Tag Archives: muscles

Another reason to get enough sleep

We are all aware of the fact that inadequate sleep makes it harder to function; we are only vaguely aware it could lead to some long-term health problems. For one thing, if we don’t get enough sleep, we are likely to end up looking like this:


Its effects on the brain are also well known, but many are unware of the role it plays in obesity and diabetes. Sleep deprivation can become part of a vicious cycle in which it is difficult to exercise, which in turn makes it difficult to get enough sleep(exercising during the day improves sleep quality at night), which makes it difficult to exercise, etc. But there is more to it that that.

So let’s see what our friends at the Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, had to say about the Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes

Evidence is rapidly accumulating to indicate that chronic partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. Laboratory studies in healthy volunteers have shown that experimental sleep restriction is associated with an adverse impact on glucose homeostasis. Insulin sensitivity decreases rapidly and markedly without adequate compensation in beta cell function, resulting in an elevated risk of diabetes. Prospective epidemiologic studies in both children and adults are consistent with a causative role of short sleep in the increased risk of diabetes. Sleep curtailment is also associated with a dysregulation of the neuroendocrine control of appetite, with a reduction of the satiety factor, leptin, and an increase in the hunger-promoting hormone, ghrelin.

That sounds really scary. So if you are having trouble sleeping, dim your lights at night as much as possible since light can be stimulating; do not watch TV before bedtime or use your computer(unless you dim it a lot, like I did with my screen). Avoid spicy food, caffeine and alcohol as well. Alchol may help you fall asleep, but the sleep will be of poor quality. Sugary food is also out of the question. Avoid pills at all costs, you do not want to become dependent on them. Remember that it is during your sleep when your muscles grow the most. It is not a good idea to exercise within a few hours before bedtime, unless it is very light exercise.

Lactic acid is not your enemy

The idea that lactic acid causes muscle fatigue and stiffness during exercise is a stubborn one. It has been discredited by scientific research, but many fitness enthusiasts still see lactic acid as an enemy that interferes with performance.

Not only does lactic acid(which in the body is in the form called “lactate”) not cause muscle fatigue, it is actually used as an important fuel during vigorous exercise.

This myth goes back to the early 20th century, but it was fully discredited only recently.

All this begs the question: What is causing the fatigue and stiffness that was once blamed on lactate? According to researchers at Columbia University, it may be caused by overworked muscles leaking calcium, among many other factors. And acidity in general in fatigued muscles may play a role in stiffness and fatigue, it’s just not the lactate causing most of it.

So what’s the solution? The idea of calcium leakage partially causing muscle fatigue doesn’t mean most people should consume less calcium, as this is a vital mineral(it is possible to get too much, and it can cause problems but this is rare). However, and I am just speculating here, maybe ensuring adequate vitamin K consumption can help prevent this a little, since it helps with calcium metabolism, along with making sure you get enough magnesium. Calcium helps muscles contract, magnesium helps them contract as well as relax; if you have too much calcium in your body relative to the amount of magnesium, this can be problematic(in fact, not getting enough magnesium may be detrimental to your heart).

It is relatively east to get enough magnesium if you eat like a rabbit – lots of leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Fermented vegetables are an especially good source of vitamin K. If you are taking calcium supplements, it may be a good idea to take supplements that combine magnesium with the calcium, to counteract the potentially negative effects of calcium. Try discussing this with your doctor or pharmacist.

Proper hydration and making sure you are getting the right amount of electrolytes helps too. I don’t think stretching would help, since just because a muscle is stiff doesn’t mean it needs to be stretched. Increasingly, science is showing that stretching is practically useless for most people.