video from Scott Robinson on the importance of sleep. Scott is one of the most highly educated guys in the UK, and holds a Doctoral Research degree. He works with many top sports clubs and elite athletes to get the best out of them.
Good Night!


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sprint training for conditioning

With the busy lifestyles we lead, there never feels enough time to fit in everything we want to. The same is the case for workouts. I enjoy doing weight training but I haven't allowed enough time for cardio based conditioning work.

However to get the balance right and not spend too much time on cardio, but to get the benefits that it provides, I have added some sprint intervals at the end of one or two weights sessions each week. So after 45 minutes of weights, I jog to the track or a field and run as fast as I can for 4-8 sets. The distance tends to be anywhere from 40-80 metres. My recovery tends to be a slow walk back. I'm not training for speed so I don't mind if I don't feel completely fresh before my next set.

The great thing about sprints is practically anyone can do them. You don't have to be fast. You just have to run at your top speed, whatever that is. I have felt much fitter and the whole session only takes between 15-20 minutes. This could be done as a workout on its own. Just make sure you warm up with some light jogging and then a few 75% sprints, gradually building your pace before starting your main sets.

Also, if you haven't run for a while or are new to running, try running fast for each set rather than sprining all out. This will allow you to build things up gradually.