Focus on sleep, not supplements

Every athlete wants to recover quicker, grow stronger and feel better. This pursuit of betterment has fueled the astronomical growth of the health supplement industry and now almost every supermarket in the country sells a plethora of concoctions that will “aid in recovery”. The real kicker however is that most of these supplements are over priced and lack clinical research into their effectiveness. There is one free way to recover better and it is completely free.

Sleep is how our body recovers and repairs from the rigors of daily life. We often take for granted the impact of a healthy sleep schedule on our body, but the science is resounding: the better you sleep, the better you look, feel and perform.

In a 2010 study, people who slept less had a higher BMI with a higher rate of abdominal fat. Excess fat is one of the main reasons people look for supplements in the first place and in a weigh class based sport like grappling, being lighter will always be an advantage.

It’s not just body fat that sleep deprivation impacts, a 2012 study of men aged 22 – 36 years-old found that a lack of sleep caused a spike in cortisol and a dip in testosterone. As a higher testosterone level will improve recovery time this is rather important and the negative effect of a lack of sleep is compounded by the spike in cortisol.

Another study of note found that young male subjects sleeping 8 hours routinely that cut sleep by 3 hours for a period of 5 days reduced testosterone by an average 10.4% relative to rested control group.

With all that in mind it is clear to see how bad sleep deprivation can be for anyone let alone an athlete, but it appears growth hormone will remain uneffected because the body will switch to a biphasic method of distributing it.

How to sleep better

So we have established that you probably should focus on getting more sleep and unfortunately that is the easy part. The actual process of revamping your sleep cycle is a little bit more difficult, but achievable. It all comes down to prioritizing your sleep. While watching another episode of your latest Netflix binge, or doing a little extra work might be tempting, you need to put your sleep first and to do this I suggest making your bedroom a tech-free zone.

Focus on getting some better sleep hygiene and make sure you go to your room at the same time each night and try to wake up the same time each day too. Speaking purely anecdotally, a lot of my BJJ training partners and I swear by melatonin as an easy way to help your sleep schedule and it is perhaps the only supplement I would recommend.

Most of the athletes that push supplements on social media are on PEDs and this is an unfortunate fact of the modern era. If you want to look like them then a £60 supplement isn’t going to be enough and you are better off looking into steroids. If you want to recover better and you are a hobbyist lifter, or BJJ practitioner then your first port of call should be getting your sleep optimized and aim for 7-9.5 hrs per night.

Looking for help with a BJJ injury? Book an online video consultation with BJJ black belt and osteopath Rosi Sexton.