Sleep and Recovery – Optimising your performance.



Millions if not billions of pounds every year goes to either the research or purchase of sports supplementation, all with the promise of greater improvements. Except for the stimulant camp,  all supplements promise this improvement essentially though faster/more total RECOVERY.


Whilst some of these supplements are highly useful to fine tune your performance, once you have totally optimised yourself in forms of diet and hydration, truly one of the best weapons you have as an athlete is that of your bed and pillow.


SLEEP is where it all happens. You’ve probably heard from the bodybuilding world that you “grow as you sleep”; this is very true, and true for all forms of recovery whatever the stimulus.


What happens when you sleep?

  • Inflammation reduces-  inflammation might not really mean that much to you, but it can help in healing speed of any serious injuries and also keep potential issues away such as tendinopathy
  • Learning skills- you spend those hours practicing and learning new skills at the box, but its when you sleep your body actually consolidates this “motor learning”, miss those hours of sleep and it’ll be harder and harder for you to nail those double unders
  • Growing- the body is most anabolic (growing and building) mode just like with the learning skills in this “slow wave sleep”


What can affect sleep?

  • High cortisol- these high levels of cortisol come from being in a stressed state, amongst other things. So we know that stress isn’t good for you, but not only do these high levels of cortisol stop you sleeping, they also deplete your adrenal gland which in turn affects your ability to produce other hormones like testosterone (which is important for you girls aswell).
  • Alcohol- sorry to say but when you come in late from work, those 2 glasses of wine to help you get to sleep actually stop you sleeping. When looking at sleep patterns from those who have consumed alcohol or sleep drugs it was found that at no time did they enter deeper sleep! Without this deeper sleep they miss out on all the benefits, mentioned above. Essentially this means that when you consume alcohol or drugs you actually go “unconscious”, not to sleep. Would you expect to feel recovered after being knocked out from being hit over the head? Most likely not, you’d feel groggy and pretty un-recovered!


What can you do to fix this?

  • darken your room- ensure you have no light at all in the room, make sure your phone is covered so it can’t light up in the night
  • look at nutrition- avoid sugar last thing at night and make sure you are getting the widest spread of vitamins and minerals possible
  • supplementation- magnesium has been found to aid sleep along with zinc. Another benefit of zinc is its complicated relationship with testosterone which allows the body to use what is presently available
  • avoid too much high intensity exercise- your body doesn’t know if you’re doing fran or being chased by a tiger, to your CNS system its the same thing. Make sure you have days off and have some aerobic conditioning in your programme. To quote coach Tom, “build that engine!!” This is part of the reason we are constantly asking you to pace your workouts and not hit that “redline”. The redline and absolute balls out should be saved for competition, testing or actually being chased by a tiger!!! If we keep going balls out, we will struggle to recover and make any progress after a few months.


Above all, keep a routine. Try and create a bedtime ritual, this will condition your body to know when to go to sleep as soon as you get on those jammies and pour your paleo hot chocolate.


This is the first of a series of blog posts related to health and wellness and how it relates to CrossFit.





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Lift Off CrossFit is based in Bishops Stortford, Herts. Our experienced team of coaches have made Lift Off the regions premier CrossFit box.

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