If you are serious about your results— whether it is to put on lean muscle, lose body fat or take it to the level of competition, then you need to make sure you are getting your eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep is necessary for our mental and physical well-being but it is also a critical part of the recovery process. During sleep, the body releases the most amount of growth hormone, an important recovery agent. This hormone is synthesized and secreted by the anterior pituitary gland that is involved in the control of several physiological processes, including metabolism, muscle recovery and growth. Essentially, when growth hormone levels peak, they help to stimulate amino acid uptake and increase protein synthesis in muscle tissues. Additionally, growth hormone has a positive effect on fat burning, enhancing the utilization of fat by stimulating fat breakdown and oxidation in fat cells— which means good sleep is critical to leaning up and losing ugly body fat!

So, just how much sleep do you need? The amount of sleep a person requires is dependent on various factors, including age, but in general, most adults require between seven to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal functional benefits. Some people may need less or more sleep, however, our bodies never adapt to getting too little sleep; although you may have adapted to a sleep-deprived schedule, you’re not doing your body any favors, as you are impairing your body’s recovery and weight-loss process. Recent research has shown that not getting enough sleep can actually affect your ability to lose weight. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it was found that those who got 5.5 hours lost less fat and more muscle than the group that got 8.5 hours of sleep. All participants were given the same caloric intake and activity regimen. Losing lean body mass is an unwanted side effect of all weight-loss diets. After all, the more lean mass you have, the more active your metabolism will be! What’s more, it was also found that not only was fat loss affected, but limited sleep also resulted in an up-set of the regulation of two important hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Without sleep, these hormones remain turned on, causing hunger to continue.

Compromised sleep can mean poor recovery and poor results, not to mention poor training the next day. Chronic sleep loss can have a direct effect on our metabolism, by reducing the body’s ability to regulate hormones and process carbohydrates. This increases the likelihood of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, not to mention slows or reduces the storage of glycogen in the muscles. Since glucose and glycogen are the main source of energy for athletes, impeding storage can directly hinder performance, particularly for endurance training. Loss of sleep can cause elevated levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol, which may interfere with tissue repair and growth. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can negatively impact exercise performance, intensity and cause increased psychological strain when training!

To top that all off, it has also been suggested that high-intensity training and low-carb dieting that accompanies contest prep can also have a negative effect on sleep patterns. During low-carb dieting phases, a competitor may only take in between 25 and 50 grams of carbohydrates. Our brains need carbohydrates not only for energy but also for sleep. Combine a low-carb diet with a high-intensity training program, and you are no doubt using whatever glucose is available for your muscles, which means the brain is not getting sufficient glucose for sleep. Although the brain can use ketones, which are produced during low-carb dieting phases as energy, there needs to be enough ketones available for sleep to occur. This is also dependent on whether your body is in ketosis or not. So to maximize your sleep and your recovery, consider using these at night to help maximize relaxation, promote sleep and ensure the recovery process occurs!

This hormone is produced in the brain by the pineal gland, from the amino acid tryptophan. The synthesis and release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, suggesting the involvement of melatonin in the circadian rhythm or the “sleep wake cycle.” Levels of melatonin in the blood are highest prior to sleep. Melatonin supplements are often used to help treat “jet lag,” but it can also be used to treat sleep disorders. In fact, multiple studies have measured the effects of melatonin supplements on sleep in healthy individuals, and there is scientific evidence to suggest that melatonin decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, increases the feeling of sleepiness and may even increase the duration of sleep. To top that, melatonin supplementation has also been shown to increase the release in growth hormone, which is essential to recovery and building lean muscle.

Passion Flower
Passion flower has been used traditionally to treat anxiety, tenseness and insomnia. The mechanism of action for passion flower is not completely understood, but it is thought that the flavonoids in passion flower contribute to its effectiveness for relaxation.

Theanine is a derivative of green tea leaves, which have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, research has shown that this amino acid stimulates the brain’s production of alpha wave activity, which is associated with feelings of relaxation. Theanine also helps the body produce other calming amino acids, such as dopamine, gamma amino butyric acid or GABA and tryptophan.

Valerian Root
Traditional uses included treatment for reducing anxiety, insomnia and nervousness. Valerian has been shown to have an affinity for the GABA receptor, primarily due to its relatively high content of GABA. In fact, the amount of GABA present in valerian extract is sufficient to induce release of GABA and inhibit re-uptake inducing a mild sedative or relaxation feeling.

5-HTP is an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the central nervous system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter primary in the control of mood, sleep, motivation and appetite. Taking 5-HTP has been shown to decrease appetite, enhance mood and promote deep sleep through its positive impact on serotonin levels.

Casein Protein
This protein is separated from milk by a means of ultra-filtration, providing a high amount of bioactive milk peptides that support immune function as well as enhance muscle growth. Casein’s unique properties allow it to form a gel in the gut, causing a slow and steady release of amino acids over a long period of time, thus making it an excellent, long-lasting anti-catabolic protein. Casein protein can take up to seven hours to digest, which means it is a perfect protein for ensuring recovery of muscle tissue during sleep!

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that has been shown to aid in recovery, reduce protein catabolism and increase protein metabolism. Its presence is found in the blood, gut and the skeletal muscles and is used as a main source of fuel for the immune system. After training, injury to the muscle cells occurs, causing our immune systems to induce the recovery process to help repair tissue damage to muscles. Supplementing with glutamine essentially reduces the amount of glutamine that is robbed from the muscles cells to fuel immune function. As a result, supplementation may help to reduce the amount of muscle deterioration that occurs during training, because the glutamine available in the muscle cells will be utilized for protein metabolism and reduction of protein catabolism. Glutamine can also stimulate increases in growth hormone levels. Take glutamine before bed to help maximize your recovery process during the sleep cycle.

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