By Mario Strong

As important as diet and training are in building muscle and gaining strength, so too, is the importance of plenty of rest and recuperation to keep us healthy and feeling vibrant. After a heavy bombing session at the local gym, your body needs time to rebuild its worn muscles by replenishing them with nutrients lost during the workout. Our bodies and minds need rest and sleep to rejuvenate. Sleep is an evolutionary requirement. Through the process of evolution, human beings have evolved to perform actively throughout the day as their bodies produce adrenaline and steroids during their waking hours. At night, while sleeping, our body’s vital systems recharge when growth hormones are released to rebuild the tired and impaired tissues caused by the day’s earlier occurrences. Living on a twenty-four hour rotating earth, most people need eight hours of peaceful sleep to provide rejuvenated energy that can last for sixteen hours of sustained wakefulness. Those who sleep less, tend to become drowsy during the day and sometimes find themselves falling asleep at the wrong times. Individual sleep requirements and sleep patterns vary greatly. Studies have shown that infants and children require eight to ten hours of sleep nightly. By age twenty, the need is about seven hours, and most forty year olds seem to require only about six hours. Those older than forty spend more time in bed but less time actually sleeping, while those over sixty commonly experience repeated sleep interruptions.

If you find yourself overtired because of lack of sleep and suffer from some form of insomnia that is affecting your daily routine, consult your health care provider. Though prolonged spells of sleeplessness may not have immediate consequences on your health, they will with time.

There are two types of sleep that alternate at approximately ninety-minute intervals: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. REM sleep occurs when a person is dreaming and the eyes move beneath the closed eyelids. During this stage of sleep, muscles stiffen and sometimes twitch. Following REM sleep there are four progressively deeper stages of non-REM sleep. On average, this cycle is repeated four to six times during an eight-hour period of sleep. The REM periods grow progressively longer and as morning approaches, sleep becomes gradually shallower until the body awakens. Another reason to get your quota of sleep is that long-term memory is programmed into your subconscious mind during this time through the process of replaying experiences and images of the day.

As natural bodybuilders, we train hard and break our muscles down in relatively short periods of time. To grow larger and get stronger, rest is just as important as how much steel we can lift or how often we bomb and blitz. However, many bodybuilders fail to realize the importance of proper rest and unintentionally hold back their potential gains. Rest gives our muscles a chance to recuperate to previous physical levels, while also helping us to gain progressively in mass and strength. Rest is a vital factor necessary to make continued gains in the gym.

When I sleep, my body’s growth hormone levels are at their highest. It is also no coincidence that most of my physiological improvement occurs during this restful period. Heavy and intense training taxes my body’s recuperative powers. It improves the efficiency of my muscular system and increases both the glycogen stores and mitochondrial enzyme systems within my body. After a heavy-duty workout, my body immediately begins to recuperate as these systems work together to improve my physical capabilities. 

The same applies to you. Without the proper recovery time, your body will not be able to regenerate and it will store less of the glycogen needed for your Herculean workouts. When this happens, you will have less explosive power and your physique will begin to look smooth and flat. If your body lacks rest for an extended length of time, its health will begin to decline and the gains that you worked so hard for will begin to diminish. Not only will your performance levels decline but you will also run the risk of injury. There are other factors such as nutrition and exercise that contribute to how your body responds, but without proper rest, your keys to success will be lost. If your body needs rest, get it - if it is lazy, get to the gym!


A. For complete rest and recuperation, it is imperative that a regular bedtime and rising time be established. 
B. Exercise vigorously each and every day so that your body feels the need for rest at bedtime. If you miss your weight training session, try performing a slow run a few hours before bedtime.
    * Regular active exercise during the day also helps since it stimulates the elimination of lactic acid from the body. Incidentally, the presence of lactic acid correlates with stress and muscular tension. Regular exercise also produces hormonal changes which are beneficial to the natural bodybuilder and which help fortify the sleep pattern.
C. Follow a well-balanced nutritional program. Research has proven that diets deficient in certain nutrients such as copper, iron, and aluminum, can cause disruptions in sleep patterns.
D. Enjoy your sleeping environment. The average person sleeps best when the room temperature is between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. The bedroom should provide maximum comfort and be free of distractions.
E. Learn to relax by using techniques such as yoga and deep breathing.
F. Gradually work towards obtaining the right amount of sleep each night by learning the optimal amount of rest you need.
G. If automobile horns or dogs barking constantly disrupt your sleep, try using a fan, sound machine or soothing classical music to block the intrusive noise.


  1. Taking a short nap before your scheduled bedtime.
  2. Exercising vigorously right before bedtime.
  3. Drinking caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks) before bedtime. Try a glass of spring water instead.
  4. Eating heavy or spicy food before bedtime.
  5. Consuming large meals or drinking large quantities of liquids right before your bedtime.
  6. Watching TV, eating, reading, or working in bed for extended periods of time. Close your eyes and get to sleep!
  7. Avoid lying awake in bed for long periods of time. If you cannot fall   asleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something to make you slightly fatigued. Then go back to bed and try to sleep again. Learn how to clear your mind of all negative thoughts!

*While lactic acid may play a role in fatigue, its supposed role in muscle soreness has been disproved and it is now being recognized as more of a positive player in metabolism. Muscles create lactic acid from glucose and then burn it to obtain energy. The reason advanced bodybuilders can workout hard for a long period of time is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb the lactic acid.



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