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Does this completely negate my workout? Is there something I can do to compensate for it today? I know it was only one session, but I just absolutely hate the feeling that the entire session wasted. Was it?

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  • I just hope you're not denying your legs... Aug 26 '15 at 1:33
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Short answer: Don't worry about it. This is a detail.

Long answer: Restitution is very important, but as long as you don't go back to the gym and start doing another upper body workout immediately, you're still resting. You can, for instance, compensate by eating a bit more, and providing more nutrition to the muscles.

So long as this is something that happens rarely, it's not something you need to worry about. Not even the most successful strongman or bodybuilder or fitness model gets 8 hours every single night.

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I often consider good workouts followed by negligible sleep to be lost workouts that need to be repeated. We don't get stronger or bigger from lifting, we get stronger or bigger from lifting then eating and resting.

One and a half hours sleep is extreme. I would consider your workout nearly wasted. Get back to a good sleep schedule, eat plenty, hydrate, get some sun, and stop worrying about it. You're doing the best you can.

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  • what if the rest time was an hour or two less than usual? would it help to sleep those 1-2 hours during next day?
    – Herokiller
    May 25 '15 at 3:18
  • @Herokiller In my own training I've found a direct relationship between sleep quality and recovery. Naps can help but they aren't the same as the real thing. May 25 '15 at 4:44
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    @DaveLiepmann - I somewhat agree, but I think that so long as his habits are otherwise on point, and this was a one-time deal, then it's not a wasted workout. Since he's talking about this as a particular case, I'm assuming that there's nothing wrong with his sleeping schedule and dietary habits. He should be able to catch up on sleep, and still enjoy the benefits of that workout. It's not like the first sleep after a workout is necessarily the only one that counts.
    – Alec
    May 29 '15 at 14:33
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Answering your question is difficult and requires a guess at best. The ability to recover from an exercise session is a very individual thing. There are many factors (diet, stress, age, etc.) that need to be considered, one of which, is sleep. And, the level of intensity of your workout will also factor into your ability to recover and build mass.

Does this completely negate my workout?

I don't think so. Building mass (naturally) is a long term process. You shouldn't feel like it was a “wasted session”. The fact that you recognized the importance of sleep should provide an incentive in the future to follow through on it.

Is there something I can do to compensate for it today?

I would not stress about it. And, I would not try to work harder “today” to make up for it. You run the risk of putting your body (and CNS) in a deficit. If you plan to train “today”, I would approach the workout as a “maintenance” session.

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I know how much that sucks because it happens to me too from time to time.

I don't think it is a fully wasted workout. I am doing a linear progression. Each time when I don't get a minimum amount of sleep, I simply insert one additional rest day. When I eventually go back to the gym, I always find that it was not so terrible after all, because my linear progression has moved forward, i. e. I am still able to do some more reps, sometimes as many as I had expected, only a day or two later. So I guess that inserting one or more additional rest days sort of compensates at least partially. I believe that bad sleep slows down my progress but it does not stop it altogether.

Don't get obsessed. Just do your best to get enough sleep: avoid caffeine altogether, wake up at the same exact time every day, don't work out short before going to bed (google for "sleep hygiene" for more useful tricks) and insert rest days whenever that is not possible.

I would like to show you something that will convince you of not worrying so much about one isolated sleepless night. Since I started my training five months ago, I register my sleep times together with my weight, reps and so on. I have now enough data to start drawing some interesting conclusions:

The first graphic shows how many hours I sleep each day vs how many hours I slept the day before. This graphic really pisses me off: as you see, sleeping more than six hours for me has often bad consequences the following night, I will not be tired enough and I won't sleep much. I have accepted that and stopped trying to get as much sleep as possible every night. This has improved my quality of life. I don't sleep much, but at least I sleep regularly now.

enter image description here

But the most interesting graphic follows. The horizontal axis shows here the same: how many hours I sleep each day. But the vertical axis shows the average hours slept each day plus the day before (for instance, 3 hours today and 7 hours tomorrow will be 5 hours in the vertical axis):

enter image description here

The points here have a tendency to clutter in a central band. That shows that having a bad night is not so important in the long run, because my body will compensate the following day (assuming I allow for that). It is not perfect (the band is not horizontal, so yes, the missing slept is never 100% recovered) but it should show you that, as long as you allow your body to compensate the missing hours, a poor sleep night is diluted in just a couple of days.

Your muscles do not recover and grow during the very first post-workout night only. It takes a couple of days as anyone here will tell you. If you couple that fact with the latter graphic, you won't worry so much about missing one isolated night.

Of course, if you don't allow for recovery the next night and so you start missing one night after the other, nothing I said is valid and you will be ruining not only your workouts, but your entire health. Also, it is important to stress here that I always insert an additional rest day in my schedule for each bad sleep night.

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