Sleep for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

While recent studies have suggested that you might not actually need a full 8 hours of sleep a night, Get-Fit Guy explains why there is an ideal amount of sleep for optimal fitness performance, fat loss, muscle gain, and more.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #202

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “seven is the new eight," explaining that the body may actually need less sleep than the traditionally recommended 8 hours. But if you’re into fitness, exercising, or mental and physical performance, you may want to think again..

There is an ideal amount of sleep needed for fat loss or muscle gain, and for optimizing things like tissue repair, protein synthesis, appetite regulation and growth hormone release. In a previous Get Fit Guy newsletter, I covered the topic of whether sleep could get you more fit, but now it’s time to find out more details about why, and look at exactly how much sleep you should get to efficiently reach your health, performance, fitness, and body composition goals.

From 8 to 7?

Until recently, the National Sleep Foundation had established some good guidelines for sleep based on up-to-date research. They had found that in most adults, sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night is associated with decreased alertness and increased risk for chronic disease, while sleeping more than 9 hours per night is also associated with a shorter life, and a higher risk of chronic disease. Unfortunately, it appears that now, they may also be jumping on board with lower sleep recommendations.

The most recent 7-hours-per-night info reported by The Wall Street Journal, and being adopted by many people, is based on a position has been growing in popularity since 2002, when researchers published this study involving more than 1.1 million people. In that study, they concluded that people who sleep about 7 hours a night live longer than those who get more or less sleep. The scientists reported that sleeping longer than 8 hours a night is associated with health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (although it’s also possible that these health issues caused the people surveyed to sleep longer, not the other way around!)

How Athletes Sleep

But what the Journal failed to take into account is the enormous need for sleep in people who are exercising frequently, beating up their bodies with weight training and running, and/or engaging in cognitively demanding tasks, like a stressful 8-to-12 hour work day, or a busy family life.

For folks who are engaged in this type of body and brain stress, it may be beneficial to look at the infographic in this article from Fatigue Science: “Why Pro Athletes Sleep 12 Hours A Day”.

Allow me to highlight a few of the quotes from the graphic:

  • Usain Bolt, the fastest sprinter on the planet: “Sleep is extremely important to me. I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”
  • Roger Federer, top professional tennis player: “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it’s not right.”
  • Steve Nash, one of the world’s best basketball point guards: “For me, sleeping well could mean the difference between putting up  30 points and living with 15.”
  • Jarrod Shoemaker, professional triathlete: “Sleep is half my training."


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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