About one year after I left university, I moved in with my best mate and ran my business from a nice 2 bedroom flat by the beach. My ‘business’ involved nothing but copywriting a few thousand words a day at the time, which meant that my daily schedule involved waking up whenever I liked, heading down to a bar with a sea view and then typing up the articles and copy I’d been hired to write. I’d normally be finished within a few hours, at which point I’d hit the gym with my mate (who finished work at 4pm) and train hard.
This also happened to be one of the two times in my life when I reached my very biggest in terms of muscle mass. I swole out of all my clothes and pretty much everyone was accusing me of using steroids (which I was not).
So what was going on? Why did I manage to achieve such impressive growth then and not now? What was the key ingredient?
Simple: sleep and lack of stress.
I was sleeping until 12pm or 1pm often. I’d go to bed not too late (often around 12am), meaning I was getting 12 hours of rest. There was no commute, no stress and my evenings were spent playing Call of Duty with the mate I lived with (man, that game series is old!).
It helped that I ate a ton as well and took testosterone boosting supplements.
Why Sleep and Rest is Crucial
That sleep and rest was the real key difference though. Today my business has really taken off, I’m married and my wife commutes. In general, I get 6 hours sleep, meaning that the very same training program just isn’t enough to grow.
When you sleep, this is when your body converts cholesterol into testosterone. We produce the maximum amount of testosterone during our deepest ‘slow wave sleep’ and that’s also when the body will repair wounds and damage caused during the day – including microtears caused by training. The more sleep cycles you get, the more your muscles can grow. It’s that simple. And the more sleep you get, the more virile and driven you will feel when you wake up. I was never tired back then.
Rest is Nearly as Good
Most of us can’t sleep for 12 hours a night though, which is okay. That’s because rest is actually almost as good as sleep. The body essentially has two states, which are ‘catabolic’ and ‘anabolic’. Rather than being completely in one state or the other though, the body will fluctuate between the two extremes and find many points just in between. Whenever you are resting, your body is in ‘rest and digest’ which is a type of anabolic state where you’ll produce more growth hormones.
Even getting bad news can create enough stress to break you out of this state though. Stress causes us to release cortisol and that instantly causes testosterone-levels to plummet.
So, if you can’t get 12 hours of sleep, try instead to practice resting. Make time in the day to just chill – ideally after a workout or big meal – and practice letting your worries go to go into a total growth state.