the final piece of the physique puzzle guy sleeping

The Final Piece Of The Physique Puzzle

Building an amazing physique is similar to that of solving a jigsaw puzzle. There is a smart way to go about it. You start from the corners, build the sides and then work towards the center of the image.

How is this similar to building a good physique? A beginner/novice also knows that to get fit, they need to start eating well, cut out regular eating of junk food from their diets and start exercising.

Those would be the edges of the puzzle or the start of your fitness journey.

Then you start understanding things in detail, watching your caloric intake and set it as per fat loss or muscle gain phase, you optimize your protein intake, you start following a workout routine that has some form of periodization and promotes progressive overload and volume accumulation over time.

I am going to do a little bit of back-and-forth with the puzzle analogy here.

We’ve got the corners with the definites, built our way to the center with gathering more information and understanding nutrition, the importance of protein, weight training, a training plan with periodization scheme, overloading etc.

Now imagine that you have built this puzzle by putting in hours and hours of your time and then you see a piece missing from the center making the puzzle incomplete.

How FRUSTRATING can that be?

the final piece of the physique puzzle curl

It might seem like that all the time, effort, patience you have invested in the puzzle is worthless as it is never going to be picture perfect.

Do you know why do I love this analogy? Many a time, when trying to build a great physique, people do all the correct things but end up missing a very important piece. That missing piece is SLEEP.

I can go ahead and even say that you might have your nutrition and training plan written by the almighty himself but still end up not receiving the maximum benefit from it due to lack of proper rest and recovery which often directly translates to sleep.

Sleep IS that centerpiece which that completes your jigsaw, and in this case, your physique.

Why is sleep so critical for the overall development of a good physique?

When you sleep, you are resting and recovering from the stimulus that occurred at the gym through lifting weights. The rest and recovery will help you go to the gym with the same intensity the next time, and get stronger. Add in a solid nutrition plan and your chances of building a good physique compound significantly.

On the contrary, if you do the exact opposite, there are studies that show that lack of adequate sleep can increase the chances of:

  1. Gaining fat – Studies that have found that having lesser and/or poor sleep may be correlated to present or future obesity. (1,2,3)
  2. Poor food control that could lead to fat gain – People who had higher quality sleep had better control over their caloric intake. (4)
  3. Poor cognition and decreased mental performance – Those who sleep better have improved productivity, cognition, and performance, and vice-versa for those who do not. (5)

All these factors, directly or indirectly, affect your training and nutrition negatively. If you are trying to lose fat, the chances of making poor food choices which do not support your goals become significantly higher. If you are trying to build muscle, your decreased cognition and performance are going to cut into your ability to apply progressive overload and up the amount of volume you can handle. 

Now we know sleep is SO important for building a great physique. It may be the missing piece of the puzzle you’re looking for.

Here are six practical tips you can implement to ensure you’re able to finish that 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle once and for all. 

1. Suns Out, Guns Out 

As cliche as it may sound, it does hold some importance. By this, I do not mean that you should go flexing your biceps every time you see daylight, but it is a good idea to get exposure to sunlight for a few hours on a day-to-day basis.

It has been found that exposure to blue-spectrum enriched white light in the earlier part of the day improved sleep quality. Not just that, it helps you increase alertness and improve performance as well. Win-win. (6)

If you are someone who lives in a region where natural sunlight is very limited for a significant part of the day or the year, you should consider investing in a daylight lamp which mimics sunlight and gets exposure to that light during the earlier part of the day. They are cheap and they get the job done.

2. Limit Your Screen Time Before Bed

One of the biggest problems I have come across myself, and with my clients, is the night-time tendency to lie down on the bed and scroll through social media, watching funny cat videos and passing away time.

Not only it takes up a lot of your time (unknowingly), but it also suppresses melatonin secretion, which is the hormone that regulates your sleep. (7)

The result?

A terrible sleep cycle. 

To overcome this issue, limit the amount of time you have a screen glued to your face before bedtime. Another trick that has worked for my clients here is installing a social media/app blocker that restricts you automatically or blocks out app notifications during certain pre-set hours of the day.

the final piece of the physique puzzle coffee

3. Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Coffee or caffeine, the awesome sauce to all the power-packed, insane pump, PR breaking gym sessions can be a deterrent to your goal if you do not time it well.

Consumption of caffeine too close to bed will definitely interfere with your sleep and keep you up for longer. If you notice this happening to you, it would be a smart thing to go lower on the amount of coffee/caffeine that you consume and making sure that your last cup is more than 6 hours before bed-time.

There are high-responders who may find that despite cutting off caffeine 6 hours pre-bed, they still have trouble sleeping. In those special cases, it is a good idea to cut down on your consumption 8 to 10+ hours pre-bed.

If you train later in the day and feel that you do not have the energy to workout and absolutely need a pre-workout supplement, there are plenty of non-stimulant based supplements out there that can do the job.

Or just suck it up and get to the gym. Often, just doing the first set will make you energetic and you will enjoy the same intensity in the gym without any stimulants.

4. Take A Warm Shower Before Going To Bed

You feel comfortable when you are warm. You tend to sleep better when you are comfortable.

Simply put, you will sleep better when you are warm.

How is this information relevant? The easiest way to be comfortable and get immediate sleep is to take a warm shower before you hit the bed.

5. Meditate

At times, even when you are not stressed or worried, your brain is hyperactive. This hyperactivity can mess with your sleep and keep you awake at night. wiling your precious sleep time away.

That is where meditation can come in and help you wind down and relax so that you get better sleep. It seems like an easy thing but it is not. Having complete control over where your thoughts wander is difficult task to accomplish.

An easy way to practice meditation is to focus your mind on an object that does not promote or elicit any emotion. An object like a chair or a wall.

If meditation seems to be a fleeting concept for you, begin to implement breathing exercises before you jump into bed. Simply inhale through your nose and fill your belly with air, then extend the exhale as long as you can. You should be able to increase your exhale length each breath.

the final piece of the physique puzzle

6. Supplement With Melatonin 

Funny enough, these days we have a supplement for almost everything. But this is one of the very few that make it to the list of supplements that actually work.

A meta-analysis of over 19 studies found that supplementing with melatonin improves sleep quality without any significant side effects or addiction. [8]

Another study found that subjects who supplemented with melatonin over the course of a year had a significant increase in lean body mass and a decrease in fat mass compared to subjects who did not. [9]

I would credit the finding of this study to getting better sleep than supplementing with melatonin to be the factor that drove these positive changes.

The maximum effective dosage of melatonin is 3 mg, though I suggest experimenting with 1-3 mg as I have seen cases where 1 mg of the supplement does the trick. Start with a low dosage and max it up to 3 mg if needed.

But again, there is a reason why this pointer made it to the bottom of the list. Do not use it as a band-aid approach or just go ahead with it as it works. Fix your overall lifestyle by the five steps above before supplementing it.

The Final Piece Of The Puzzle

By following these pointers, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep and find that missing piece to the puzzle that completes the entire picture. Rather than grinding your wheels for years and years to build a great physique.




About the Author

Pratik Thakkar is the co-founder of GetSetGo Fitness. He is known to apply evidence-based practices to help his online coaching clients build strong and lean physiques.

You can find Pratik Thakkar at Get Set Go Fitness.