Beth Colucci

Your recovery between exercise bouts and the amount of sleep you get each night play a huge role in muscular development and therefore metabolism and fat loss. In fact, rest and recovery are two of the most important training factors necessary for changing your physique.

What does this mean? Exercising 6-7 days a week is doing more damage than good, and sleeping 5-6 hours a night is putting you at a risk for over-training (and potentially injuring yourself). Let me explain…

Exercise causes small micro-tears in your muscles. It’s the repair and regrowth of these micro-tears that are responsible for increasing your strength and boosting your metabolism. When you don’t give your body adequate recovery time, your body can never truly repair and regrow muscle fibers. Think of it this way – you get a cut and cover it with a Band-Aid. You then pull that Band-Aid off and scratch the scab and do the same thing the next day. Each time you do that you prolong the scratch’s healing time. The same holds true for your muscles. Each time you exercise without adequate rest and recovery, you prolong the muscles’ total healing and improvement. In fact, the longer you remain in this cycle the worse your muscles will perform and the more likely you are to injure yourself. (More on over-training to come.)
Not only are “rest days” critical to improving your body composition, but nightly sleep plays an equally important role. Sleep impacts your entire body – physically, mentally and emotionally. During sleep, your body recovers, repairs itself, and grows new muscle tissue. When we sleep, we release growth hormones and neurotransmitters (chemicals) that aid in repairing any damage our body has incurred during the day. Neurotransmitters are responsible for a host of things: focus, attention, motivation and overall energy levels and muscular contractions. Each time we lift, we deplete our levels of neurotransmitters and only sleep allows your body to repair itself and replenish these chemicals.
Consequences of Over-Training and Sleep Deprivation:
Over-Training is an all too common phenomenon in the fitness world. It is brought on by constant physical stress on the body with little to no rest time. We all know someone (maybe it’s even you) who is in the gym day-in and day-out but looks Exactly.The.Same as months or maybe even years ago. This person puts too much stress on their body and never allows it to compensate and then overcompensate to show improvements in performance and physical appearance. It’s easy to do, too. I’ve been there. Every trainer here has been there, I promise. What you must realize and trust, more does not mean better. You can avoid over-training by ensuring you take enough rest days and listen to your body. Make sure your routine includes variation in training methods and exercises.
Overtraining is characterized by:
▪ A plateau or drop in performance.
▪ Elevated Resting and/or Training Heart Rate.
▪ Feeling of "heaviness."
▪ Constant muscle soreness (chronic).
▪ Lack of enthusiasm when it comes to both the gym and everyday activities à desire to skip workouts.
▪ Decreased concentration.
▪ Tiredness, accompanied by either sleeping too much or not enough.
▪ Lack of appetite.
▪Weight loss (when not trying).
As I mentioned earlier, recovery time and sleep go hand-in-hand for developing a svelte physique. When it comes to exercise, especially weight training, sleep deprivation will wreak havoc on your body. A lack of sleep magnifies the stressful impact exercise has on the body. As a result, your body experiences system-wide inflammation, an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, muscle wasting, and an increase in body fat. Your body will also not function at its normal capacity physically, mentally, or emotionally. When you’re not on your A-Game mentally and physically you are more likely to lose focus and hurt yourself during exercise.
Everyone’s body is different in its recovery needs; some require more recovery time while others require less. You have to find what works for you, but also be willing to try changing it up. I will tell you personally that I have seen larger changes in both my strength and the shape of my body when I decreased my training frequency than I did going hard 6 days per week. I know it’s scary, but trust us, your body and mind will thank you if you back off a little bit and sleep some more.
Benefits of Rest Days: Rebuild & Repair Muscle Tissue Build Strength Boost Metabolism & Burn Fat Strengthen Joints & Ligaments Reduce Overuse Injuries Replenish Energy Stores Minimize Fatigue Prevent Physical & Mental Burnout