I’ve had lots of sleepless nights over the years….
…….take a naturally overactive mind, a tendency for a high caffeine intake, add in all the stress/worry/fears that come with age (it happens) and I have a recipe that will keep me up all night, if I let it.
There’s nothing worse than not sleeping……laid there ‘trying’ to sleep, or ‘trying’ to relax, the end result is often anything but……
And what about how you feel the next day after a broken nights sleep?
Every little issue is amplified, you far feel more emotional when tired, & you lose your temper far quicker and a lot easier.
On a practical level of planning/preparing your meals, starting your day in a fatigued state can lead to cravings and a huge instability in energy levels. This will do nothing but disrupt your lifestyle and hinder your progress.
Have you ever tried to cook, from scratch, a balanced and nutritionally sound meal when overly fatigued?
In this tired state the likelihood of reaching for that ‘quick fix’ is far greater, cue the increased desire for the pizza. Hormonally speaking, your body also reaches for these quick fixes for a reason.
Ideally, how you eat should help to stabilize your energy levels and you want to avoid any peaks and troughs throughout the day. A lack of sleep can quickly lead to a downward spiral if you let it. In turn, this can create a huge negative effect on your mindset, whilst also killing your results in the gym.
Trust me; I’ve been there, sometimes I’m very much still there.
In my experience, most people consider that to improve their health and/or their physique, then they have accepted they need to exercise. They may have also considered that they need to make changes to their eating pattern, but few consider the true application of rest & quality sleep.
Sleep is comprised of 4 main stages, the most commonly talked about/discussed being R.E.M (rapid eye movement). This stage is often associated with dreaming but has also been linked to memory improvement and retention.
I’ve wrote about sleep before, but today I want to give you some practical tips, and share some of things I do to help myself. Listed below is what would be my ideal routine.
First off, if you are struggling to sleep, I would consider looking at quality over quantity. In my opinion, 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep will always beat 8 hours of broken & stressed sleep. You need to find your own required amount that leaves you feeling rested, refreshed, and ready for your day.
1) Have a ‘cut off’ point for caffeine intake during the day. I try to make this 5pm, for yourself you may wish to make it earlier in the day.
2) Make your last main meal of the day balanced. What I mean by this is have meal that contains protein, carbohydrate & fat. Carbs help to release serotonin; these are the ‘feel good’ chemicals that help you relax.
Note: if you are struggling with sleep & you are on a low carb diet, this could be why. If you are concerned about overdoing your carb intake for the day, just reduce the amount from another meal throughout your day. Rice/Beans are an ideal choice, as is a bowl of porridge. This may seem strange or potentially go against what you have been led to believe, but if what you are currently doing isn’t helping, perhaps its time for change?
3) Depending on when you consume the previously mentioned meal, consider having either cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt (Fage would be my suggested brand of choice) about 1 hour before bed. If you are genuinely full/not hungry, don’t do this, don’t force it, doing so wont help.
4) Read a book 30 mins prior to going to sleep opposed to TV or scrolling through your IPhone or IPad.
5) Drink Chamomile tea whilst reading your book.
6) OPTION: you may wish to supplement with ZMA. This is taken orally and consists of Zinc, Magnesium, & Copper. These minerals can help your body to relax/combat stress. I have found this has helped, not necessarily to ‘get’ me to sleep, but to maintain my sleep.
5) Get your bedroom as dark as possible, think batcave!
6) You may wish to download some relaxing sounds. There are many apps available. Select one that can be played on timer, I personally opt for rain/thunderstorms.
Note: if you choose to do this on your IPhone, place the phone face down, & turn your phone to airplane mode.
7) Experiment with wearing an eye mask. This is something I’d never done until it was introduced to me last year. Whilst you don’t want to get reliant on wearing one every night of your life, and it may not be the sexiest of items, it may help you, as it has me.
8) If you wake up with a sudden panic or fear, try to remain calm. This is normal, we all have these moments, if it is worry that has awoken you, try writing it down. Don’t use your phone, use pen & paper; leave it by your bedside.
9) If you do wake up, don’t look at your phone or turn it over to look at the time. This will only add to your worry, and create further tension as you start to mentally ‘count down’ the hours until you have to be up.
If your sleep or lack of is becoming a real issue, there is absolutely no shame in going to see your doctor. I’ve done it myself. It’s important to address an issues you may have, not doing so will hold you back, not only in the gym but in all other aspects of your life.
Try some of the above practical tips first, see how you get on. I hope they help, let me know.
Until the next time,
Tristan ‘sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite’ Buttle.
Ben Wesselby recently made the transition from the football pitch to the competitive physique stage……….
Following his recent debut at the Mr & Miss Hull East Coast 2015 competition, after completing an amazing body transformation, I took the opportunity to ask Ben a few questions to get an insight into his motivation, his approach. I was interested & intrigued as to how he stayed focused throughout his preparation…………. So lets dive straight in……………….
Could you start by giving a bit of background about your exercise history? I
I’ve been going to the gym for over 10 years now, enjoying it, but never really truly pushing myself. For years I was doing the same routines and exercises, whilst maintaining decent fitness levels, as I played football on both Saturday and Sunday. I was then challenged by a friend to try running the Humber Half Marathon. The first time I completed it, 2 years ago, I lost a lot of muscle mass due to the high volume of running I was doing on a weekly basis.
Then last year I got a trainer to help me maintain muscle mass whilst getting me fitter than ever. As a result I lost 16lbs in 10 weeks, whilst also gaining 1kg of muscle mass.
What was behind your decision to compete? Where there any defining factors?
When seeing the changes in my body, whilst going through the above training in 2014, I started to take a huge interest in men’s physique body building. I became intrigued by the extreme condition they achieve in photo shoots and in the videos I watched online. The better my own fitness levels were due to my training and food plans for the half marathon I continued to think ‘that’s the look I would like for myself’.
Before I ran the half marathon in 2014, I went to watch my first body building competition, I then set my target to compete in men’s physique body building in 2015.
How long did it take you to prep?
In May 2014 I decided to look more in to what it would take to try to achieve a physique in which I could compete with other competitors. I properly started following a strict food plan in October 2014.
I then started to “cut” up 13 weeks prior to the competition, during which time I had help from a qualified nutritionist & specialist.
What where the main changes you had to make to your nutrition/lifestyle/mindset?
The first thing I was advised to do was to give up playing football, something I had done since I was a young child and it played a big part of my life. This purpose of this decision to try and maintain as much muscle mass as possible whilst training.
The next big thing was cutting out alcohol and any junk foods. As a single guy this was a tough life choice I was making! As much as I wanted to succeed in my targets, I knew it was going to have a huge affect on my social life. If I was to achieve the “look” of the guys in the fitness magazines, I needed to make these sacrifices.
Did you modify your training style?
With help from my trainer I changed my mind set regarding the way I trained. Taking on board different exercises, time under tension, and maximising every muscle to its full capability.
Then when I started to “cut” for the competition my training was then changed again, to try and hit my weaker muscle groups. A key emphasis was put on training wisely around specific muscles.
Did you train alone/with a partner (s)?
I initially went around the task of getting in the best shape of my life with a close friend, who was also looking to compete for the first time.
However due to the fact I needed to focus on my weaker muscle groups, I then had to train on my own the majority of the time, to ensure I was getting the most from each of my weights sessions.
What aspect of the comp prep was the most challenging to you?
I went through a lot of personal challenges whilst in prep, personal life, work and financial stresses. These were all really difficult situations but the challenge of prep helped me remain focused, and without realising, it was making me tougher to take on all the other challenges life was throwing at me.
The fact I went 4 months without booze and just over 3 months without any junk was a massive challenge in itself!
For my birthday weekend I celebrated by going out with friends……..drinking lime and soda. The following night was to watch boxing at a friends, they all sat there enjoying a beer and a huge Indian take away spread all over the lounge floor, I on the other hand remained focused on my targets and had a bowl of porridge washed down with water!!! Yes I got a good laugh from the rest of the lads at this moment!!!!
How did you stay motivated?
I continued to take weekly progress pictures and forward them on to my food/ training planner so he could monitor my progress. Week on week, I was seeing a small amount of difference, but nothing like I wanted. I continued to see others who I was due to compete against (some being over 10 years younger than me) and I knew I was chasing them.
This kept me focused in wanting to make bigger changes. With help from family and some really close friends it helped to drive me on to achieve what I intended to achieve, the best I’ve ever looked.
Could you talk through what went through your mind the days leading up to & before your competition?
The week leading up to the competition was really tough. I went through a process of carb depletion and water loading. This meant for 4 days I took on minimal carbs whilst increasing my water intake from 8 litres of water on the Monday up to 12 litres of water on the Friday.
As you can imagine I always had to know where the nearest toilet was whilst doing this!!!!
It was a very tiring and physically draining process I was putting my body through, but the focus remained the same: Listen to my prep coach and come Sunday night I can eat what ever I fancied, washed down with a cold beer!!!
Did you learn anything new about yourself throughout your journey/transformation?
My mental strength seemed to grow week on week, especially as I was fighting the desires of meals out, take aways in front of the TV and my biggest challenge…………… “missing chocolate”.
Has your experience helped you in other areas of your life?
Whilst going through other life issues mentioned earlier, the mental strength from the focus of something I wanted to achieve helped me a lot more than I realised at the time. Also this was something my close friends and family continued to praise me on, my own determination.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to compete for the first time?
Give it everything you’ve got and leave no regrets behind. It’s hard work, but for the moments spent on stage I loved it! Anyone can do it if they have the desire to be the best they possibly can. It does take a lot of dedication to get to the extreme of competing, but I would try to tell anyone to enjoy what they are doing. To get up at half past 4 in the morning to go for a steady walk for an hour, work a ten hour shift with anything up to 4 hours driving, hit the gym on the night and then prepare foods for the following day…..If you do it all with a smile on your face and it makes it a lot easier.
No matter what life throws at you, try to take all positives from the experience and grow as a person.
So there you have it folks, in Ben’s own words…no matter what your goals are, no matter what your dreams are, you can apply these tools to all aspects of YOUR life.
We are all stronger & more capable than we dare to believe…………
Until the next time,
Tristan ‘feeling inspired’ Buttle.