December 7, 2015
by ASP Admin

Together with food, water, oxygen and protection from the elements sleep is one of the basic needs necessary for our survival. It’s a wonder then why something so fundamental has become one of the most under-prioritised aspects of our lives. We sacrifice sleep for our work, TV, phones, social media, computer games and much more, all without realising that getting adequate sleep each night is one of the keys to optimal body composition and having a leaner physique. It is a common-known fact that sleep is necessary for recovery, but “recovery” involves so much more than just recharging your batteries for the next day. Recovery also involves the regulation of specific hormones that promote improved body fat levels, reduction in stress levels, improvements in muscle mass and overall physical and psychogenic repair. Without adequate sleep people will tend to store more fat and find it harder to put on muscle.



Growth hormone (GH) is one of the most significant hormones in regulating anabolism in the body; it contributes to cell repair, cell reproduction and overall growth. Growth hormone is also a precursor to the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the liver which promotes muscle growth and cognitive function. From a fat loss perspective optimising GH production has been found lower body fat.

The significance of sleep in relation to GH is that the majority of GH is released by the pituitary as you sleep. Without adequate sleep GH production is supressed which, in turn, results in supressed production of IGF-1. Studies have found that individuals who consistently suppress GH production by not prioritising sleep generally have much lower muscle mass and higher body fat. Supressing GH production also translates to wasted efforts at the gym. Strenuous physical activity at the gym results in micro damage to muscles which must be repair adequately to prevent continual breakdown.


Cortisol is the primary stress hormone which, in excess amounts can have drastic negative effects on body composition. Individuals who place their bodies under chronic stress (whether it’s physical stress or emotional stress) will tend to store more fat, especially around the front of the tummy. This is an especially big problem in the corporate world where the stress of deadlines and productivity take over health and well-being.

One way to elevate cortisol levels (something you don’t want) is to sleep less. Studies have found that individuals who have sleep problems or average 5 hours or less of sleep store more body fat and also find it harder to lose body fat.

From the perspective of inflammation poor sleep increases inflammation in the body which not only increases physical stress—thus ramping up cortisol even more and increasing fat storage—but is also a major contributor to many diseases and overall poor health. In addition to this inflammation supresses recovery from training which can lead to decreased strength, poor muscle repair and impeded fat loss efforts.


Increased cortisol from a poor night’s sleep can have an effect on food consumption the day after. The reason for this is because when cortisol increases another hormone, insulin, tends to make its way in the picture. Insulin is responsible for storing nutrients, but is also commonly called “the fat storing hormone” since constantly elevated insulin levels contribute to fat storage. Cortisol and insulin are antagonistic hormones; when one goes up, the other goes down.

In times of stress (or elevated cortisol levels) one way to lower cortisol is to increase insulin, and one simple way of doing this is to eat refined carbs. This is one major reason why people tend to choose refined carbs or lollies when they stress eat. It’s never a celery stick with some nut butter.

If you want to be able to make better food choices throughout the day and prevent unwanted carb cravings then managing stress levels by improving sleep is a great way to do so.

All-in-all, sleep is an incredibly crucial factor in getting the physique you’re after. Keep in mind that the points above are only a few of the benefits of sleep in relation to fat loss and hypertrophy. The negative effects of under-prioritising sleep extend beyond the above points. Under-sleeping can lead to lowered testosterone levels, overall increased appetite, poor cardiovascular health, poor cognitive function, insulin resistance and much more.

It’s important to note that getting enough sleep means getting enough sleep each night. Most people are in the habit of neglecting sleep during the week and then “catching up” over the weekend. This up and down in sleep patterns is enough to disrupt circadian rhythms which results in diminished benefits of sleep, and can even increase physical stress. If possible it is ideal to maintain a similar sleeping pattern even on the weekends.

Stay tuned for Part 2 for tips on how to get a better night’s sleep! In the meantime, sleep tight!


September 15, 2012
by ASP Admin

Following my article Being Awake to the Problems of Losing Sleep many readers showed a keen interest in what I might have to recommend as remedies for improving sleep. So here’s my take on natural sleep solutions – A useful list of tips we all should know about foods, supplements and lifestyle habits in gaining a better night’s sleep.


Foods high in Tryptophan
(an amino acid) such as turkey, fish, dairy, eggs, bananas, figs, pineapples can make a good and relaxing evening meal. This is because tryptophan is involved in the production of serotonin, a feel good hormone that also helps induce drowsiness. However, try to refrain from eating big meals within 2 hours of your bed time, as this not only hinders growth hormone production but can disrupt the quality of sleep.

Refrain from eating or drinking stimulants
(things that are likely to increase heart rate and dehydrate you) such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and foods high in fat or salt close to bedtime. Caffeine from percolated coffee for example, has a half-life of 8 hours, meaning its effects on the adrenal system will last a whole eight hours! So ensure your last cup of coffee for the day is no later than 2:00- 3:00 pm in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll probably be in for a restless night.

Herbal Teas
are known for calming the adrenal system after a stressful day, though sometimes it may take up to 2 weeks of nightly use for the person’s system to feel and enjoy the tea’s full benefits. The most popular sleep-inducing herb is Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), an ancient remedy for insomnia. Common teas like Tulsi and Chamomile are also known to work a treat by reducing cortisol (a stress hormone). Other herbs include Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) from North America, which acts upon and calms the nervous system, and Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), recognised by European herbalists to aid digestion and induce sleep.


is a cheap yet effective supplement that will help with reducing cortisol, induce calm and improve sleep patterns. For those that find pills hard to swallow, magnesium creams are also highly effective as they get absorb into the skin and can act rapidly to give the same advantages.

is another helpful supplement. The Poliquin products range we stock in Melbourne include a product called Uber inositol. When taken just before bed, this supplement helps induce deep sleep by balancing out all neurotransmitter imbalances, including raising serotonin levels to help with sleep, and decreasing adrenaline levels.

Grapeseed Extract
is a powerful antioxidant 20 times more potent than vitamin E. If you are waking up between 1am and 3 am constantly, it can be an indication that your lung meridian (an energy centre of your body) is disrupted due to a lack of antioxidants. Regular doses of grapeseed extract often does the trick to help this sleep bump.

Liver Support Supplements
like the P1P2 balance from Poliquin that we have available in Melbourne, which can help improve the quality of sleep, especially if you find yourself frequently waking between 3am-5am. Often our liver has to work overtime to detoxify numerous toxins from our systems and this strain can affect sleep quality.

Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
works to reduce stress and high levels of adrenaline within the system, effectively calming a person down. When used before bed, PS is great for inducing deep sleep.


such as a walking, jogging or working out in the gym produces endorphins – chemicals which help you feel good and improve sleep. However, performing vigorous exercises close to bedtime can overly increase adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones), and be counterproductive to good sleep. As such, exercises should be done at least two hours before bedtime and not immediately before.
Light and Muscle Relaxing Exercises
like yoga, which can also help release physical and mental tension without overstimulating the body. Here’s a simple relaxation technique to be done in the “Savasana Position” (Lie flat on your back with a pillow under your upper body so that your shoulders are slightly elevated; this makes breathing easier). In this position, mentally focus on relaxing individual muscles in your body, starting from each toe, up your calves and thighs, through your hips, lower back, abs, chest, shoulders and neck. Focus on relaxing the muscles on your face and feel your eyeballs gently relax down into the eye sockets. Relax the temples and forehead, then the bridge of the nose, your cheeks and jaw muscles. Feel the connection between the ear passages and the jaws, and relax them. Allow your tongue to rest on the lower palate and for your relaxed mouth to be slightly parted. The key here is to focus on deep and effortless breathing. You’ll probably find yourself concentrating a little harder on the steps to do this initially, but constant


Stay Relaxed and Positive
when you cannot get to sleep. As rhetorical as this might sound, frustration or anger will only agitate you and tense your muscles up. Adopt a positive mindset and know that even if your mind can’t completely shut down, the fact that your body is in a restful position is already aiding muscle and tension recovery. Drowsiness often occurs in 30-45 min waves. If you happen to miss a wave, don’t get restless, simply relax your mind and body in time for the next wave.

Prayer or Journaling
can be an effective method for ‘getting stuff off your chest’. Speaking, thinking or writing out the day’s highs and lows, triumphs and anxieties can be an effective way to release these built up emotions. It may also help organise your thoughts and rationalise away any unnecessary worry or tension. One great technique I’ve learnt from Strength Coach Charles Poliquin recommended to many of our clients in Melbourne is to use a grateful log.
Here’s how it works: Before going to bed, get a pen (not a computer!) and write down at least 10 different things you are grateful for within the day. You could simply begin with: “I am grateful for…”.
As New Age as it might sound, this practice is very calming for the mind and helps you appreciate the world in a positive light before falling asleep. I have found this to ease all my stressed clients, prevent their minds from racing all night, and enrich the quality of their sleep significantly.


Try to Rid Your Bedroom of Electronic Distractions
such as televisions, laptops and phones. Apart from the obvious noise and lights disturbances, these devices also emit radiation that has had been scientifically shown to interfere with your sleep patterns.

Needing an Alarm Clock is NO Excuse to Use Your Phone
The best option would be a simple battery operated analogue clock. However for those that insist on having digital bed side clock, ensure that your clock has red numbers, since blue and green colours used on the digital clock stimulates the brain.

Sleep in a Cave!
Closing all curtains and blinds to have complete darkness encourages your body to produce more melatonin and to induce drowsiness. If you’re not able to get complete darkness in the room, use a sleep mask.


Avoid High Adrenaline Activities Before Bed
Adrenaline-fuelled activities are typically thought of as including strenuous exercise and daredevil stunts. However, what we consider relaxing, such as watching television or chatting online will also raise adrenaline and decrease melatonin production, thus disrupting your sleeping patterns. If you do have to watch television, make sure you choose an appropriate genre such as a relaxing comedy and not a thriller or horror flick.

How About SEX?
Is that too high an adrenaline activity to avoid before bed? Research shows that although sexual activity results in increased heart rate and adrenaline, it also helps us release a cocktail of brain chemicals and hormones, including prolactin, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin and nitric oxide (NO). These chemicals are strongly linked to the sensations of drowsiness and relaxation, as well as a reduction in stress levels – so sex can be a great help when trying to sleep.

Establish a Regular Sleeping Pattern
by going to bed the same time each night. This sets up your “body clock” so that you are more likely to feel tired at the same time every night. Research has found that ideal time for sleep is between 10pm and 6 am in the morning, where the first 4 hours are crucial for the physical recuperation and the next 4 hours, from 2-6am are for mental/psychogenic repair.

Refrain from doing “Daytime” Activities
whilst lying in your bed. (e.g. watching TV, working, studying, etc) Doing so gets your body used to being awake whilst lying down in bed and makes it harder for it to recognise and abide by sleeping patterns.


September 4, 2012
by ASP Admin

It is estimated that adults in modern western societies now sleep one and a half hours less on average than they did a century ago. Statistically, that averages to less than 7 hours of sleep a night, but in reality, only a portion of those hours can truly be accounted for as deep, sound sleep. So why is it that despite working harder, longer and faster, so many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to fall asleep at night, experiencing poor sleep, and then wake up exhausted and frustrated?

For some, the problem lies in taking work back home to complete, often resulting in bedtime anxiety and restlessness. Others are unable to get a good night’s rest due to sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnea or insomnia), chronic pain, medications or other health conditions.

Amongst the younger crowd however, the chronic lack of sleep tends to revolve around socialising, media and electronic devices – and often all at once. Using laptops and computers for movies, games, emails and social net-working, as well as mobile texting and calls are all common pre-sleep distractions. In fact, studies have shown that checking and replying to emails, or reading up the latest gossip on social network sites just before bed has the same effect on the excitatory system as drinking a double espresso! This effectively heightens brain activity and heart rate, making the individual restless just before bed and unable to drift into a deep sleep. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to the lights from a television set, mobile phone or a laptop (which in reality flashes at high speeds too fast for the naked eye to conceive) is intense enough to discourage any production of melatonin – a chemical in the brain that is released upon sensing darkness and induces a state of drowsiness.

Now burdened with a lack of sleep, we proceed to face our tasks for the new day, only to find that we’re less astute, grumpier and probably spending too much time staring at the added wrinkles on our face and droopy eye bags that weren’t there the day before. It’s obvious that sleep deprivation impacts us on both a mental and physical level, and when prolonged, can cause detrimental health consequences.


This topic remains one of the most widely researched areas of psychology and medicine. It is commonly accepted that though the brain may be able to compensate for a lack of sleep over a short period of time, its function undoubtedly decreases over prolonged periods of sleep deprivation.

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep impairs the brain’s ability to exhibit the appropriate emotions in a given situation, often resulting in irrational outburst or frustration. Without sufficient sleep, the receptors of our brains’ neurotransmitters are also unable to regain sensitivity. This causes lower production levels of monoamines – chemicals in our brain which are vital to regulating our moods and concentration. As such, a sleep deprived person will commonly experience increased moodiness, irritability and stress throughout the day. Additionally, sleep deprivation also impairs our attention and working memory, causing concentration lapses in simple routines – even those that we have practiced countless times over. The consequences of this can be trivial, such as forgetting to bring a pen to class, but can also be fatal, such as losing focus whilst driving.

In the long run, prolonged sleep deprivation has been found to disrupt the neurotransmitter balances in the brain, leading to states of depression and anxiety (which has been directly linked to an increase in suicide rate), as well as to the development of serious mental illnesses such as psychosis and bipolar disorder.


Not only does the lack of sleep disrupt the neurotransmitter balance in the brain, it also adversely impacts one’s hormonal system. Given that sleep is the body’s time to physiologically rest and recover, the lack of it induces a high state of stress within the system.

The production of cortisol, the stress hormone, causes the breakdown of amino acids (protein) from the muscles in the extremities like the legs and arms, and feeds it to the gut where it is stored as fat (that’s right, the lack of sleep will involuntarily make you fatter!). Cortisol also depresses the production of growth hormone and testosterone (both necessary for maintaining muscle mass and keeping one youthful), weakens the immune system and makes a person more insulin resistant (and thus increasing their chances of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and major fat gain). Furthermore, Studies in the U. S. have shown that when there is an onset of stress, there is a high tendency for people to emotionally eat (especially sweets), as this can temporarily produce a serotonin (‘feel good’ hormone) high, leading to weight gain and obesity – an epidemic that has never been so relevant as in modern society. Other long term effects also include high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

In athletes, sleep deprivation has been extensively studied in the context of motor skills and reaction ability, as measured via “Psychomotor Vigilance Tasks” (PVTs). These include areas of mental focus, reaction times and skill set – all of which have proven to be impaired when the athlete lacks sleep.

Sleep deprivation following a heavy training session also slows down the replenishment of glycogen in the muscles overnight, as well as growth hormone production. This has shown to disrupt optimal muscle repair processes and increase DOMs (delayed onset of muscle soreness). That’s not all. The body will also respond to the lack of rest by suppressing muscle building, and instead use up existing muscle stores to fuel low energy levels – a highly catabolic process! Additionally, testosterone (the primary muscle building hormone) and energy levels are likely to be decreased, thus affecting overall strength and performance in version a before feel the next training session.