Big Muscles... Sleep Apnea... Caf and De-Caf... A Cautionary Tale

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
To truly explain my previous situation and its resolution, I must begin back when I was enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Due to the guidance of the senior enlisted (i.e. Sergeants and Corporals) I decided that it would be a good thing to begin body-building. I devoted myself for about eight-weeks and packed on 20lbs, probably 95% of it lean muscle. I used the very first NO2 supplement and those Isopure protein drinks and it created some serious results. I was naively happy about the results, until I realized that running was now 100 times more difficult (I had done zero the entire eight-weeks) and pull-ups were still do-able but much harder due to the added weight. I unfortunately got lazy and packed on another 10-15lbs to top me out at about 200lbs. I initially weighed about 170lbs (give or take 5lbs depending on the day) and was unable to lose the weight again no matter how I tried. This all happened before my first enlistment of four-years ended. I spent eight-years total in the Marine Corps.

After I packed on that mass I started to gradually and imperceptibly become more fatigued. As a Marine, the natural reaction to fatigue is to suck down Monsters and coffee, which only worked for a short time. I did not stop consuming caffeine because I was certain it was helping. Apparently, I spent my entire second enlistment suffering from sleep apnea and not knowing it. The sleep apnea being a result of my naive bodybuilding goals. I was not actually diagnosed until a year after my enlistment ended. So for five years I alternated between terrible sleep and excessive consumption of caffeine. I ended my Marine Corps career due to my crushing fatigue and not really knowing why. Looking back, I could have easily retired if it weren't for that one stupid decision.

Once I received my CPAP to help my sleep apnea I thought I would start feeling way more rested. I did research and found that it does take a while to get rid of residual tiredness. Yet, about 6 years later from being diagnosed I was still insanely fatigued. I seemed to have trouble recovering from workouts, had low testosterone, still gained more weight (50 more pounds!) despite my efforts to the contrary, suffered from frequent heart-burn (almost everything I ate gave me heart-burn!), had a terrible short-term memory, and just generally had a bad attitude and short fuze. Needless to say I was a different person entirely, and not a good one.

After all these years of trying to find out what was causing the issue, I kept on sucking down tons of caffeine and coffee (I also took a lot of sleep aids to force myself to fall asleep). It wasn't until literlly about a month ago that I finally came to the epiphany about what was also contributing to my sleep problems. Thus began a rather difficult month of weening myself off of caffeine. I used a lot of naps and B-Complex vitamins to get through my days while I was weening.

Imagine a scale in your mind, while I reduced my caffeine, my sleep became better. My CPAP was actually able to do its job and I began to wake up more rested and with more energy. Nearly all the issues I was experiencing have all but dissipated. I say nearly because my added weight will take much more time to lose, but I feel now that I now have an actual fighting chance to lose it. I have experimented a few times to see just how much the caffeine effects me and I find that if I consume even 150mg of caffeine, I will have trouble sleeping even 16 hours later. I now treat caffeine or coffee as a "treat" that I may have on a weekend and abstain the rest of the time. I find I have far more energy, focus, and am in a better mood without it. Overall, I was not stressed out from lack of sleep, adding more stress from caffeine, then adding even more stress from my workouts.

This is your cautionary tale. If you find something similar happening to you. Please learn from my mistakes and (1) do not chase hypertrophy and big muscles and (2) lay off the caffeine. If you say that caffeine does not affect your sleep, your wrong. If you are looking to improve your recovery and performance on workouts, abstaining from caffeine will be your best course of action. Better sleep should be your ultimate goal. If you already know all this then disregard. But those of you who do not, please take heed.
 

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
I have several friends who have sleep apnea as a result of their weight lifting and muscle building. Several who themselves were Marines and were diagnosed with sleep apnea. In addition, I have done extensive research regarding caffeine (i.e. reading peer-reviewed articles regarding actual clinical tests with caffeine) and it's effects and I am sharing my story as an example of what caffeine can actually do to a body.

You suppose I am "generalizing" and that is, in itself, a generalization. I expected someone, like you, to dismiss what I just wrote because it may not apply to you.

Except I specifically put "if you find something similar happening to you" which supposes that not everybody is experiencing this issue.

Some proof: A 2003 study shows that NFL players are 4-5 times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea and 34% of that is lineman. Below is a link to the rest of the article. Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Bodybuilding

More proof: Caffeine: how does it affect our health?
 

Antti

More than 2500 posts
I have several friends who have sleep apnea as a result of their weight lifting and muscle building. Several who themselves were Marines and were diagnosed with sleep apnea. In addition, I have done extensive research regarding caffeine (i.e. reading peer-reviewed articles regarding actual clinical tests with caffeine) and it's effects and I am sharing my story as an example of what caffeine can actually do to a body.

You suppose I am "generalizing" and that is, in itself, a generalization. I expected someone, like you, to dismiss what I just wrote because it may not apply to you.

Except I specifically put "if you find something similar happening to you" which supposes that not everybody is experiencing this issue.

Some proof: A 2003 study shows that NFL players are 4-5 times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea and 34% of that is lineman. Below is a link to the rest of the article. Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Bodybuilding

More proof: Caffeine: how does it affect our health?
Sure, you're not alone with these issues. Some get sleep apnea from lifting. I have always had that problem and my lifting hasn't yet affected it. People also respond differently to coffee. Some can't have it but a bit in the morning or so, some can have it all day long. And coffee is generally very healthy to have.

I didn't mean to dismiss you and your experience. Sorry if it came out that way. I just don't want people to avoid coffee and lifting unnecessarily, as I think they're the best.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
@JohnDoeman

I'm curious what your BF was (roughly). Linemen tend to be well over 300lbs and well over 6ft, and have BF % high enough that they are not going to be confused with a bodybuilder. They're more in the obese range, and most probably do not have good aerobic capacity.

On a personal note I have a bit of apnea (woke up once choking on soft tissue in the back of my throat) but all that is no longer an issue now that I sleep on my side or stomach 100% of the time due to back and neck issues. I was skeptical about advice to make my newborns sleep on their backs and am not convinced it is healthy for adults either. At the time I was about 175lbs on a 5'10" frame, so not really built up at all.

I have about 3-4 coffees per day - it might have an effect on sleep but I doubt it, having quit a number of times thinking I'd see some benefit and there was never any difference, the same for my 2-3 beers/evening.

I have noticed caffeine really opens up my lungs pretty reliably - was a smoker for a couple decades, individual mileage may very.

Good to hear your cautionary tale, I have to wonder about the Monster drinks and what other factors are at work as well. Not to mention plain old genetics.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
@JohnDoeman, thank you for sharing your story. It is indeed a cautionary tale.

The article on caffeine you cite doesn't suggest to me that a moderate amount of coffee consumption will be bad for most healthy adults. Clearly your caffeine consumption was more than "moderate" and it's good to hear you've sorted it out for yourself.

I will offer one personal datapoint on this. I, too, have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, mild in my case. For me, it turns out that allowing myself to become overly tired is a cause. I guess one must maintain a certain amount of muscle tone, even in deep sleep. My wife has been my guide in this - she noticed the pattern, and now, if I've had a particularly hard day, she will suggest I have a cup of coffee before I go to sleep, and it helps. Note also that premature infants, who can suffer from sleep apnea-like symptoms, are sometimes given caffeine to help with these symptoms.

NB: I don't fit the overweight profile. I'm 5' 7" and 150 lbs.

-S-
 

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
@North Coast Miller - When my apnea began I was probably 15%ish bodyfat. The issue was the added heft of the muscle I built. If you read through the article, they touch on even bodybuilders who experience the apnea issue due to their size. Their are some genetic anomalies where caffeine has no effect on them. I do agree that sleeping on your side helps with breathing and I do that myself. Some apnea is neurologic so sometimes size doesn't matter. But the article also mentions that NFL players in general have a higher chance of apnea and not all are obese lineman types. Yet, I know many are in my situation, and I found I am specifically sensitive to caffeine. I may eventually start my own website for big guys who want to do calisthenics... lol.
 

Bauer

More than 500 posts
Thanks for sharing @JohnDoeman !

The bottom line take away for me is: More is not necessarily better (hypertrophy/caffefeine). Look for a minimum effective dose before trying harder. "The dose makes the poison", "Too much of a good thing" etc.

That being said I usually try not to consume caffeine after 3 pm or so.

Hopefully things will go in the right direction for you :)
 

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
@JohnDoeman, thank you for sharing your story. It is indeed a cautionary tale.

The article on caffeine you cite doesn't suggest to me that a moderate amount of coffee consumption will be bad for most healthy adults. Clearly your caffeine consumption was more than "moderate" and it's good to hear you've sorted it out for yourself.

I will offer one personal datapoint on this. I, too, have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, mild in my case. For me, it turns out that allowing myself to become overly tired is a cause. I guess one must maintain a certain amount of muscle tone, even in deep sleep. My wife has been my guide in this - she noticed the pattern, and now, if I've had a particularly hard day, she will suggest I have a cup of coffee before I go to sleep, and it helps. Note also that premature infants, who can suffer from sleep apnea-like symptoms, are sometimes given caffeine to help with these symptoms.

NB: I don't fit the overweight profile. I'm 5' 7" and 150 lbs.

-S-
@Steve Freides - Your apnea may be neurological versus obstructive, the caffeine may do something neurologically to you to help you sleep (i.e. similar to an ADHD patient who takes a stimulant to calm down). That is a very interesting caveat. Also, children are known to have the opposite effect with caffeine, it puts them to sleep (oddly enough). My caffeine consumption was certainly far more than moderate, that I do admit. Like I mentioned to NorthCoastMiller, I have apparently become super sensitive to caffeine now.

In addition to this, caffeine does indeed dilate the airways and can help if you're having asthma symptoms...etc.

My overall goal is for people not to go through the nightmare I have. If my issues trigger an epiphany in just one other person it will be worth it.
 

piratebum

Triple-Digit Post Count
Great book on this called caffeine blues. Not sure caffeine is good for anyone.

Thanks for your story.
 

rickyw

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Body building for soldiering? Another example of how many people in the military don’t know how to train for health and longevity in their profession, and then pass it down to the younger guys.

Good case report John!
 

Jeff Roark

Triple-Digit Post Count
John,

Old Marine Sgt. here...my question is how did you get out of PT? I put on about 30lbs or so of muscle while I was in but once in the fleet we PT'd 3-4 times per week. In Iwakuni we ran our guts out 3x per week and one day was a sport day of our choosing.

I agree on the caffeine. I used to be a heavy user but now I only have 2 small cups per day. Although, I am someone that can drink 3 big Dr. Peppers after BJJ practice and crawl in bed and sleep like a baby. Only do that once a week though.
 

Bro Mo

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
When I look back on some of the PT we used to do (that was thought to be ineffective or not good enough), such as long runs randomly stopping to do calisthenics, I now realize how efficient it really was.

Long Runs: Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) or Zone 1/2 training
Indian Runs: High Intensity Repeat Training (HIRT) or Fartlek
Random Calisthenics: Grease the Groove (GTG)
 

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
John,

Old Marine Sgt. here...my question is how did you get out of PT? I put on about 30lbs or so of muscle while I was in but once in the fleet we PT'd 3-4 times per week. In Iwakuni we ran our guts out 3x per week and one day was a sport day of our choosing.

I agree on the caffeine. I used to be a heavy user but now I only have 2 small cups per day. Although, I am someone that can drink 3 big Dr. Peppers after BJJ practice and crawl in bed and sleep like a baby. Only do that once a week though.
Former Sergeant myself! From what I can recall, our shop (S-4) did not do much PT due to the randomness of our schedule. At times our shop consisted of myself (Corporal) and a Lance running an entire Battalion S-4 shop. We had to support so many different operations that we couldn't consistently schedule PT. Also, our battalion and company didn't schedule PT regularly also. We were all a bunch of turds... lol... 1st Maintenance Battalion. Lastly, I recall having bad foot issues (still do) since before I left MOS school and gained all that weight so I could not do much running. Though I should have lived on the bike or elliptical. I was not as knowledgeable in fitness as I am now.
 

Jeff Roark

Triple-Digit Post Count
Former Sergeant myself! From what I can recall, our shop (S-4) did not do much PT due to the randomness of our schedule. At times our shop consisted of myself (Corporal) and a Lance running an entire Battalion S-4 shop. We had to support so many different operations that we couldn't consistently schedule PT. Also, our battalion and company didn't schedule PT regularly also. We were all a bunch of turds... lol... 1st Maintenance Battalion. Lastly, I recall having bad foot issues (still do) since before I left MOS school and gained all that weight so I could not do much running. Though I should have lived on the bike or elliptical. I was not as knowledgeable in fitness as I am now.
I was with the Air Wing, but my MOS was called the ground pounders of the wing. I was an Air Traffic Control Communications Tech. We setup up expeditionary airfields and the ATC equipment. We provided security and maintenance.

brother, they ran our guts out in MOS school and the fleet. Didn't see the other winger's getting after it like us. 2x per week wed did a 6.2 mile Satellite run around the sea wall at MCAS Iwakuni. It was brutal on the feet and ankles. Suffer much from it now. Was so glad to get back to Beaufort/Parris Island to run on this sandy roads.
 

JohnDoeman

Double-Digit Post Count
@Bro Mo - I may get back to doing the Fartlek style workouts (i.e. running + random calisthenics) when the winter hits. I have a gym with an indoor track and pull-up bars nearby. Thanks for the idea!
 
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