Clean eating is not enough to nourish the body. The truth is that if you want to be stronger and faster (as well as have more coordination and a better recovery time) you need to make two promises to yourself that go beyond diet and exercise: to invest in an awesome mattress and to get at least eight hours of sleep every single night—no ifs, ands, or buts.
CrossFit is not enough to become fit.
CrossFit’s ten pillars of fitness have been lauded as the most complete approach to fitness on Earth, but they’re still woefully incomplete without an emphasis on the crucial role of quality sleep.
Fitness is not just your one-hour-per-day gym visits, and it’s not even your well-timed, protein-rich meals. Fitness is a twenty-four hour way of life that should be part of your routine at all hours of the day. It’s about how you sit: is your back straight? Is your core engaged? Is your head looking ahead at your computer, not craned downward? Fitness is about mobility: are you regularly stretching your hip flexors? Are you using a lacrosse ball to ease tension in the soles of your feet? When’s the last time you strengthened your rotator cuff with a resistance band? Fitness is about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or the movement you undertake outside of the gym: are you taking walking breaks throughout the day? Can you fit in a few air squats or push-ups after bathroom breaks? Can you stand up and move during the commercials? What are you doing when you wait for the microwave to count down?
Although it might seem counterintuitive, fitness is also about inactivity. No, we don’t mean indulging in an hours-long Netflix session—we’re talking about sleep. On a hormonal level, sleep is absolutely critical for two essential strength builders, testosterone and growth hormone. Multiple studies have shown that their levels plummet without a solid sleep schedule, and one that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011 showed that sleep-deprived men are 50 percent more likely to have clinically low levels of testosterone. Well-rested athletes have also been shown to have a faster 40-yard dash, higher endurance for long workouts, and a heavier bench press.
Invest In Recovery
But there are even subtler, yet just as important, ways that sleep can improve your WOD. For one, it’s great for that all-important pillar, coordination: players of basketball, tennis, and baseball players have all been shown to score more points when they’re fueled by higher levels of sleep, with one English study even showing a 42 percent decrease in performance by sleep-deprived tennis players. You’re also twenty percent more likely to retain learned motor skills if you’ve had a good night’s rest.
If you’re investing in your health by putting clean food in your body and iron on your back, you need to consider how you’re investing in your sleep and recovery. You spend 30 percent of your life in the sack, and all of the benefits you’re buying in the gym and the kitchen come to you at night.
If you want to maximize your investment in yourself, be sure to follow these tips:
- Sleep at least eight hours per night, or more if you engage in a lot of intense exercise.
- Exercise regularly – it’s a fantastic way to boost sleep quality and relieve insomnia.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. It might help you fall asleep, but the sleep itself will be shallower and less restful.
- Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Eat plenty of magnesium, an important mineral that may improve sleep quality, in foods like leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, black beans, and oatmeal.
- Keep your room. If you need to, invest in blackout curtains and a white noise machine – you’ll be glad you did when you hit your next PR.