A blonde woman doing a tuck jump on a rocky beach.

Late nights lead to muscle loss – but HIIT can help


If you were hoping you’d get more (or better) sleep this year, chances are that hasn’t gone according to plan.

These extended periods of isolation and lockdown have left many people feeling more exhausted than ever. And to be honest, plenty of us weren’t doing great at the whole ‘getting enough sleep’ thing to begin with.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Everyone is different, but generally, women aged 18–64 need between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night. Unfortunately, as many as 45% of Australians don’t get the sleep they need, and only about a third of Americans hit the minimum 7 hours a night.

Yawn, right? You probably know that getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining your health (not to mention your sanity), but did you know it’s also a key ingredient in your strength gains?

The booty you’ve worked so hard to build and the shoulders you’ve spent the last six months defining don’t take kindly to a lack of sleep. If you’re training to strengthen and define, good quality sleep is essential to help your muscles to repair and build. But here’s the real kicker – research also indicates that inadequate sleep doesn’t just prevent muscle gain, it is actually associated with LOSS of muscle mass.

Look, we get it. Sometimes, not getting enough shut-eye is simply unavoidable.

The good news is if you’ve been up all night with a sick child, unable to sleep because of racing thoughts or simply couldn’t say no to a few more episodes of your favourite show, there might just be a way to make sure your tiredness doesn’t get in the way of your progress.

HIIT can prevent muscle loss

That’s right! New research suggests that HIIT can cancel out the negative effects that a lack of sleep can have on muscle mass.

Emily Skye holding a resistance band in both hands.

Bad night’s sleep? Emily’s Power HIIT session might be just what you need.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers investigated whether high-intensity interval training may have an impact on muscle loss induced by lack of sleep.

HIIT is often recommended as the best form of cardio to combine with strength training. This is because HIIT increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis (your body’s muscle-building process). Those researchers we mentioned took a group of healthy young subjects and compared their muscle mass on normal sleep (8 hours in bed), restricted sleep (4 hours in bed), and restricted sleep PLUS three HIIT sessions a week.

The study drew some pretty complex conclusions about the relationship between our muscles and sleep, but there is a big takeaway for the sleep-deprived among us: data suggests that while muscle protein synthesis is usually reduced by lack of sleep, it can be maintained by performing HIIT.

Sum it up – I’ve got muscles to sculpt!

For the sake of long-term health and wellbeing, we should all be aiming to get sufficient sleep. However, for those times that life gets in the way, you can offset muscle loss with regular HIIT sessions. It’s important to note that this isn’t a sustainable option – we need sleep to perform at our physical and mental best. But if life is a little bit chaotic and your sleep suffers, remember that HIIT is your friend!

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