T Nation

Eat or Sleep?


Let's say someone has their diet and training in check. They are eating enough to grow and recovering properly in between training sessions. They train at night, so they are pretty beat after the workout.

Here's the question: Should they go to bed and get an extra hour of sleep, or take in a required meal(300-500 cals) to hit their macros? Assume prepping and eating the meal cuts an hour off their night's sleep.

Choose one or the other, not both or else this defeats the purpose of the discussion. Let's also assume that that extra meal puts them in a caloric surplus. Otherwise, they are eating right around maintenance. The goal is lean muscle gain.

I think that sleeping an extra hour will provide more benefits for recovery than getting in a small meal and sacrificing sleep. Your CNS and hormone levels will let you function better the next day as well as the wonderful recovery benefits of extra time in REM sleep.



Sleep. Hands down.


Although you're trying to pick one, it seems like if there's a convenient way to eat without losing sleep time that would be ideal. Would it be possible to prepare a meal earlier and eat it, or have something quick like a MAG-10 and Finibar (no cooking required, probably 10 minutes to eat)?


For more optimal workouts and such long term, extra sleep would likely help.

BUT, to grow, you HAVE to have the required fuel and energy. If you aren't hitting your macros or eating enough to grow, you'll spin your wheels. So I'd get the meal in, lose the hour of sleep.

I know many who made great gains on less then optimal amounts of sleep. I've never seen anyone make great gains not eating enough (in the context of muscle gain).




I would vote sleep, unless you're hungry before bed. I usually eat if I'm hungry lol.


As I stated, the person is at maintenance calories if they go to bed an hour early. Every day, you burn different amounts of calories so I think there will still be plenty of recovery to build muscle without the additional meal and the extra sleep.

Obviously, this is not going to be ideal doing this consistently and adjustments will have to be made to fit the calories in earlier, but that takes away from the discussion.


I guess I'm confused then. Are you saying this is happening to the person consistently in this hypothetical? Or is this probably a one time thing? One time thing, I choose sleep. Multiple times... Food.


I concur.


I should have planned out my post a bit better lol. Let's say it is a consistent thing so we can talk about the benefits of extra sleep vs extra food.


Ok then, I'll argue that if it's a consistent thing, then food > sleep.

Getting more sleep is obviously beneficial. You'll likely feel better, be stronger, more alert, all that. If we are discussing just getting stronger, then yeah I'd probably go with sleep.

But for muscular gains, eating at maintenance (true maintenance for this hypothetical) will result in no significant muscular growth IMO. Yeah, you can recomp to a degree, but even that usually takes carb cycling and such into account, and for this scenario we aren't really talking about making adjustments daily to make up for the meal vs sleep thing. Your body NEEDS some kind of surplus to build muscle. If it's truly maintenance, and you're breaking even every night, I think you'll basically just spin your wheels if trying to make optimal muscular gains.

Sleep is important, but an hour of sleep lost isn't going to be the death of anyone. lol. Your body can adjust to less sleep, and compensate. Your body can't manufacture more calories. Oh, and the whole GH release while sleeping and such, I'm not giving that any real consideration, because an hour lost of GH or whatever natural hormones are released during sleep is going to be minimum at best. The only real value IMO of sleep is for CNS recovery and such, not so much growth.


Wow surprised so many people said sleep! I would have definitely said food. I think Matt Kroc would too. That guy's entire life has practically been not much sleep with tons of calories lol.


Blend a shake. Get the extra food and sleep.


This is a silly question. Assuming you mean Cal or kcal, not cal.

1) 500kcals can be chugged while changing to pyjamas.
2) You can and should just eat more during the day
3) you can add few extra scoops to get 500kcal to your postworkout drink.

without sacrificing sleep.


LOL guys this is a thought experiment. Of course there are parameters that could easily be adjusted to do 'both', but that's not the purpose. Dude basically wants to discuss the value of sleep vs food


I know it's an easy fix, but not the point I'm trying to discuss.

Would 5 hours of sleep vs. 10 hours of sleep be enough to account for the difference in caloric surplus vs caloric maintenance?

I think lack of sleep can be made up for with more Cals. I'm not sure if it works the other way around though, but it would be an interesting experiment. Also, your body has stored energy in the form of fat so more sleep with lower kcals would tap into that energy. I'm inclined to say more sleep would be better until you hit a certain level of leanness.


5hours sleep per 24h is way too little for an active and progressing bodybuilder in the long run imho.
Besides, if you are stimulant free, 5h a sleep in the long run is impossible unless you are being chased by dinosaurs during day time.
Most people who sleep 5h during a night take naps during the day or then these dangerous "micro-sleeps" that they dont even notice.


Also, lack of sleep messes with CNS and/or hormones.
When I was in the army @ 18yo didnt feel horny all week in barrack where we slept 6.5h a night on average or during camps at 4h sleep.

But after a few nights a row with 9h sleep it was a different story...


Lol... seriously?


some of us live just fine on less than 5hrs sleep..not that it's my choice, but, just sayin'.