What a lot of people may not realize is that a very important part of gaining weight and building muscle mass is actually getting enough quality sleep every night.
Your muscles don't grow in the gym, they grow only when you are resting in the hours and days following a workout. So you need to make sure you give your body plenty of good, high-quality sleep to maximize recovery and repair.
Here are 4 good reasons why sleep is an underrated yet highly crucial aspect of bulking up:
So how exactly does sleep affect the muscle building process? Let's find out by listing what will happen if you DON'T get a good night's rest:
1. Your mental focus will decrease
By not giving yourself adequate sleep you are affecting your mental state. It's been proven that by just missing out on one night of decent sleep, you will find it hard to focus on completing some tasks.
This lack of mental strength will almost certainly affect your workouts, because you need a lot of focus and mental strength to push through a workout with heavy weights.
2. Physical performance will decrease
Lack of sleep also affects you physically as well as mentally. Without proper sleep you will be weaker and won't be able to summon as much energy during your workouts. This could mean you will use lighter weights, or won't do as many reps.
In your quest to building bigger muscles, this is not a good thing because you will be wanting to have the strength to lift the heaviest weights you can, and for the most amount of reps possible.
If you're tired because of your sleeping habits, then there's little chance of you increasing your weight and/or reps from the week before. Therefore you won't be pushing yourself hard enough to build bigger muscle mass.
3. Muscle repair and recovery will slow down
Like I mentioned before, your muscles grow whilst you are resting and sleeping. So by not giving yourself enough quality sleep your body isn't able to repair and recover your muscles as well as it could. This isn't good news if your goal is building big muscles!
4. Hormone levels will be affected
Another main drawback to lack of sleep is that important muscle building hormones will be negatively affected. I'm talking about such hormones as testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol and insulin.
These hormones play a major part in your body's ability to build muscle and burn fat. Let's take a look at them in a little more detail and how lack of sleep will affect them in a bad way.
Ok, I'm pretty sure by now you understand the importance of sleep for building big muscles. But how much sleep do you actually need every night?
That depends on the individual, some people need more than others. But in general I would aim for at least 7-8 hours a night if you're training hard. But if you feel you need more, say 9-10 hours, then go right ahead.
With the right amount of sleep you should feel fresh everyday and ready to hit the gym at 100% intensity. Only then can you maximize your gains and build bigger muscles.
But in saying that also keep in mind that it's normal to feel tired in the days following an intense workout, especially after leg day!
Hopefully this article helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted and well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan that's based on actual scientific principles of building muscle mass (not bro science like you'll see practically everywhere you look online).
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular mainstream bodybuilding/fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in a classroom).
To truly build that strong, ripped, lean muscular body that you want - and to not just leave it to chance and hope/pray that you'll get results - your training and eating program needs to be solid. Otherwise, you'll be wasting a ton of time in the gym for little return, which is unfortunately what happens to most guys who start hitting the gym as they eventually start spinning their wheels and getting nowhere due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of what actually works most effectively.
So the question remains, how do you ensure you're implementing an effective bulking program that will 100% get you the results you seek? You basically have three paths to take here, so choose whichever fits your situation best.
Path A: Design Your Own Effective Bulking Program (Recommended for Some Beginners & Intermediates)
If you're the patient type who also likes to know how every little detail works, and are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to study the most effective muscle building training and nutrition strategies out there right now to strategically piece together the best information that you find from credible sources to sculpt your own custom bulking program, consider the DIY path of creating your own program from scratch.
However, if you're a beginner, or intermediate lifter who hasn't been getting the results you want, you'll want to make sure that you get your advice from sources and people who understand what it's like to gain muscle starting out as a skinny hardgainer, which is a different beast compared to building muscle as a more naturally bigger guy with more favourable genetics. You also ideally want someone more experienced to look over your program just in case, because there are various things you could miss or do wrong, such as creating an imbalanced program that will lead to posture issues, muscular imbalances, or worse (injuries).
Up for the challenge? To get started planning your own muscle building program from scratch check out our full introduction to building muscle mass as a hardgainer which covers some important basic principles, strategies, and tips.
Path B: Follow A Proven Time-Tested Bulking Program (Recommended for Most Beginners)
If instead of creating your own program from scratch you'd rather follow an already-made complete program that has been proven to work for others in your shoes (ie skinny hardgainers) this is the path for you. Spending the few bucks to get your hands on a well-crafted, respected program that's specifically been designed with hardgainers in mind can really save you time and effort having to design your own program, and it ensures you don't miss out on the various important details that makes a good program.
This is what I'd recommend if you're just starting out or quite inexperienced in the gym, as you'll get off on the right foot to kick-start great results. Although this is also a smart path for intermediates, because if you've been training for a while and not getting great results, getting your hands on a fresh new program created by a natural bodybuilding expert could be the game-changer you need to spark the best results of your life. Sean Nal's Body Transformation Blueprint Program is currently the most comprehensive, polished bulking program for beginners on the market, and is the program that actually helped me the most when I first started out as a newbie so I can't recommend it highly enough if you're new and wanting to all but guarantee great results over the next few months and beyond.
There are other good premade mass gain programs out there that were created specifically (and scientifically) for hardgainers, but there's also a lot of overpriced, overly-marketed and low-quality programs that you should avoid out there so be on your toes when looking for the right program to follow to avoid wasting your money. I've personally used a ton of different programs and I compiled the best, highest-quality ones that I can comfortably recommend in my list of the best comprehensive bulking programs for hardgainers here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't going to be for everyone as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably consider if you have any type of injury or health problem, or obviously if you have the money to burn and want someone to carefully monitor what you're doing in the gym and be able to give you specific feedback.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)