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 has 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, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain Program ($)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)