TN50#117, Sleep, Digestion and Muscle Synthesis Walk into a Bar, 22 May 2023

Hi Team,

Happy Monday and welcome to The Next 50 #117.  I like to think of personal performance in 3 parts: physical, mental and emotional; my frameworks focus on 4 Levers: Eat, Sleep, Move, Think.  This blog is my sandbox for sharing information that you might find useful regarding your personal performance.

If you’re like me and the past 2 weeks have been non-stop, end of school year events with your kiddos you may have found yourself eating party food way to close to bedtime.  Can you relate?  Let’s start with a joke.

Three Biological Processes walk into a bar: Digestion, Sleep and Muscle Synthesis… AND I have absolutely no idea how to make this into a joke so let’s just jump right into the point of this here blog and talk about the timing of these 3, these oh so important 3; did I mention I have theater kids.

Anywho: Digestion, muscle synthesis and sleep all play vital roles in keeping our bodies in tip-top shape.

When we sleep, our bodies get a chance to recharge and repair themselves and the food we’ve digested gives our body the material needed for that repair.  When we have the right repair and building material available during sleep, we can rest assured (man I crack myself up) that muscle synthesis and other improvements and repairs will be optimized.

Now, imagine you’re at that all-you-can-eat buffet, drooling over a mountain of mouthwatering meatballs and you realize it’s almost bed time.  So, you quickly chow down on a little less but still way too much food wash it down with a cold IPA, then focus your thought work on getting digestion done a quickly as possible.  Ok that was another bad joke, but if any of you have a mindfulness practice that helps you digest food quickly, please share it with me and I’ll pass it to the group.

Your dialed-in routine is a well-planned dinner, stopping all calories at least 3 hours before bed but this night you’ve just stuffed yourself with party food and it seems like within the hour your bed has a tractor beam that’s pulling your body in and there’s no stopping it.

You drift off wondering, “I wonder what happens after I stuffed myself and I’m going to sleep within an hour of eating?”  And the answer is, well, a bunch of stuff is happening but none of it is happening very effectively or efficiently.  The bottom line here is we don’t digest food and repair and rebuild muscle and other tissues at the same time.  So, you have a bunch of undigested food in your belly and your body shifts gears from digestion mode to sleep and rebuild mode.

Let me repeat that:

During sleep, your body focuses on repair and rejuvenation.  During sleep you can’t digest food and repair and rebuild muscles at the same time, because both processes require a lot of energy and your body is smart and it knows how disastrous trying to juggle digestion and muscle synthesis at the same time would be.  Kind of like driving through a busy intersection and putting on eye makeup at the same time – which I recently witnessed during heavy morning traffic here in Castle Rock, CO.  Both are recipes for disaster.

All right, let’s wrap it up!  Our bodies have a system in place. When it’s time to sleep, digestion takes a backseat. The focus shifts to muscle repair and growth. Our bodies focus on one task at a time.  So, remember when you hit the hay with a belly full of food your body is smarter than you are and will do what it needs to do for your best outcome.  Just keep the following 3 secondary outcomes in mind:

  1. Sleep quality will be down
  2. Acid Reflux will be up
  3. Blood Sugar will run wild all night

My recommendation:  Don’t go to bed with a belly full of food as part of your normal personal performance routine.  Digestion, muscle synthesis, and sleep all have their designated times to shine. Give each of them the focus they deserve and watch how they return the favor as you shine.

My other recommendation is immediately initiate recovery mode the next day; but I’ll save that “how too” for another day!

As always share the post with your team and anyone who might find it useful and let me know what you think!

Have a good one, Alex

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