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In Defense of Sleep: Mike Portman

Today, we welcome Mike Portman who is going to be sharing from time to time about various aspects of being a healthy, plant-strong athlete.

From being a couch potato early in his life, Mike has changed his life through food and endurance sport. He has become a winner of numerous races and it is common to see him on the podium whether overall or his age group. Attributing much of his gains to his positive mental outlook to training and plant-based diet Mike also coaches athletes in endurance sports to help them get the results they desire. You can find out more about Mike on his website: www.PortmanCoaching.com.

In Defense of Sleep: Mike Portman 



There’s always new studies telling us how much sleep is important for our body and mind. Every few months there’s a new study trying to calculate how many hours a person needs. I’m here to tell you that trying to find your ‘magic number’ isn’t that hard to find for athletes, parents, students, or any other person living in todays world.

The benefits of sleep

For most people sleep is possibly the one thing we do most of over our lifetime, and for good reason. The major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein  synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep. Unless we give our bodies enough hours we are always going to be playing ‘catchup’ in terms of body regeneration.

As well as giving our body time to ‘regenerate’, hours upon hours of sleeping is a great way to easily burn calories. For example, during sleep, it would take a 150 pound individual roughly 37 hours to burn a pound of body weight (3500 calories / 95 calories = 36.8 hours). So if this individual sleeps 8 hours a night that 1.5 lbs lost in sleep alone. Obviously this person would have to eat during the day to make up this calorie deficit, but just showing how much of an impact sleep can have in terms of calorie burning. More sleep. = More calories burned.

Everyday we are all open to stress. Whether that has to do with environment, poor diet, exercising (yes, working out is a form of stress), relationships, or many others. These types of stresses impact a thing called our cortisol, and cortisol levels. Cortisol is an important hormone in our body and when it is stressed it impacts things such as fat burning, mental clarity, recovery time, and others. The good news is that when individuals get enough sleep our body is great at fighting these stresses and giving ourselves good sound levels so we can tackle all these outside stresses. For athletes when we do not get enough sleep our bodies become stretched beyond their healthy limits and negative effects happen such as unnecessary weight gain, increased hunger, higher chance of injury, and it takes us longer to recover from workouts.

How much sleep?

To determine how much sleep we need as individuals is an easy answer but can be tough to wrap around. I believe Dr. Douglas Graham said it best in his bookNutrition and Athletic Performance, “How much sleep does a person need? The answer is simple. Enough”

So what does this mean? Take a look back and think about all the times you’ve woken up feeling crummy and look at the times you’ve awoken feeling great and refreshed. More often than not the times you have woken up feeling great were the times you didn’t need an alarm and you went to bed earlier than usual. That is the feeling of getting ‘enough’ sleep. If a person needs an aid such as an alarm to wake their bodies up then the body isn’t fully rested from the previous day. Everyone has different lifestyles so it’s hard to put an exact number down on how much every person needs ideally. However I would say that it is rare that I run into a person who gives their body enough rest.

Putting it into practice

For many this idea of getting enough sleep can be tough. Mainly due to the fact that our lives these days run a lot longer than our ancestors who just lived their days by the sun and the moon to dictate when to go to bed. We have things such as late night television, computers, work, kids, specific training hours, and more. While some of these things are harder to take out of your schedule than others, we can try to do the little things to get more sleep. Close the laptop when you are just browsing the internet, record the sports game and watch it some other time, and plan your day more efficiently so when it comes to bed time you can wind down and go to sleep.

For a week try to go to sleep 30 minutes earlier than you usually do. The physical and mental benefits perhaps may not be something noticeable right off the bat, but that is 3.5 hours a week more of sleep. If you can commit to an extra hour of sleep each night then that’s almost adding an extra day of sleep per week! The amount of benefit from that extra amount for your body to rest is incredible.

For athletes and non athletes alike sleep can be so incredible to your health and body performance. So go start working on getting ENOUGH sleep and catch some zzz’s.

About the author

Mike Portman
From being a couch potato early in his life, Mike has changed his life through food and endurance sport. He has become a winner of numerous races and it is common to see him on the podium whether overall or his age group. Attributing much of his gains to his positive mental outlook to training and vegan diet Mike also coaches athletes in endurance sports to help them get the results they desire. You can find out more about Mike on his website: www.PortmanCoaching.com

3 Responses to “In Defense of Sleep: Mike Portman”

  1. Ben says:

    Great blog post! People can’t believe it when I tell them that a) I don’t drink coffee (or any other caffeine), b) I haven’t used an alarm in over 2 years, c) I’m generally up and going around 6 a.m., 7 a.m. when I’m “sleeping in.” That’s changed recently having a 1 month old, but once I went plant-based and had energy during the day from food, not drugs (coffee), my body was able to regulate sleep much better! There’s no better feeling than going to bed when tired and waking up rested and ready to go with no alarm!

    My only nit-picking comment – the math about burning calories had me really confused until I realized that you meant to add “that’s 1.5 pounds (per week)”. Otherwise, really enjoyed this post!

  2. Sarah B says:

    I agree with Ben on the confusing math, but overall great post! I have never been a coffee drinker and draw boundaries all the time to protect my sleep. I think people need to listen to their bodies more for sleep, stress, and emotional needs. Adding meditation to your day helps you do this plus leads to more restful sleep.

  3. Kirsten says:

    Great post…since adapting a plant strong diet, I find that I sleep MUCH better, and don’t need that nasty alarm clock to wake me up:)

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