Synergy while you snooze
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Slow-wave (deep) sleep is essential to balance hormones in the body that are necessary for muscular recovery and growth. The largest contribution of deep sleep to recovery is the release of growth hormone (GH) from the anterior pituitary, which sets up the perfect environment for muscular growth. Proper bedtime nutrition is also key to ensure a steady supply of muscle building amino acids while you sleep. Herein we provide you with the basic background on 6 supplements that you can use to promote deep sleep, growth-hormone release, and muscular development while you dream of being the world’s next super-athlete.
Deep Sleep And GH Release
Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound in the body, which is synthesized by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays an essential role in maintaining the sleep cycle and has been used for years as a supplement to treat jetlag and facilitate deep sleep. Notably, in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, scientists from Baylor University reported that healthy young males who received a 5 mg melatonin supplement had double the GH secretion under resting conditions compared to a placebo. Based on melatonin’s sleep-inducing and GH-releasing properties, we think it makes a great bedtime supplement for bodybuilders and athletes, especially for those who find it difficult to sleep deeply. Based on this, take 5 mg about 30 minutes before hitting the sack.
This root comes from a perennial flowering plant called Valeriana officinalis. The name “valerian” is thought to derive from the Latin word “valere,” meaning “to be well.” Its medicinal uses as an analgesic (pain reliever) and sedative are centuries old and well documented, and the root is still used today as an alternative to drug therapy. Overall, the research illustrates that valerian root supplements can safely reduce anxiety and promote sleep, exhibiting its effects through GABA-ergic pathways in the brain. Its sedative properties are robust enough that it’s often used as a natural remedy for insomnia and anxiety. For athletes, this supplement can be used to promote sleep and mild pain relief. Although there is no established ideal dose, most people find that 500-1000 mg of valerian root extract is effective.
Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
GABA is an amino acid neurotransmitter that has a number of important roles in the central nervous system. And when ingested, it’s been scientifically noted to cause an increase in growth hormone (GH) release, especially during sleep. There are several reports of enhanced fat loss when using GABA, likely due to elevated GH release. Many who have supplemented with GABA report experiencing deep and satisfying sleep. Doses used in scientific studies range from a minimum of 2 grams right up to 18 grams taken about two hours before bed. Most users, however, find 5 grams to be an effective dose.
Mucuna pruriens comes from an ancient Indian herb called velvet bean, which has been shown to elevate the body’s L-dopa stores (the precursor to dopamine) when taken orally. Dopamine is a key player in the signaling for GH release, by inhibiting hypothalamic somatostatin levels, which leads to greater GH secretion by the pituitary gland. Taking approximately 2,000 mg of high-quality Mucuna pruriens (standardized to 15% L-dopa) immediately before bed will support a substantial boost to your nocturnal GH surge.
High quality micellar casein protein is the number one pre-bedtime protein source. Micelles are large particles that remain in suspension and act as a liquid in certain environments yet stick to one another and form large protein globs in other environments. These properties enable micellar casein to mix easily in water or milk, but form a sustained-release “protein gel” in the stomach—making it a very efficient long-term supplier of nutrients and amino acids. When taken prior to bedtime, micellar casein supplements impart slow and long-lasting elevations in blood amino-acid levels (for up to 7 hours), providing long-term nutrition to recovering muscle while you sleep. The unique sustained amino acid release offered by micellar casein has been reported to cause a marked (~34%) decrease in muscle breakdown (i.e., catabolism). Based on this, before bed ingest 40-50g of high-quality micellar casein protein.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
The omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids exhibit numerous beneficial health effects. Such benefits include fat loss, muscle growth, cardiovascular health, joint health and neural health. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish and flax along with lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Alternatively, vegetable oils and oils from nuts contain a higher percentage of omega-6 fatty acids. Since our North American diet has an abundance of omega-6 and is lower in omega-3 fatty acids, we tend to get more than enough omega-6 and not enough omega-3 fats from our daily foods. Thus, we recommend taking fish oil supplements to boost your omega-3 EFA levels. In terms of pre-bedtime nutrition, fish oil synergizes with micellar casein protein— to further slow the release of amino acids. This condition ensures sustained amino release throughout the night while you sleep. Based on this, we suggest taking 2-4 g of fish oil with your pre-bedtime casein shake.