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

Some of the stats from the infographic are quite interesting, too, including:

  • Maximum bench press drops 20 pounds after 4 days of restricted sleep
  • With proper sleep, tennis players get a 42% increase in hitting accuracy
  • Sleep loss means an 11% reduction in time to exhaustion
  • Perceived exertion increases 17-19% after 30 hours of sleep deprivation.

Are you getting the idea that athletes and physically active people may need to sleep more?

In one study, Stanford University basketball players spent several weeks sleeping at least 10 hours a night (compared to their pre-study practice of sleeping 6 to 9 hours a night), and their performance increased significantly, with far faster sprint times and greater shooting accuracy, along with increased physical and mental well-being during both games and practice.

Sleeping for Fitness

Are you getting the idea that athletes and physically active people (and you are physically active, right?) may need to sleep more?

In most cases, hard-charging professional athletes need 10-12 hours of sleep per 24 hour day cycle, and the typical Ironman triathlete, hardcore Crossfitter, marathoner, cyclist, or above-average exerciser needs 7.5-9 hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle. In addition, lack of sleep has been shown to not just affect performance, but also to increase risk for appetite cravings and obesity.

There are two primary reasons for the increased need for sleep in exercising individuals:

  1. Your nervous system and brain cleans up cellular garbage when you sleep, allowing you to form memories, learn, and come back more cognivively sharp the next day.
  2. Your body and muscles repair themselves while you sleep, and this process is enhanced by hormonal release that occurs as you are in your deep sleep phases.

If you want to take a deep dive into the science of how your body repairs itself as you sleep, and how important hormones like growth hormones and appetite regulating hormones are regulated when you sleep, then you can read this two part article series I’ve written.

But bottom line: if you’re exercising frequently, then I’d encourage you to ignore the new recommendations for 7 hours, and instead shoot for 7.5 to 9 hours per night, or at least per 24-hour sleep cycle. For example, I typically sleep 8 hours per night, then take another 20-40 minute nap during the day, usually after lunch.

Finally, when it comes to fitness and sleep, the two can complement one another quite nicely, and a good exercise routine can definitely help you sleep better. You can learn exactly how in the article, Can You Exercise To Sleep Better?

If you have more questions about how to sleep for fat loss and muscle gain, then join the conversation over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Photo of man sleeping courtesy of Shutterstock.com.


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.

You May Also Like...