8 Ways to Improve Sleep Quality
BY COACH JUAN ROJAS
Is your goal to lower your body fat and gain muscle mass? Who doesn't want this ideal scenario!?
You might be one of those people who work extremely hard in the gym and make sure to get your nutritious meals in. You might even take it as far as knowing your macronutrients and ensuring that you are getting the adequate amounts of them necessary to create this fat burning/muscle gaining environment. You might be taking expensive supplements that can improve your health and performance. But, you might also be disappointed with your results and cannot pinpoint it as to why you are not progressing as well as you should. It seems like you are doing everything correctly right?!
One of the biggest underrated factors that I see many clients overlook is recovery; specifically sleep. When we sleep is when our body releases a cascade of hormones that will not only help us burn more fat but also build more muscle. It is when the body repairs tissue and ensures that our central nervous system has time to recover from our daily stress. If your central nervous system is overloaded, your progress in the gym will not go anywhere. You will feel tired, groggy, may experience discrepancies with sex hormones and perhaps even deal with signs of depression. You might even lose strength and the desire to train hard.
Now, let’s say you were getting 4-6 hours of sleep a night before reading this article and now you increased it to 6-8 hours of sleep. Does this automatically mean that you are going to be getting better results, feel more alert and be healthier? Not necessarily. Just being in bed or even having restless sleep, even if it’s more than 8 hours, will not be sufficient enough to improve your quality of life. There are different stages of sleep, and the most important one for recovery is the stage of REM. For anybody with average healthy sleep, REM sleep accounts for about 20-25% of your nightly sleep. If we are restless sleepers or are constantly waking up, we are not be maximizing our REM sleep. 6 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep a night would be much more productive than 8 hours of sleep where you are constantly tossing and turning.
Now that we know that deep sleep is key to maximizing our recovery and results in the gym, you may ask yourself, how can I maximize this state of recovery? It is crucial to have certain rituals in your day and pre-bed to maximize the quality of your sleep! Here are 8 tips that will help you get better sleep, thus greatly accelerating your fitness goals!
Our body was naturally made to effectively get restful sleep. Unfortunately, the pace of life in modern society along with many other factors has greatly impacted our ability to sleep as efficiently as possible. This is why it is crucial to follow these 8 tips and try to maximize your time in bed. Remember, rest is as equally important for results as training and nutrition are!
By Juan Rojas
I go much more in depth on this topic in the book I have written about Jon Andersen's life. It can be found at:
Think about a dream destination that you would like to travel to but have never visited before. You embark on the next plane, boat, car, spaceship, zeppelin, submarine etc. of your choice and go out to this land that you have always dreamed of being in. Once you get to the closest airport or wherever else your mode of transportation is set to arrive, you are dropped off and left on your own. You do not know the language, you do not have access to a map or a GPS, and you do not even have a compass on you! You know that your desired final destination is only a few hours away, but you have no idea how to get there and didn’t plan properly prior to your trip. You might be able to get a few locals to understand you through hand gestures, drawings and playing charades. At this point you might feel like you are making progress! Only problem is, there was a misunderstanding between you and the locals and now you are in a place even further away from your destination. After many hours of walking in circles, you finally are able to reach your destination because you stumbled upon an internet café. Here, you were able to sit down and properly put in the research of how to exactly get to your destination. The important part is that you arrived, although, how much better would things have been if you could have saved yourself the hassle and stress of being lost for hours on end in an unknown potentially dangerous place?
This is similar to what happens with people and their dreams. They have a certain dream they want to achieve but never really take it further than the thought of: “It would be really nice to be there.” From time to time they will work slightly towards reaching this dream but they have no direction and are completely lost. The individual gets discouraged and ends up going back to their mediocre life where they live comfortably. A select few might one day reach it, but it may them a lot longer than needed if they did not maximize their resources. We want to turn our dream into a goal and that is done by setting a timeline for it! The first step towards achieving a goal, will be to research how long it realistically takes to get there. Once you do this, you must evaluate your personal life and commitment towards your goals in order to set a date of when exactly you want to achieve this goal by and what specifically you can measure your ability to reach this goal with. If your goal is simply “I want to be successful and rich”, it will be much harder to achieve as this is not clearly defined and has no timeline. Something like “I want to feel happy and spend more time with my kids, drop 20 lbs. of fat and make an extra 25% on my income by this time next year” is a much more clearly defined goal with measures and a timeline.
Picking an attainable clearly defined goal will be a key factor in your success. Clearly define your goal and write it down somewhere where you can see it daily. Doing this to even the minutest details will allow you to see it as a reality. Meditation can be a great tool as well in order to enhance this as it will show you clarity as success is approached. Visualize yourself in the place where you want to be, as this will help you get a preview of the positive feelings you will encounter when you get there; this can be a very powerful motivator.
Clearly defining your goal will also be the first step in reverse engineering. Once you have defined your ultimate goal, I want you to write it down at the bottom of a sheet of paper. Now, write down at the top of the sheet at what point you are currently in this journey. Begin from the bottom of the sheet and work your way up on the necessary steps you must take in order to get from where you want to be, to where you are at now. If you are unsure of the steps, researching the internet, reading books, and seeking out individuals who have done something similar to what you want to do will be of great value to your success. For example, if there is an individual wanting to become a commercial airline pilot, the steps might look something like this:
Obtain a bachelor’s degree--> Train and obtain private pilot’s license-->Log 250 flight hours under different weather conditions--> Pass Federal Aviation Administration tests-->Become a co-pilot for a well-respected company--> Obtain career as commercial airline pilot
Once you have reverse engineered your journey to success, make sure to constantly reevaluate where you are standing in your journey. Once you have all these steps written down, your goal turns even more realistic by becoming a plan. Now that you have steps that will show you exactly how to reach the end result, it makes it much more real. This plan can constantly be changing, but ultimately will lead you to the success you seek. Begin by setting a time frame that you will give yourself to get to each step in your journey and devise a plan on how you will get there!
Here is a step by step guide on how to turn a dream into a plan:
Step 1 Find an appropriate gauge to measure your progress towards your goals. In this situation perhaps make it a routine to spend a minimum of 15 minutes every day without electronics or distractions and do some sort of activity that is getting you closer to your goals. Jot down on a calendar every day that you are successful with this new daily task.
Step 2 After some time has passed, gauge what your progress has been in the last one, three, six and twelve months as you strive towards your goal. Check for trends on where your progress was accelerated and determine what caused it. Perhaps the first 3 months you were able to do this specific action every day, but after this, it started becoming every other day and your quality time kept diminishing over time.
Step 3 Be honest and ask yourself, are you happy with the amount of progress you made? Could you be spending more time dedicated towards achieving or accelerating this plan? Maybe all the activities you have going on in your life can be cut down and a few extra hours a week can be dedicated to invest more time into your plan.
Step 4 If the answer to being able to progress at a faster rate is yes, then you must research and pinpoint what is holding you back. Determine what you must do in order to keep an accelerated rate of progress.
Step 5 Once you have compared the research, look for trends in your results about what makes sense to you most. Here you can determine how variable factors will affect your progress. If you can find what has worked for you best under certain circumstances, stick with it. Write down what seems to be the best scenarios in order for you to progress. For example, you find that when you go to the gym at night you tend to socialize more and feel tired. This means that you must make an effort to go to the gym early in the morning before work. From this you can gather what methods in your lifestyle are crucial for you to maximize your results.
Step 6 Execute the plan and periodically check your progress to ensure you are getting closer to the end result.
Having a dream can easily be turned into a goal by setting an end date. Having a goal can easily be turned into a plan by having appropriate steps to getting to the end result. There is no reason why you cannot live out your dreams with the proper research, resources, effort and work ethic. Make sure that you are giving 100% effort daily in everything you do in order to live a happy life full of rewards!
Tags: nutrition, fat loss, motivation, goal setting, fitness, success, bodybuilding, powerlifting, macros, goals, weightlifting, personal trainer.
To read the full article featured on the amazing Canadian Physique Alliance Newsletter click this link: joom.ag/1H2Y/p56
By Juan Rojas
From every single rep, to every single set, to every single week that a competitor is getting ready to do a show, doing their absolute best is always on their mind. Some people do shorter preparations and some people do up to 6 months or more. At the end of the day, I do not see it as a few weeks of preparation for a show, but instead as years of hard work culminating into one moment of greatness. On average, as a coach I would say most preparations take between 12-20 weeks for a specific show. If done correctly, during this time period, the person has laser like focus and becomes a robot in terms of being able to stay highly motivated, regimented and still train intensely day after day despite not having a high amount of calories or energy within them. A contest preparation requires a lot of sacrifice and effort, but to many it is 100% worth the end result. Being on stage showing off their hard work and seeing that what at one point they thought would never be possible actually came into fruition.
Many competitors do not realize that the hard work is not done until the night show is over. They figure that because the last few days before a show might not involve cardio or training, that it is much easier and it is time to relax. Many cease training and cardio a few days prior in order to allow their body to recover and look better. They think the uncomfortable part is over with and now they can just cruise to the stage. This is far from true. For those who are getting ready for their first physique show or have friends and family members who do them, this article is a great insight into seeing what the last 48 hours of a show may seem like.
There is a term used in the physique competition world called “peaking” or “peak week.” This just means that certain strategies are used in order to make the body look at its “peak” of perfection right at the time that the show comes. This is done by using different techniques the last few days prior to a show in order to manipulate the way you look. The goal is to have the muscles as full as possible while having as little subcutaneous water as possible in order to see the maximum amount of definition and vascularity. I want to preface this with the fact that EVERYBODY is different and follows a different strategy. Even within the same coach, no two athlete’s peaking protocol should be the exact same. The last 48-60 hours with my athletes many decisions are made on the fly depending on how their body is responding. Although there is a general outline, a good coach will make sure to communicate with you constantly these last few hours in order to make sure you come in at your best.
I have just had the privilege of competing at the very first 2018 Toronto Pro Show Qualifier on June 1st and 2nd of 2018. This was such an amazing show full of the highest level of competitors from around the world. Although I did not place in the top 5, I was extremely happy with how I was able to present my physique and how I was able to “peak” along with the help of my coach Skip Hill. Everything was timed perfectly for Friday at noon which was when prejudging occurred. Timing is everything when it comes to peaking. Many athlete’s “carb up” a few days prior to the show, many do a very small carb up the day of the show etc. Everybody has different methods as everybody’s body responds differently. I will give you guys a rundown of what the last 55 hours of my journey to prejudging looked like along with how I stayed tight for the finals.
-At this point my body was retaining some water. I am a sponge when it comes to water retention. I had a large carbohydrate refeed a few days prior to the show which had me retain a bit of water. At this point I had no training sessions left and was on my off day nutrition plan. Meals of just protein and only 3 of these meals had small amount of fats in them and no artificial sweeteners or protein powders were used as many individuals can retain water using them. The goal is to retain as little water under the skin as possible.
-On this day there was no cardio and no training. Just minor posing practice and meal prepping in order to get ready for the few days required in Toronto for the show.
- More posing practice was done this evening in 10 minute spurts. I am a big fan of short posing practices as you are not on stage longer than 10 minutes. I see it counterproductive when I see people posing for hours straight on end.
- I practiced posing again for a few rounds. This day meals were the same as the day before but no vegetables were used at all in order to lower the fiber intake. On stage the goal is to have your waist as small as possible to give the illusion of a very wide V Taper.
-Began my first coat of spray tan by Absolute Touch. Many do not know that several coats of tan are required in order to have the adequate color your skin needs on stage to look your best. It may seem like your family members and friends are very dark when you see them under regular lighting. Under stage lighting though, if you are not this dark you will be washed out by the bright lights and your muscle definition will not be as apparent.
-Due to having the tan, it is important not to sweat or risk getting caught in the rain (this day it rained in Toronto) so many of the athlete’s including myself just sat and waited for the registration at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Getting your tan wet can be a nightmare for a competitor as you will look like a chocolate bar that is melting. Believe me, unfortunately I know this from personal experience. Due to the excitement and the early morning of travel into Toronto, many competitors lose sleep the last few weeks before a show. This was the perfect opportunity for them including myself to try and sneak a nap in, even if it was in public.
-Athlete registration and weigh in. This is a very important part of competing. The registration is where depending on which category, competitors are weighed and/or measured in order to be put in the appropriate weight class. Many competitors have to fast or even use saunas to sweat off extra water weight in order to make the weight class they want to make. Ideally you want to be at the top of your weight class in order to be at an advantageous position. This is also where we get the opportunity to chat with the judges briefly, hand in your posing music, and purchase photographic services so we can remember this amazing weekend.
-Back at the hotel room I did a check in with my coach and we were very pleased with how my body was drying out, now it was a waiting game until the next morning which was the day of the show. I slept about 4 hours and from 1 am on I was too excited and slightly nervous about looking my best that I was up since then assessing my conditioning and seeing how my body dried out even more. It is crucial not to dry out too much as it is important to have a balance of conditioning and still have your muscles full. Although, it is much easier to fill out your muscles through the use of extra carbs and a little bit of liquid as opposed to going overboard and being too full also known as “spilling over.” When you spill over too close to the show it is impossible to come back from it as your body does not get rid of this water in time.
- I went to Denny’s and got a white chocolate peanut butter cream pancake breakfast.
-2nd base of spray tan was put on and now my stage color was perfect tanks to the Absolute Touch Team.
-At this point I was filling out quite nicely and my muscles were getting fuller while my veins began popping. I still needed more carbs and a bit of sodium. I had a hamburger with sweet potato fries (prepackaged from the night before as where do you find a quality hamburger at that time in the morning!?) I had been craving a hamburger and fries for 3 months prior to this so I was very happy to have it, even if it was just microwaved from the day before.
-I decided to try out a new service the Absolute Touch team is providing which is make up for men. Maggie did my makeup and I could not have been happier! It really made an amazing difference in terms of looking great on stage but the biggest reason I chose to go with it is because it really prevents sweating while on stage. I sweat a lot when I get on stage and it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable getting sweat in your eyes. This did not happen with the make up being applied before and I recommend it to anybody who sweats or just plain wants to look their best the day of their show.
A few hours later
-At this point we were on our way to the show and before I step on stage I always have a breakfast sandwich from Tim Hortons.
-Backstage about 15 minutes prior to going out I began with some posing and pumping up. Many competitors pump up for hours on end backstage. This is a bad idea because there comes a point where your body begins losing its pump, especially since many people have cut their water many hours prior and are dehydrated. I always recommend to my athlete’s just a very brief 10 minute pump up before stepping on stage and mostly relying on posing to give you that pump. Pumping up fills your muscles with blood and will make your veins pop out even more giving a short term illusion for the amount of time you are on stage. At this point I also had some Reese’s peanut butter cups to get a little bit more sugar in my system to enhance that vascularity and pump
-My class got called to the stage and we all did our 30 second routines and get to square off against each other doing the 8 mandatory poses and 4 quarter turns required in bodybuilding. This is where we are judged on our symmetry, muscle size, level of conditioning and posing. There was about 20 guys in the light-heavyweight bodybuilding class and they all looked incredible. I got 3rd call out in this class full of amazing athlete’s. Although most of the judging is done at the prejudging it is important to look great the next day for the finals even if you did not get the first call out (which means you are top 5 most of the time). I still strategized to hold my condition for another 18 hours until the finals the next day.
I instantly went back to eating my normal prep meals for the remainder of the day.
-After another night of not much sleep I was I was getting my 3rd coat of tan in order to look sharp for the finals.
A few hours later
- I went to my trusted Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich. This made me peak perfectly again for when I hit the stage.
-The whole class was called to the front to do a very fun and entertaining 30 second pose down and then the top 5 in the class got to do their routine prior to the placings being awarded. After this it was time to enjoy a little bit of pizza and cookies and then right back to working on being a better bodybuilder for the next show!
This was the rundown of my prep from Wednesday until Saturday of the 2018 Toronto Pro Show Qualifier. I had the time of my life and got so meet so many amazing athletes, old friends, and even Instagram friends. The judges and the entire CPA staff was so amazing and this event would not be nearly as successful without them. For those who have never done a show or who had no idea what the last few hours prior to a show looked like, I hope this gave you an insight into how precise everything is hour to hour in order to peak. Oftentimes we see somebody doing a show and we overlook the amount of effort and dedication it takes in order to look like that for those few minutes on stage. We also forget that although you only see one person on stage, that person being up there most of the time involves a team of coaches, friends, family members and spouses who keep our head on track and make our lives easier. I want to thank all my friends, family and especially my wife as this sport would be a lot harder without her. Keep chasing your dreams and give your goals 100% of your effort!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.