We’ve all been there.
We’ve all been there- tossing and turning in our bedsheets at 4 AM wondering where it all went wrong knowing we have a test in 2 hours and the gym in 5.
I really do struggle with sleep issues- I’m not perfect and I frequently find myself staring at my ceiling counting sheep.
But, many of us sit there wondering, should I go to the gym without sleep?
Well, truthfully- no. Sleep is the way you regain energy and your muscles recover for the next workout. Without sleep, your workout will basically be useless as you won’t have the energy to even break down muscle well- and you’ll just be delaying the muscle growth process. However, if you do decide to go- make sure you work out a different muscle group, and I suggest some caffeine.
Let me explain this all in-depth.
Without Sleep, You’ll Have No Energy To Even Have an Effective Workout
First things first, without sleep- you’ll have no energy to even have an effective workout.
I know, I know- you probably feel like the king of the world right now and you’re ready to just crush the gym. But trust me, tiger, once you get to the gym you will feel like you’re a snail moving the wrong way on an escalator.
Truth is, your body needs energy- and it gets that by sleeping. Sure, in a real survival situation- things will be different. But, that is when your body truly enters survival mode, not just ‘slept poorly’ mode.
When you’re that tired and you’ve missed that much sleep, you’re going to have ZERO energy at the gym. Remember, when you’re at the gym you’re pushing yourself to your limits, not your minimums. Most people don’t realize how much energy they burn going to the gym every day, it’s truly EXHAUSTING.
Without that sleep, your body hasn’t recharged itself.
Now, when you get to the gym, you’ll barely be able to do reps on weight that is 40-50 pounds lower. It will feel like a real struggle.
It’s Better To Just Wait Until You Can Nap/Sleep So You Get a GOOD Workout
There’s this famous quote, “The only bad workout is one you never did”. And, yes, for most cases that’s true.
BUT, if you can just nap/sleep before you go to the gym, you will feel way better and have so much more energy to hit the weights with.
If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of free time in your day, you can take a 3-4 hour nap and get really recharged. In most instances, that 3-4 hour nap will be all you need to just recharge and get back to it.
If you’re like most people and don’t have 16 hours of free time a day, it’s honestly just better you wait ‘til the next day. Just take it as another rest day, think about how much more muscle and energy you’ll have for tomorrow, and live with it.
I know, I know- none of us like taking a rest day. But chances are, once you hit the gym, you’re going to be wishing you took one as you barely manage to curl 20 lbs for 3 reps.
Without Sleep and Energy, Your Workout Will Barely Grow Any Muscle
Once you sleep it all off, things will be much better and you’re going to have much more energy. This means you’ll actually have an effective workout that gets you the muscle growth you want.
When you go into the gym and lift super heavy and you make your muscles work really hard- you know you’re going to get that muscle growth.
When you’re super tired and you lift lighter things that don’t really test your muscles, you won’t see much muscle growth at all.
It’s all about ‘progressive overload’- the only real way to grow muscle. You need to be stimulating the muscle enough that it sees a need to grow. If you just do a weak workout, nothing will grow.
Ultimately, just sleeping and going to the gym the next day with a full amount of energy will get you much better results at the end of the day.
And none of us want to delay our muscle growth, right?
If You Do Go, Try Some Caffeine and Work Out a Separate Muscle Group
I know, some of you read this and still decided to just get in the car and work out.
Honestly, I admire it. While it’s probably best you just rest, it is doable.
I’d recommend you try some caffeine, this is the time you’d want to get that scoop of pre workout in before you head into the gym.
Also, work a separate muscle group than you did before. I know for most programs, like the Arnold Blueprint to Mass, you won’t ever workout the same muscle group twice in a row. But, some people will do some programs like the Smolov Squat Program where you may have two days in a row that work the same muscle group.
If this is the case, where you are working out the muscle group twice in a row- just don’t do it. Simply put, it’s going to be incredibly tough, and maybe even detrimental to your training.
While overtraining is generally a myth, in this case- due to your lack of sleep- you may be overtraining this muscle group and may even cause the muscle to decrease in size.
I honestly like working legs on one of these days. Legs are a much bigger muscle group, so you don’t feel AS weak when you’re working them out. Plus, most of people’s leg days are just done on a machine, so you can kinda be lazy with it.
Also, it’s really easy to grow legs compared to other muscles in your body. So you don’t necessarily need that 100% energy to grow them comparatively to something like your biceps.
Stress Hormones will Increase
If you’re going to the gym, your stress hormones will increase.
None of us like being stressed out at all. And we all know the effects of stress on our bodies.
Your blood pressure, heart rate, can all increase. You can lose even MORE sleep, you will feel more tired, have acne sprout up, and feel way hungrier.
And that’s not to mention the poor mood you’ll be in- nor how stress reduces your muscle growth.
That’s why it’s best to just take a day off.
Immune System will be Weakened
None of us like being sick. In fact, I wrote a massive article detailing exactly why you SHOULDNT go to the gym when you’re sick.
Going to the gym when you’re sick will cause your immune system to be weakened. This is for many reasons, but mainly because you’re overworking your body so much without it getting any rest.
Your whole central nervous system, muscles, and immune cells are working overdrive to keep you healthy and the overtraining only causes them to fail.
What if I Don’t Sleep Well Multiple Days in a Row?
I know what you’re thinking, Tommy- there’s no way I can just skip the gym 3 days in a row if I keep getting bad sleep. Not all of us just have ONE bad day.
I hear you, I’ve been there myself. Life just hits sometimes and you don’t sleep well for multiple days on end.
When this happens, skip the first day- but you’ll often be good enough to hit the gym the following days.
Most of us can agree that after that first day of really bad sleep, you kind of catch up on the second day as you’ll be so tired you’ll almost be forced to sleep. Because of this, you’ll likely hit REM sleep way faster- which is the ‘important’ sleep that really recharges you.
Now, the days after you’ll also kind of ‘adapt’ and get used to that sleep deprivation and your body will be using more energy from your fat stores instead of your carb stores anyways.
When life hits me like this, I skip the first day (automatically) then the days after I will go and I usually have a good workout.
A benefit to this is that those workouts will help you destress and get you back on a good sleep schedule.
If you have really HORRIBLE sleep, like we are talking you just didn’t sleep period for 2 days, do not hit the gym at all.
Personally, if that happens to me, I will go to the gym, but do something that will make me tired. So I just hit some machines and cardio so it gets me really exhausted, then I go home and sleep right after.
But for most people, it’s just best to sleep it all off. Going to the gym when you’re tired is just a recipe for disaster, and it usually never ends up the way you think it will.
The Bottom Line of Going to The Gym Without Sleep? Just Skip a Day
Honestly, the cons just heavily outweigh the pros of going to the gym without sleep. Your muscle growth will be reduced, you’ll be in a bad mood, you’ll have a horrible workout, you’ll weaken your immune system, cause more stress- et cetera.
Just skip a day, call it a rest day, and hit the gym the next day when you’re well-rested.