[Editor's Note: Today we're launching a new weekly column called "The Big Picture: Integrating Supplements, Lifestyle and Workouts." It will feature short takes on bodybuilding strategies, much like our weekly Muscle Mechanics Series, only it won't be focused purely on exercise routines. Instead, The Big Picture will offer advice on every aspect of living the bodybuilding life, with an emphasis on combining supplements, lifestyle choices, and exercise for maximum effect. This week's entry is written by a new contributing writer to ProSource, expert nutritionist Mike Roussell, PhD. Take it away, Mike!]
Optimizing total calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats has always been held up as the most important component to making progress in the development of your physique. It is undisputable that these factors are essential to sculpting a lean and muscular body as without adequate calories and protein, muscles cannot be built. Without properly timed and selected carbohydrates, layers of fat would persist over rock hard abs rendering them aesthetically useless. Total calorie intake and the proper macronutrients represent the equivalent of stepping on the gas pedal of physique development, but unfortunately, most people that you see in the weight room are running around with one foot on the gas pedal AND the other on brake.
By taking your foot off the physique development brake you'll be able to greatly accelerate your strength and fat loss gains without adding more calories, sets, or reps. What is this brake and how to you take your foot off of it?
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The One Drug You Don't Want to Cycle Off
When you sleep, your body goes through a distinct sleep cycle during the course of the night consisting of 5 different phases. Two key components of this sleep cycle are REM (rapid eye movement sleep) and deep sleep. You will get your first dose of REM sleep 70-90 minutes after you fall asleep. REM sleep is essential for mental health and rejuvenation. Deep sleep is a phrase used to describe 2 different phases of sleep during which there is no muscle activity. This is when you will get the biggest physical recovery benefits of sleep. The more deep sleep you get the more growth hormone your body will release while sleeping.
4 Steps to Maximizing Sleep
Caffeine can increase the amount of time that it takes for you to get to sleep in addition to decreasing the frequency of REM sleep. Stimulants like caffeine can be extremely effective for taking training sessions to the next level but they come with the price of negatively impacting your sleep quality. Don't use caffeine as a staple in your pre-workout mix but instead use it strategically when you need a pick me up or need to break through a plateau. This will maximize its effectiveness while allowing you to optimize the quality of your sleep. If you're taking a diet support supplement for fat loss purposes, take your last dose no later than mid-afternoon. And keep in mind, too, if you're exceptionally sensitive to stimulants, that there are plenty of non-stimulant alternatives for diet support. [Editor's Note: ProSource brand products in this category include Tonalin CLA, a natural, stimulant-free diet support ideal for stacking with thermogenics, Forslean Coleus Forskholii, a versatile diet-support herbal, and Ultra-GTX, a powerful green-tea-based thermogenic that contains only a minimal amount of caffeine. ProSource's Vectron, a unique and advanced fat-loss protein, might also be for you.]
Getting enough sleep is the key but how much sleep you need is very individual. 6-9 hours is the range of acceptable sleep but for optimizing body composition should stay closer to 8-9 hours. Why is more better? The longer you sleep, the more sleep cycles you will run though, and the more deep sleep you get the more your body will recover. You need to be consistent about getting good sleep because just one short night of sleep will decrease leptin levels.
While most physique minded individuals don't have a problem with avoiding alcohol due to its deleterious effects on nutrient metabolism. If you are going to indulge in a drink, don't have it right before bed. Give your body 2-3 hours to metabolize and remove the alcohol from your system. While having a drink before bed may seem relaxing and will help you get to sleep after a rough day, alcohol decreases the quality of sleep.
Magnesium is a trace mineral that doubles as a sedative. Hard training athletes are more susceptible to subclinical deficiencies in certain trace minerals like magnesium. A ZMA (zinc magnesium aspartate) should be a staple pre-bed supplement. If you have trouble falling asleep, topical magnesium, rubbed behind your knees is another effective adjunct to optimizing your sleep. [Editor's Note: ProSource ZMA, sourced from 100% Snac Systems ZMA, the world's best, is the gold standard in this category.]