How to optimize sleep and recovery for bodybuilding and exercise

“Bro, you grow when you sleep” We’ve all heard this before and it does have some truth in it, but this has you wondering, I can’t sleep 10 hours per night, I have insomnia, work has me staying up all night,  I have finals next week, I just had a newborn baby, and the list goes on. So, how exactly we can optimize our sleep and our ability to recover from our hard demanding workouts?

If all of that looks interesting you will want to stick around to see what I have to say.

Part #1 Optimizing Sleep



Sleep is a vital activity for our body, sleep deprivation is a common concern for a lot of people specially when they start to hit the gym in an regular basis. There’s a thing as too much sleep, depending on your activity level, age and daily duties. However there are some general guidelines we should follow to feel rested.

  • Sleep no less than 6 and no more than 9 hours.
  • Use night mode in your cell phone or computer after 7 pm
  • Do not workout at least 5 hours before going to bed (preferable)
  • Only use your bed to sleep, do not engage in any other activities since this can set your brain up to know is bed time
  • Listen to relaxing music before sleeping
  • Do not Drink or eat for 2-3 hours prior bedtime ( In case you do I recommend a small dinner and no water)
  • Keep your room in a comfortable temperature
  • Eat foods high in tryptophan
  • Do not watch scary movies or action shows right before bed
  • Drink a herbal infusion to help you sleep 2 hours before sleeping
  • If you plan on sleeping at 10:30 pm be at bed by 10pm so you can fall asleep with patience and no hurries
  • Sleep at the same time every day or at least 5 days per week

All of this should combat all the sleep disorders which include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling restless through the day

If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact a sleep professional since sleep is a crucial part of our life.

Part #2 What you can do through the day to make sure you recover from your workouts

We got the sleep part dialed in, lets see what we can do to optimize our recovery and come back stronger to the gym

  • Do not go to failure in every single set and exercise; Of course training to failure has its advantages but only in certain occasions, if you are doing a set of squats for 5 reps, you want to make sure you always leave at least 1 rep in the tank to make sure you do not get injured, also strength gains come better if you leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank since strength varies from workout to workout due to external factors like sleep, psychological factors and food among others.
  • Make sure you do not go crazy on your training volume; Of course minimalistic training is not the way to go if you want to gain as much muscle as possible, but you do need to make sure that you do not exceed your recoverable volume, if your body is not recovering properly from session to session that means you’re likely doing too much volume or going to failure too often.
  • Take deload weeks when necessary; Some coaches advice to take a deload week every 6th week, some every 8th, some every 10th and you will have this opinion with a lot discrepancies. Deloads are necessary for the natural lifter who pushes for progressive overload sooner or later, id you are cutting you will notice you need a deload sooner, if you are bulking you can extend that period, but you will have to listen to your body to seen when you need to deload, I like to deload every 10 weeks or when I have a weeklong compromise like vacations or when i’m forced to focus on work or other personal projects. You will find you come back stronger and without the symptoms of overtraining like headaches, joint pain and overall restlessness.
  • Eat an adequate diet: Of course this looks pretty obvious but some diets are better suited for recovery than others, for example a high protein high carb diet is better for recovery than any other diet, so make sure you eat enough carbs and at least .7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (If you are  a healthy male who lifts weights) if you want to maximize recovery, also make sure you have an adequate intake of micronutrients  (specially zinc, magnesium and vitamin D) the best way to do this is to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated; Depending on your age and weight you may have different water intake needs, what is clear is that when you are dehydrated your performance in the gym declines so you better be hydrated. You can achieve this by drinking 8-12 cups of water per day.

Those are the general guidelines for sleep and muscle recovery, do you have any other questions? Let me know!

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