Does this muscle growth hack work for you?
This is a little trick that I’ve been testing over a number of months, and I can conclude that it’s working for me. With some science to back up the idea, I want to know if this muscle growth hack works for you too.
It started when I noticed my temperature was higher after a workout. In general, and quite predictably, I find myself hotter in the evening, on days that I have worked out. I thought about this, and figured it was probably due to increased blood flow and activity around various muscles, and that this was producing the extra heat. Doing a little reading, I found that one of the key reasons older people have so much trouble with temperature regulation, and more particularly, keeping warm enough, is that they have less muscle mass than younger people on average, and that it’s the muscle mass that generates most of the heat.
So, I decided to dig a little deeper, and start some experiments. I based these on some experiences I had had, after weight training. Simply, I had noticed that if I slept in a room that was quite cool, with less-than-adequate-blankets, I woke up feeling a bit tired, more than I would expect even considering the workout, and my muscles would just feel worn out. Contrasting this experience to a number of times that I went to bed in quite a warm room, and/or with more than adequate covers, and I woke up feeling almost overheated, with my muscles aching with the familiar stiffness of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), that is associated with muscles repairing and rebuilding.
So I thought to myself, I wonder if there’s anything to this? I wonder if heat, or warmth, especially overnight, could actually contribute to muscle development?
In a number of more experiments, I found myself in situations where the night after a workout I had been cold, and woken up fatigued, and then the following night I had overcompensated with blankets, and woken up hot, with DOMS. This wasn’t consistent to the second night after a workout, however, so I suspect it wasn’t just a regular delay in muscle soreness. On nights where I was adequately warm on the night of a workout, I also woke up the next day hot, and stiff with DOMS.
So, I started to see a pattern developing, and like anyone who wants to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of things, I went digging online.
What I came up with was a range of scientific research reports that all looked at muscle growth in relation to hyperthermia – that is – increased heat. One particular study looked at muscle re-growth, after a period of immobilization, using 30 minutes of hyperthermia once every 2 days. Using this protocol, scientists found muscles re-grew to a larger degree, and with less oxidative damage, which is a good thing. This was due to ‘heat shock’ proteins, which protect against oxidant damage, and is therefore thought to augment muscle regrowth.
In other studies, heat has been shown to increase muscle growth in animals, and it has been suggested that heat and stretching could increase muscle development in humans – athletes, as well as rehabilitation patients.
So, how could you test this for yourself?
The simplest answer to that is sleeping with a lot of covers, however lots of people have trouble actually falling and staying asleep if they’re too hot.
Alternatives to generate hyperthermia include hot tubs or whirlpools at home or at the gym, steam rooms or saunas, and sun exposure, if the weather is good. Likewise, you could try some sessions in tanning beds, but I will leave the safety concerns of these up to you, and I don’t be any means want to suggest that this is a recommendation from me to use tanning beds.
Personally, I’ll be sticking with plenty of blankets in the evening, and making sure I’m not sleeping cold. It’s worth noting, on the flip side, that I’ve noticed a definite link between sleeping cold, over a few weeks, and dropping fat – which makes sense according to the fat loss acceleration techniques mentioned in the book – where brown adipose tissue burns extra calories to generate heat, in the presence of cold exposure. So it might be worth considering that cold = fat loss, while heat = muscle growth. Once again, showing that aiming for both goals simultaneously could be quite challenging.
My suggestion if you’d like to gain muscle and lose fat is to bring your fat levels down first, to a level that you’re comfortable with. For most men, this will be between 10-13% bodyfat. For most women, a little higher – perhaps 14-18%. Once you’re there, you can adjust your eating, and training, to induce muscle growth and development, and then perhaps lose a little more fat once you’re happy with your muscle gains.
Have you experienced heat-induced muscle recovery, or do you have a heat-based recovery routine? Leave a comment below!
Intermittent hyperthermia enhances skeletal muscle regrowth and attenuates oxidative damage following reloading - http://www.jappl.org/content/102/4/1702.full
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