Bodybuilding and Sleep: How muscle building supplements may be working against your recovery.

Discover the vital relationship between bodybuilding and sleep, what supplements will negatively impact that relationship, and what you need to maximise your sleep to build muscle.

You’ve got your training down to a Banksy level of art. Your nutrition is on point, and you’re spending a toned arm and a leg each month on supplements. So, why aren’t you putting on muscle?

The answer is very likely to revolve around the most underrated – yet the most straightforward – aspect of muscle building:

Believe it or not, getting adequate sleep is more important than any legal supplement on the market today (and that includes creatine!). Yet, it’s the one area many consistently fall short on – and then buy more supplements to compensate for their lack of gains!

If trying to gain muscle leaves you feeling like a dumbbell, please don’t fret the sweat! Let us bring you up to speed on why zzz’s are so vital in the game of muscle gain, as we reveal how all of those expensive supplements may actually be working against the sleep and bodybuilding process.

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Eat, Sleep, Gain, Repeat!

As a bodybuilder, you view food differently to other people. For them it’s a pleasure centre satisfier; for you, it’s a key mechanism to build lean muscle and strip off fat. That is precisely how you need to view sleep. In other words, you need to take it as seriously as your training and your nutrition. Eat, sleep, gain, repeat!

It’s important to know just how the science of sleep works for your recovery, so lesson up as it’s time for a crash course in crashing:

Sleep serves two critical functions for bodybuilders:

When you close your eyes and settle into sleep mode, your brainwave activity slows down. As a result, the rate of brain cell impulse transmission drops. We measure brain activity in beta waves. When you’re awake with your eyes open, your brain is producing waves at about 14 Hertz (Hz) per second. As you drift off to sleep, it reduces to about 8 Hz per second the instant you fall asleep. Over the next hour, brain wave activity continues to slow until it gets as low as 0.5 Hz per second. At this point, the pituitary gland starts to excrete growth hormone, which is the body’s elixir of muscle growth. That growth hormone circulates through the body via the bloodstream and directs the cells of your muscles to begin the repair process.

Brain activity will start to increase as we continue to sleep. When it gets to around 8 Hz, we are in the rapid eye movement stage of sleep, and we have a short dream. Importantly, at this stage, protein synthesis is enhanced in the body.

The body now cycles between shallow levels of brain wave activity and increases to about 8 Hz. However, the periods of low activity last longer, resulting in more extended periods of growth hormone release.

Think about what that means for your bodybuilding progress. When you are getting a proper amount of quality sleep, your body is optimising its growth hormone release AND its protein synthesis. Those are the very things that you’re probably spending a lot of money on supplements to achieve. Yet, you’ll never do it unless and until you get your sleep pattern sorted out.

Sleep also makes us more alert. A huge proportion of the population, though, is suffering from a chronic lack of sleep. If you walk into the gym feeling like your get up and go got up and left, there’s no way you are going to do justice to your workout feeling like a zzz-zombie – no matter how stimulating your pre-workout is!

Supplements and Sleep: A vicious (sleep) cycle

So those supplements you’re taking to gain muscle may not only be a waste of time and money; they could be contributing to your lack of quality sleep.

The pre-workout market is hugely competitive. To get a market advantage, manufacturers are loading their products with stimulant ingredients designed to get you super hyped for your workout. The problem is that your state of mental and physical arousal is bound to last beyond the hour of your workout. If you’re working out in the late afternoon or early evening, those stimulant ingredients are still going to keep raving inside you ’till the early hours while you’re trying to sleep.

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Frankie says Relax: Maximising Your Sleep to Build Muscle

To get a good night’s sleep, you need to be able to get to sleep in the first place. If you are taking a stimulant loaded supplement as a pre-workout, then you need to make like David Bowie and make ch-ch-ch-changes. Replace it with a non-stimulant pre-workout that will get you mentally primed for your workout without impeding your ability to get to sleep.

Next, you should consider taking a natural sleep-enhancing supplement.


The pituitary gland produces melatonin. It is naturally produced when the sun goes down, inducing drowsiness. When melatonin levels increase in the blood, we drift into a state of sleep naturally. Taking a melatonin supplement will enhance this process, this will boost your body’s melatonin level as many as twenty times.


Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This neurotransmitter inhibits brain activity and increases drowsiness. Take tryptophan 30 minutes before you got to bed. The recommended dosage is 500 mg for every 50 pounds of bodyweight. Ideally, take it along with 100 mg of niacin. The body converts tryptophan to niacin, so taking niacin will spare the tryptophan to convert to serotonin.

The Bottom Line on bodybuilding and sleep

Until you get serious about your sleep, you will never be able to maximise your muscle recovery to build muscle. To get to sleep, you need to remove heavy stimulant-based supplements from your life. Replace them with a non-stim pre-workout. Then, with the money you save, invest in a natural sleep enhancer. Look for a product that is based around either natural melatonin or a combination of tryptophan and niacin.

Aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to optimise the relationship between sleep and bodybuilding. Get yourself into the habit of doing that, and you will, finally, be able to optimally benefit from all of the hard work that’s going into your training and nutrition.

Remember it’s not all about the hustle in order to get more muscle. Sleep is nature’s PT, so don’t lose out on the snooze and you’ll be sure to flex those well-rested pecks!

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