Energy levels play a vital role into every component of your fitness. If you are tired and fatigued, everything is much tougher - including keeping energy high.
People work long hours and have additional responsibilities that draw them away from getting a good nights sleep. Sleep quality is the first thing you should address when trying to improve your energy levels.
Caffeine and pre workout supplements can be great for giving you that initial kick. But if your sleep quality is poor and you are truly tired, you are just masking the problem. Post workout, when the ‘buzz’ has gone - you will inevitably crash and feel even worse.
The best indicator of a good nights sleep is how you feel in the morning.
If you wake up feeling awesome and can approach the next day with energy, it doesn’t matter if you got your recommended 8 hours.
If you have 4 hours kip and wake up tired, it’s obviously because you haven’t slept enough. But what happens to those who get 7- 8 hours and still wake up feeling exhausted?
To simplify things we will say there are two types of sleep
- Deep Sleep (Usually indicated by undisturbed sleep that would be hard to wake from)
- Light Sleep (The moment when you initially fall asleep, and Ideally just before you wake up.) Waking up from light sleep is easier than waking up from deep sleep.
Ideally, you want to spend as much time in deep sleep as possible and move into a light sleep before waking. This facilitates a better release of hormones that help you recover and will leave you feeling fresher when you wake up. The problem is, you are unconscious so you aren't able to exactly control this nice pattern once you nod off.
How do we accomplish this?
- Prepare for sleep! You prepare for training and nutrition (at least you should), why not prepare for recovery? The hour before sleep, I ‘wind down’. I don’t work/check messages/watch TV etc. Instead I tend to read, stretch, foam roll and/or shower. Its all about relaxing so that you drop off as soon as you get in bed. This is the primary reason why people struggle to get a good nights sleep.
- Make sure its dark! Changes in light can have a real effect on how/when you wake up. For example, in the winter months when its pretty dark in the mornings, it is more difficult to wake up. In the summer, when its brighter - the opposite happens. Try to get your room as dark as possible in order to create an environment optimal for a good nights sleep.
- Get a good temperature! “I was boiling in bed last night, I had the best nights sleep!” said nobody ever. Keep it cool and you are less likely to get uncomfortable and wake up!
- Supplement with ZMA. This is an inexpensive supplement of primarily Zinc and Magnesium. I personally use Optimum Nutrition ZMA and it is one of the few supplements where you can noticeably feel the difference. My sleep quality greatly improved, I rarely woke up in the middle of the night, and if I did, i was able to go straight back to sleep. Most importantly - you will have the craziest (in a good way) dreams!
Four simple steps that can have a huge effect. Prepping for sleep is a BIG one that had a significant impact on my energy levels - be sure to try it!