How to Build Muscle While Sleeping…

(updated: 26 April 2012)
It is often heard that muscle is built while resting, not in the gym, but what does this really mean? In brief, this statement extrapolates from the fact that the regenerative response to exercise is initiated AFTER exercise has already taken place and requires some time to take full effect. Pounding the same muscle group again before this second phase of muscle regeneration has been able to play out sufficiently will only serve to put you into the realm of “No Gains”.

Muscle Growth - A Delicate Balance Between Training and Rest
Exercise causes muscle damage. The more intense the exercise, the more severe the trauma, and the greater the need for subsequent repair. The good news is that muscle damage stimulates muscle regeneration. And, in an analogous manner, the greater the muscle damage induced by exercise, the stronger the stimulus for them to regenerate. All seems clear, right? Pound your muscles to make them grow. Simple. Wrong… Life is rarely this straightforward. Greater muscle damage, though providing a stronger anabolic stimulus, requires more time to regenerate. Otherwise, the muscle will not be able to withstand the next bout of exercise. That is, not enough rest and you’ll end up destroying more muscle than you are able to rebuild. Welcome to Overtraining Syndrome - not good.


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Damage Control - Allow Enough Time to Rebuild
Given sufficient recovery time and appropriate nutrition the amount of new muscle produced may exceed the previous level and your muscles will increase in overall size (hypertrophy). This is a process sports physiologists like to call “supercompensation”, the physiological basis for bodybuilding - that is, if all goes well. If, on the other hand, sufficient time is not allowed for muscles to fully recover, or if your diet does not supply adequate substrates to support new muscle synthesis, then the growth phase will be blunted, entirely absorbed, or possibly even reversed. Excessive exercise furthermore, will destroy already damaged muscle tissue before it has had a chance to rebuild; we then enter a state of negative muscle growth (net muscle loss), aka Overtraining Syndrome. In essence, building muscle is a tradeoff between resting too little, which destroys overexerted muscle, or resting too much, which does not force muscles to functionally adapt (increase in strength and size) to the heightened loads you are placing on them.

So, yes, exercise, but smartly. Learn to create a simple set of circumstances that promote muscle growth while mitigating muscle loss. These circumstances are completely under your control and are really not that difficult to establish. In fact, it all comes down to just three simple rules. Read on…

Overcoming/Offsetting Overtraining Syndrome (”O-OTS”)

Rule 1. Feed Your Hungry Muscles After Exercise
Muscles are most receptive to nutrient uptake (insulin release) following exercise (see Tweak Your Anabolic Hormones with Smart Nutrition and Exercise below). And as such, protein intake immediately after exercise is absolutely essential for full muscle recovery and subsequent growth. Moreover, the protein must be in a form that is quickly and easily available for muscles to assimilate and most importantly, must provide a COMPLETE source of amino acids; the deficit of just one essential amino acid in the mix and protein synthesis would come to a screeching halt. That is, taking a poor source of protein will compromise muscle growth, despite your best exercise efforts. With these two requirements met, however, the ingested protein will then be converted into new muscle tissue, especially when administered immediately after exercise. That is, taking a good quality protein source right after exercise would result in maximal muscle growth. New advances in nutritional science have led to the development of liquid protein formulations that are highly biologically available, stable and provide a complete source of protein. I recommend these premeasured and ready-to-drink protein shots that contain from 25 grams of high quality protein per shot (3-4 ounces). These convenient protein shots are perfectly formulated to provide a quick infusion of much needed protein to your hungry muscle’s following exercise and will put you well on your way to improved muscle gains. Taking your protein in this way will also enhance the ability of your muscles to absorb creatine, a double anabolic bonus. How to best combine these protein shots with creatine (and carbohydrates) after exercise for greatest muscle development is detailed here.

Rule 2. Rotate Muscle Groups for Optimal Recovery
Depending on the intensity of the exercise and physical condition of the athlete anywhere between three and seven days are required for muscles to fully recover. This isn’t to say, however, that one should work out only once per week – this would be nearly as ineffective as overtraining. Consequently, most athletes adopt exercise routines that rotate muscle groups every few days. In this manner an athlete can train daily, improving cardiovascular conditioning as well as the efficacy of neuronal communication with muscle, while working each individual muscle group at most twice per week.

Rule 3. Tweak Your Anabolic Hormones with Smart Nutrition and Exercise
Testosterone, Insulin and Growth Hormone are released by exercise and exert anabolic effects that are delayed at onset and protracted in time course. They thus play a major role in muscle rebuilding after exercise. 1. Testosterone is released by exercise and promotes both the production of new muscle proteins as well as slows the loss of existing proteins.  2. Insulin stimulates muscle cells to uptake nutrients from the blood stream such as glucose, amino acids and creatine, particularly after exercise when muscle is most metabolically responsive to its presence. In essence, exercise depletes muscle’s energy and biosynthetic (building) resources; they then respond by becoming hypersensitive to the stockpiling effects of insulin. Insulin hence provides muscle with the substrates with which to rebuild as well as to replenish their depleted energy reserves of creatine and glycogen, which will be important in getting the most from your next workout. 3. Growth hormone is a key player in our anabolic hormonal response to exercise. Growth hormone (GH) is released following exercise as well as during deep sleep. In fact, the bulk of our whole body tissue repair occurs while we sleep, because of the nocturnal release of GH. If you want to build muscle be sure to get plenty of sleep each night, particularly after training days. These three hormones act synergistically to provide building resources (amino acids), activate protein synthesis and reduce protein degradation. The anabolic effects of (Testosterone, Insulin and Growth Hormone) and IGF-1 can last up to a few days after the initiation of exercise. In theory, long enough to repair damaged muscle - if nutrition is optimized, stress minimized and rest made a priority.

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 - Mediating the Anabolic Effects of GH and Exercise

Insulin-like growth factor type 1 (IGF-1) is arguably our most important growth promoter. For instance, the anabolic effects of Growth Hormone are largely mediated by IGF-1. IGF-1 accentuates the cell’s biosynthetic machinery as well as turns off the reading of those genes that provoke muscle atrophy, the so-called “atrogenes”. On the other hand, these same atrogenes are put into play by overtraining via the actions of cortisol, an anti-anabolic (catabolic) hormone released by several forms of stress.  Insufficient rest, sleep deprivation, and daily stresses will hence also counteract the biosynthetic response to IGF-1 by releasing cortisol. IGF-1 is also intimately involved in both initiating muscle regeneration as well as bringing it to fruition. Exercise also directly stimulates muscle to produce IGF-1 independently of Growth Hormone.

Creatine also Stimulates IGF-1 Production by Muscle

Importantly, creatine has been recently shown to directly stimulate IGF-1 production; that is, independently of exercise and Growth Hormone. However, to get the most from this intriguing and fundamentally very important anabolic effect of creatine you will need to supplement immediately after exercise when insulin is most effective at delivering creatine, carbohydrates and proteins to your muscles (see Feed Your Hungry Muscles After Exercise above). Hence, a post-exercise meal of accurately defined composition is important to implement and is imperative for muscle growth.

Recommended Creatine Source: Based on the quality of creatine and composition of the formulation I would recommend EAS Betagen. This product contains creatine monohydrate, carbohydrates, L-Glutamine and HMB; HMB has convincingly been shown to reduce muscle catabolism (break down) and will assist in muscle regeneration following exercise. L-Glutamine helps alleviate post-exercise stress, reduces susceptibility to infections, prevents protein breakdown as well as improves glycogen synthesis. Obviously, this product was designed with hard training in mind and contains only scientifically validated ingredients - a rare event in today’s supplement market. Here is a reliable vendor for this product.

OVERTRAINING SYNDROME - OTS
The importance of proper rest and nutrition for muscle growth extends from the fact that the muscle damage brought on by exercise (an obligatory stimulus for muscle adaptation) needs to be repaired and further fortified with the assistance of our major anabolic hormones that exhibit somewhat protracted actions - requiring adequate rest (recovery), building blocks (nutrition) and the activation of the cell’s biosynthetic machinery (by our anabolic hormones) for an noticable anabolic response. The full circle is revealed when it is realized that exercise, rest and nutrition all influence the efficacy with which our anabolic hormones perform their duty. Inadequate recovery from exercise and poor nutrition, on the other hand, hinders this process, potentially resulting in net muscle loss, a catabolic (muscle wasting) condition known as OverTraining Syndrome (OTS).

OVERCOMING/OFFSETTING OVERTRAINING SYNDROME - OOTS
Overtraining is a trap that many athletes inevitably fall into. Overtraining can put a stop to an athlete’s gains in strength and muscle mass and in severe cases even reverse existing gains. Overtraining causes the release of cortisol, a catabolic hormone that activates atrogenes (atrophy genes), thereby interfering with the body’s utilization of Testosterone, Insulin, Growth Hormone and IGF-1, our major anabolic hormones. If you are experiencing the symptoms of OTS (training plateaus, fatigue, chronic soreness, increased susceptibility to infections and depression) taking a break from training, while the wisest response, is one of the most difficult measures for an enthusiastic athlete to undertake. Clearly the smartest and ultimately easiest approach is to follow the three simple rules laid out in this post and let your muscle gains slowly and steadily continue to accrue for the foreseeable future. The choice is your’s, OTS or OOTS…



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312 Comments

  1. Posted March 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    This information was very interesting and showed the dangers of overtraining.

    Like anything in life you can get carried away thinking that more is better when it is actually worse.

  2. Michael E Parr, M.D.
    Posted May 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I have Creatine powder “expired” in 2006. I know expration dates are artificial. How much effective creatine is left do you guess? And does it decompose into something harmful that you know? I am a physician and very familiar with the usual BS “I can’t recommend it”, “It might be harmful” blah blah. A guess is fine.

  3. Josh H
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    I just started taking Creatine. Yesterday I worked biceps/triceps. Will I be okay to work them again tomorrow, I got a lot of sleep, protein, and I’m using Creatine. I my chest feels fine and triceps feel decent today. Then I’ll take like 5 days off [for chest/triceps]. Will it be good?

  4. Posted May 26, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    nice post thanks. as always, there is good information in there. keep up the good work

  5. Robert Byrne
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Michael,

    I have been taking Creatine that expired in 02/07 (Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder) for the past week and a half including a 25g/day loading for a week. No noticable negative effects. In fact it seems to be working the same as it did the last time I took it (about 2 1/2 years ago).

    Robert

  6. Creatine Blog
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Josh,

    Believe me, I understand how hard it may be to allow yourself sufficient rest time. It is best, however, to give yourself at least two days rest between body parts. Although in most cases training the same body part two days in row won’t produce negative gains, the protein synthetic response WILL BE LESS than with greater rest. The reason is that catabolic hormones are released in greater amounts under conditions of little rest.

    This is all explained in my Creatine guide: http://www.creatinepracticalguide.com/

  7. Creatine Blog
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    It all depends if it was kept cool and dry… As it is over 2 years old you’ve probably lost 10-20% of it to degradation. What is converts to is creatinine, which really isn’t toxic - just pointless - energetically speaking. You won’t become ill from taking it. On the other hand, creatine is relatively cheap. You really don’t lose much purchasing a new canister.

    I would personally advise, however, to stay away from extremely elaborate formulations. These are mainly full of agents that don’t really make a different, but sound pretty fancy.

    Check out this site for more info: http://www.creatinemonohydrate.net

  8. Posted October 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Great blog! Thanks for posting this

  9. Creatine Blog
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Ok…? I just let that plug go by….

  10. steven1
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    Hi,

    Nice article! I have a question. What do you mean exactly by “rest”? Do you mean that we should not do any kind of sport or we just should not work out in a gym (resistance training). Do you think swimming everyday at a good pace for 30 min to 60 min would increase the release of anti-anabolic hormones if I go to gym to lift weights 3 days in a week. Thanks.

  11. Herk L
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    To be honest with you that’s all you need - 5g per day of creatine is enough to keep it going through your muscles.

    I would recommend taking the Max Powers Anabolic Stack before working out, or if you don’t plan on working out a day, take it in the morning with your protein when you wake up.

    Those who look into this should really consider going on the creatine cycle, this is because your body gets used to creatine if you just keep taking it. After that, stop all creatine intake for 3 weeks straight. After those 3 weeks, repeat the cycle.

  12. gary
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    after 14 weeks no side efects should eye need a rest from useing it for 1month or not

  13. gary
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    is it good two leave body parts for a whole week

  14. Posted July 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your creatine guide, it helped me a lot to figure out how to use the creatine I just bought. Thanks for making this info availible for free.

    Mitch from Holland

  15. Posted July 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I have always been a big fan of creatine. I do take it, and i find that when I work out I am able to lift quite a bit more while on it. Keep up the good work of bring the information out to light.

  16. Posted July 25, 2010 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    great article. Very clear and informative of all key elements of muscle growth. I think that overtraining is so common in many gyms, sometimes people do think more is better but in this case it really isn’t. Also interesting read about creatine stimulation IGF-1 production , great article.

  17. Posted July 25, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I can not agree more on the importance of sufficient rest for the fast muscle toning and development. Also your Creatine Guide is very detailed and practical. I noticed some of our members also like and use it + the muscle gain program of Anthony Ellis is one of the best around. However I would like to address one thing that people get wrong sometimes. Next to elements you explain in this post there are 2 that we have to have in place: 1) proper motivation and 2) clear achievable goals defined.
    I believe you also deal with this issues seriously I feel it is very important to emphasize it. In most cases our students have problems that stop them and seem to be impossible to solve those 2 issues turn to be the missing link and the solution.
    Sasha

  18. Posted July 26, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post. The whole point of lifting heavy weights is to cause micro tears in your muscle fibers… Then get enough REST and the right nutrition to allow your body to repair. I’m going to start referring people to this blog post because when I tell people this I get the feeling they just don’t believe me.

  19. Posted July 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I think this was a very interesting article. I think that so many of us take for granted that we do need that sleep time for the muscles to recover. I know you only touched on it briefly, but you also commented on what stress can do as well. So not enough sleep and adding stress to your life is really taking it’s toll and not allowing the muscle growth that you’re trying so hard to achieve.
    Build Muscle Lose Fat

  20. Posted July 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I found this very important, i sent this blog to a friend who did not understand or grasp the theory of letting your muscles REPAIR aftera workout, he would do it day after day without a break and thought i was nuts for not doing it aswell.

  21. Posted July 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Very informative article and thank you for posting it. I was aware that sleep was vital to building muscle but you’ve written this in a clear and concise manner to help explain it. Actually, based on what you’ve written I will be making some tweaks to my sleep routine as well.

    As you read the information about building muscle, you come to the idea that building muscle is truly an art form. (IE: how much of what to eat, what supplementation if any, how much and when to lift, how much rest is necessary, etc.) When you look at it like that, you can’t help but really appreciate the effort and ability of people to build massive muscle.

    Thanks.

    Jo

  22. Posted July 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I must say that creatine and whey protein are the only 2 sport supplements I can not live without. With both products I have not personally experimented any negative effect.

    Anyway you must be hyperhydrated to achieve better results using both items.

  23. Posted August 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Very good post, and I completly agree with what you are saying.

    When I first started off with weight training and trying to build muscle, I would be in the gym nearly every day and would get almost no results. It was difficult to get my head around the fact that I would get the results I wanted by training less and resting more.

    I also try to help friends and family with this, and the first thing I always tell them is that they are doing too much and should take a longer break between workout sessions. Like I did initially, they struggle to understand how this works so I will direct them to this page in the future

    Thanks!

  24. Posted August 18, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    great post!

  25. Posted August 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Lots of us want healthy body fitness and strong and flexible muscles and not merely bodybuilding. But we don’t know how to build muscle and what workouts are required to get muscle mass. Here is solution to your questions

  26. Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The fact that muscle growth occurs while resting shows that we must be careful not to overdo it. A moderate training regime with proper rest intervals is clearly the safest way to go. Thanks again.

  27. Posted September 23, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    A bit of misleading title(you’re not teaching us how to walk in our sleep to the gym haha), but all in all a great article. We’re all eager to get our muscle built fast but going at it full strength 24/7 would only harm us.
    Also, being stressed inhibits muscle growth, so make sure you do your exercises while being relaxed.

  28. Posted September 26, 2010 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    This is really informative, especially to those people taking an exercise without professional advice and many of them without knowing it they over exercise and have done it wrong.

  29. Posted October 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this it is really good information. It highlights the importance of getting enough recovery time and deep sleep for maximum muscle growth and a warning of the negative effects of over training.

  30. Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Pretty good post.
    I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say i have
    really enjoyed reading your blog posts.
    Any way i’ll be subscribing to your feed and i hope you
    post again soon.

  31. Posted November 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    If this is the type of sleep you are getting then it will not be overly productive in helping you gain and build muscle while you are asleep

  32. Posted November 6, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve used creatine for 6 months now and it seems to really help my endurance. It seems like I’m not getting as tired and can do more reps. I don’t know if that’s the creatine or not. I’ve also been following this workout program <a href=”http://permanentrealmuscle.com/7/muscle-gaining-secrets-review/” keyword=”_top”Muscle Gaining Secrets and it’s been working great. Thanks for the great information.

    Roger

  33. Posted December 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The part you talk about hormonal and testosterone release is so vital to anything that is done with lifting or exercising.

    Very few people forget to mention it, but you did ;)

  34. Posted December 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I really agree with the statement that what you do out of the gym is more important than what you actually do in the gym. The problem is however, that many of us increase the intensity of our workouts or get insufficient amounts of rest, or even worse, a combination of both. The trick is finding the right balance between workout volume and intensity, and rest and recovery. Over-training effects both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in the following negative ways: Higher resting heart rate , weak appetite, high blood pressure, weight loss, trouble sleeping, increased metabolic rate, irritability and early onset of fatigue.
    Columbus Personal Trainer

  35. Posted January 21, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Hi - this is a great post and one that needs to be told to many gym goers. Too often I see people over training and then they think they are hard gainers. You need rest after the gym in order to get bigger/stronger - no argument! I tell all my clients that they should never work out more than 2 days in a row. I tell them to go for a walk on the non gym days.

  36. Posted January 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Muscle recovery is very important. Overtraining only leads to injuries and instead of building muscle, you will lose it.

    Rest, sleep and recovery allows your muscles to recover and grow.
    Author of arimatest information.

  37. Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Rest/sleep is just as important as your nutrition, food intake, and supplements. You need all of them combined with a perfect training routine to accomplish your goals.

  38. brian
    Posted May 18, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    my routine is chest/legs on tues, thur & sat arms /back/shoulders wed & sun mon & fri off
    would that be considered too much, or not sufficient recovery time ? also, I tried creatine once before ( pills from GNC ) but didn’t see any results so I stopped. a friend told me to use powdered creatine in a bottle of water. before I purchase any more I want to make sure it’s worth it. any advice ?

  39. Posted July 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I really liked this! Great information was provided

  40. Juan
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi, my name is Juan and I love bodybuilding. Bodybuilding for me is a way, a chance for self-actualization. Is a passion that makes me feel that I’m alive. Thanks for this post.
    Juan autor of Como vender en internet.

  41. Posted July 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Rest is as important a consideration as nutrition when it comes to building muscle but it doesn’t get as much coverage as it should. I suppose nobody can really ’sell’ anything related to rest unlike pushing the latest supplement or post workout meal?

  42. ishmael
    Posted August 2, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    i used to be a bodybuilder and have been out of action for a long time,i have purchased a bottle of creatine monohydrate and i’m on my loading phase.just started training a day ago.i’m however still using thermo complete from herbalife,all i want to know is whether there is any danger when the two products are used concurrently.i really need to get back into shape,pliz help!

  43. Posted September 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m always amazed at how much I can learn about bodybuilding, especially after years of training! You’ve got some nice information, and I very much appreciated the tips.

    Some new take-home lessons, Thanks!

  44. Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Superb blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any suggestions? Kudos!

  45. Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Its a new kind of information for me. I have learned lot of new ideas with this blog. Now we can build muscles during sleep.

  46. Creatine Blog
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the nice compliment. My advise, write about what you love. Your passion about the topic will come through and people will pay attention. Thus far, word press has worked for me…

  47. Creatine Blog
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Hi Ishmael,

    If this product contains caffeine, then it may undermine the potential benefits of creatine. Check out this page for more information: http://www.creatinemonohydrate.net/creatine_newsletter_7.html

  48. Creatine Blog
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Agreed, but people do write about it. For instance: creatine-blog.com/how-to-build-muscle-while-sleeping/

  49. Creatine Blog
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Buena Suerte

  50. Posted October 29, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    I am glad to be a visitant of this thoroughgoing internet blog ! , thankyou for this rare information ! .

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