The Little Known Reasons You’re Still Weak and Small – Part 1 – Your Sleep Sucks
“Muscles don’t just grow the way a growing child does. Muscles are stubborn. You need to give them a reason to grow.”
“Hey. Did you hear that?”
“No. What did you hear?”
“Oh, sorry. I was wrong, after all. It sounded as if your muscles were growing. My bad”
Ok, I admit that wasn’t the best of jokes (although I’ve heard worse) but it’s got some truth to it.
Haven’t we all had that feeling? The wish to wake up one day after a gruelingly tough workout session, looking in the mirror and seeing yourself staring back at a Greek god-like physique of epic proportions? I sure had that wish many times over.
For me, the best time to have something is right now. It’s always been that way for me. New phone? Right now! New tennis racket? Gotta have it now! Crazy damn good-looking, shredded and cut physique? Plaster yourself onto my body now! I don’t enjoy waiting. My emotions just get the better of me every time and for days I will dream up ways to get what I desire as quickly as humanly possible.
In those instances, money is never an issue. I either work to get it or use what I already have to pay for it. To be fair, this has led me to make quite a few really dumb decisions that I regretted weeks, sometimes even days, later. Impulsive decisions almost always turn out dis-satisfactory for me.
But I’ve learned and got better over the years.
But the one thing I still desire to have right now is a darn good-looking physique. It’s not that I don’t like working for it. I flippin’ love the gym and will hardly ever hate working out. It’s more the deep desire to own something the moment I take notice of it that makes me want results immediately. I just thrive on instantaneous results.
As a result, I get really upset when I hit a strength plateau or just can’t put on more muscle. It drives me crazy. When I can’t beat the reps of an exercise from a previous workout, I scream at myself and turn into an animal, trying to at least get it right on the other exercises. Sometimes it works. Other times I overdo it and end up over-training, which certainly doesn’t help.
For that reason, I promised myself to find a way to never hit a plateau again and always reach new heights with every workout. More reps. More sets. More weight. More strength. More muscle. More drive. One of those aspects had to improve from one session to the next.
I quickly found out about the obvious reasons we gym freaks plateau and how to prevent them. Things like switching up exercises from time to time to prevent the body from adapting, eating more to prevent burning out, using specific intensifier techniques such as drop sets or isometric holds, inserting planned rest weeks to recover and come back stronger, switching up rep ranges etc etc. They all helped but for some reason I still plateaued, not as frequently as before but it still happened.
Something was still missing.
So I dug deeper and deeper.
I have come quite a way since then and through trial and error, was able to find out just what that missing piece to the puzzle is.
It’s hard for me to plateau nowadays. It still happens but only once every few moons (not that I feel weakest when it’s full moon, lol). It took me some time to figure things out but heck, was it worth it.
I’d hate for you to go through the same trial and error I did. It’s frustrating and goal-crushing. So up next, I’d like to share with you the 7 strategies I used to become the ultimate plateau-crusher. All 7 are really important, so pay close attention and write some stuff down. You’ll want to use this right away. Let’s go.
Sidenote: By the way, this will be part 1 of a 7 part series about the little known reasons stopping you from gaining muscle. In every post, I’ll discuss one reason.
Just a hint: After you’ve read this, be sure to check out The Total Testosterone Optimization Cheat Sheet. You’ll find lots of advanced, useful and simple ways to skyrocket your testosterone in no time. More Testosterone = More Gains. Now who isn’t in for that?
Your Sleep is Messed UpPeople say it all the time. You probably first heard it from your mom. Then, a few years later you heard it from fitness gurus and fellow muscle builders.Sleep more son, they said. You will feel better son, they said.That might sound like good advice and it makes sense at first.More sleep = more rest = better recovery…Right?Well, not quite.Yes, more sleep will indeed be better than pulling an all-nighter, it’s just that most people forget one essential piece of the puzzle.Quality.The magic word. Quality food. Quality water. Quality exercise. Yes, even quality sleep, folks.Most everyone will tell you about the magic 7-9 hour sleep window. “And all your troubles will disappear”.“Well thanks, Bob, but I still feel horrible when I wake up.”“Well, that means your body needs even more rest! Try to go for 10-11 hours perhaps?”“Ok Bob, I’ll just tell my boss/ professor I’ll be missing the first few hours of work/school, then. He surely won’t mind.”Here’s the thing. No matter how long you sleep (in fact, 9+ hours have been shown to have a negative effect on your body), you won’t feel truly well rested and recovered until you change the quality of the hours you spend asleep.I will bet any day that the guy who has an optimized 6 hours of sleep every day will feel more recovered than the guy getting 11 bad hours of sleep per night.Because sleep is not just sleep. Closing your eyes, shutting out the light and turning into an unconscious rock is not the reason behind sleep (although you definitely want to block all light at night). Sleep is a recovery process, a way for your brain to organize all the hectic information of the day, clear the body of toxins and yes, promote growth and regeneration.To do all that, your brain needs to feel as if it is in the perfect environment for an ongoing, uninterrupted recovery process. It doesn’t want to feel alarmed or shocked, lest the recovery process will halt.You need to communicate to your brain that during the entire night, you are in paradise, a perfect place of comfort, harmony and relaxation.Consistent quality sleep will be a massive game changer for recovery after your workouts. You will feel like a beast every time you hit the gym because you allowed your body to maximize it’s full anabolic capacity during sleep.Now how exactly do you ensure this “paradise-feeling”? Here are the most crucial tips to kick-start your journey:
- Block out all light and noise – Make sure that you have blocked out all light sources from your room. That includes those tiny light-emitting sources from chargers, TVs and laptops. Use blackout curtains for the windows and duct tape for tiny lights. If there’s still light, a sleep mask with earplugs will take care of both light and noise.
For light, follow this routine daily:
- Optimize your circadian rhythm – If you want optimized sleep, you’ll need an optimized circadian rhythm. The two most important contributors to the circadian rhythm are light and meal timing.
- In the morning, within the first 2 hours of waking up, make sure you expose yourself to natural light outside. No, a sun bathing session in front of the window won’t cut it, since glass blocks UVB rays, which messes up the UVA/UVB balance penetrating your skin, and is harmful to the skin. We don’t want harmful. Instead, go for a 15-20 minute walk outside, do some deep breathing, listen to a podcast, mentally prepare your day and return home happy, knowing you have just kick-started your body’s natural processes so that it knows the day has officially begun. It’s a wake up call for the body, crucial for melatonin secretion later on at night.
- During the day, ensure you get some adequate sun exposure, as well. Take a lunch break and go for a 10-15 minute walk. Personally, I’ve got an even better routine. Since I work from home, I can actually lay down half-naked in the sun, next to the pool to take a sun bath. I really enjoy my life.
For meal timing, the routine is pretty simple. Just eat at around the same time, every single day. No big surprises there.
- Blue light is sleep’s enemy #1 at night, since it’s not naturally present in the afternoon sunset. It prevents melatonin secretion because the body still thinks it’s day time. Instead, the body needs to primarily absorb red/orange light. To make sure that happens, either disconnect yourself from any electronic devices (since they are the major blue light-emitting source these days) or, if not possible, get yourself some blue light-blocking glasses or blue light-blocking screen protectors. Try to limit exposure 2-3 hours before bed time.
- Cool down at night – Body temperature can have a considerable impact on sleep quality. Too hot or cold isn’t good. An optimal sleeping temperature lies between 18-22 degrees for most people. Good ways to regulate temperature include using an air conditioner (use an air humidifier with it, to keep the air from drying out) or simply keeping the windows open at night.
- Stress less – We’ve all been there. The sleepless nights of terror, when worrying thoughts just won’t leave our minds, torturing us all night. It’s a problem way too many people have and it is usually tied to work or family. It is often unavoidable. There are ways to counter it, though. One would be to simply stop all work-related tasks 2 hours before bed. Instead, take a relaxing bath. Do some yoga. Meditate. Pray. Journal. Do whatever you feel comfortable with and what takes your mind off stressful thoughts.
- Get a routine – If you haven’t made use of the power of a routine for sleep, you’ve been missing out on a serious sleep-enhancing advantage. Going to bed and waking up the same time every day can do wonders for sleep in the long run. Your body gets used to the rhythm and will, with consistency, automatically get tired. I go to bed at 10:00 pm every day. At around 9:30 pm, I can feel my body signaling “time to sleep”. It’s wonderful. By the way, it also really helps with improving deep sleep.
- Supplement – Sometimes, no matter what, we just can’t sleep. For those instances, supplementing might be useful. The best supplement I’ve found is the Sleep Remedy by Dr. Kirk Parsley. It’s a mixture of magnesium, vitamin D3, taurine and tiny amounts of melatonin to make you fall asleep immediately. It also increases deep sleep. Otherwise, just use magnesium, although for serious insomnia, it will probably not help.
Those are my top recommendations to optimize your sleep as quickly as possible. But there’s more. If you want to get really down and dirty with this whole sleep optimization stuff, so you feel recovered, energized and ready-to-attack every day, get my “One Page Sleep Optimization Cheat Sheet” for free.SummaryTo sum it all up, here’s what you should do to optimize your sleep:
- Track it – Don’t you sometimes wonder whether something you’re doing is actually helping you sleep better? I’ve asked myself that question way too many times. That’s why I got myself the Oura Ring. It’s by far the most accurate, high quality sleep and fitness tracking device out on the market. It tracks all stages of sleep plus several other metrics to determine the quality of your sleep. In the morning, it gives you a score, telling you how recovered you are and how good your sleep was for the night. It’s awesome and an all-in-one tracking solution. If you really want to know if something is working for your sleep or not, this is the device to get.
- In the morning, wake up at the same time every day. Expose yourself to sunlight by going for a walk. If it’s a cloudy day, use vitamin D3 to simulate the sun exposure effect.
- Throughout the day, make sure to get at least 10 min of full on sun exposure.
Simple science. Now, keep me posted on your results. I’d love to hear about your experience. What worked, what didn’t and what else did you do to improve your sleep quality?
- In the evening, cool down by taking a cold shower and cooling your bedroom. Relax by watching a funny movie/show, reading or spending time with your family/friends. Then, use blue-light blocking glasses to eliminate blue light, go to bed at the same every day (just choose a time and stick to it 80% of the time), supplement with something like the Sleep Remedy and track the whole thing with the Oura Ring to see how you’re doing.