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Sleep and sleep ... and more sleep! part 2

Part 1 spoke of the reasons we need sleep..... here is what happens when you don't get enough!
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

There are several health problems associated to sleep deprivation. Increased blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, insulin resistance and risk of Diabetes Type II are some of them. These are serious consequences to overall well-being and should not be taken lightly. As for the world of individuals training their bodies, for size, shape or performance, other problems arise from the lack of a proper night’s sleep.

Increased Cortisol levels

One of the first major problems of sleep deprivation is an increased daytime cortisol level, as it magnifies the stressful impact that exercise has on the muscles. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down tissue for energy, causing muscle mass loss and hindering all effort to build lean muscle. A full recovery is key to keep stress away and balance cortisol release.

Risk of injury and overtraining

Failing to get enough sleep affects mental alertness and focus. Drowsiness will compromise the workout by affecting the attention span, thus leaving the athlete at risk of injury or overtraining, and weakening their performance. Interestingly, oversleeping may have the same effects, as it takes a little longer to wake up and get to full lifting capacity.

Increase in body fat

Muscle definition depends on the body fat percentage and muscle size. Combining less fat and more lean mass means dramatically visible muscles. Therefore, if the aim is to look ripped besides being big, getting better sleep is the way to go.

Bedtime nutrition

Sleeping periods can be highly catabolic. Catabolism happens when the body utilizes vital proteins and amino acids as energy. To counteract this unwanted effect, it’s necessary to maximize the anabolic potential of sleep. The right bedtime nutrition is a good way to achieve it. This means knowing which meal one should have before going to bed, as well as choosing the best, scientifically proved supplements to facilitate sleep onset and improve sleep quality.

For protein synthesis to occur, there must be high levels of amino acids in the blood. A fast acting protein is perfect for this, as it is absorbed quickly. A serving of whey protein, for instance, will elevate the amino acids levels in the body, keeping them up for a few hours and promoting protein synthesis.

However, it won’t last all night long. The solution is to complement this fast-absorbing protein with a slow-absorbing protein such as casein, that will help to maintain steady levels of amino acids in the bloodstream for up to seven or more hours while sleeping. Milk protein, for example, is composed of 80% casein and 20% whey, and each fraction is absorbed separately at different rates. The amount of protein should comply with the athlete’s daily intake of protein. Exceeding protein needs may lead to unwanted weight gain due to the increased calorie intake.

In addition to these proteins, there are other good supplements to maximize the anabolic potential of sleep. Some of these supplements are available in recovery blends especially designed for high-intensity athletes. Glutamine is an amino acid that prevents catabolism, maintaining a positive nitrogen balance. It also optimizes growth hormone release, and supports a strong immune system.

Other amino acids known to have anabolic properties are BCAAs – Branched Chain Amino Acids. They help to increase testosterone and growth hormone levels, and to prevent catabolism by blunting the rise of cortisol levels.

ZMA is a supplement consisting of zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and Vitamin B6. It has been shown to boost testosterone levels, supporting muscle growth. Moreover, it facilitates sleep onset and promotes better rest.

Enhancing a better and deeper sleep is as important as optimizing its anabolic potential.

When looking at the natural sleep induction process, there’s one chemical that stands out: melatonin. Melatonin, as seen above, is only released at night when the lights go down, and it regulates the sleep cycle. Some people don’t produce enough melatonin by themselves, thus supplementation may help accelerate sleep onset.

Serotonin, known as “the happiness hormone”, follows melatonin in its role as asleep inducer. In order to produce this hormone at optimum levels, a supplement containing 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) may be used. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, which means that the more 5-HTP there is in the body, the more serotonin it will be able to produce.

Another natural sleep substance is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a special brain chemical that rises prior to sleeping, working as a neurotransmitter and promoting relaxation. Besides this, it activates the release of anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, increasing muscle mass.

Summing it all up:

Sleep is vitally important for muscle growth. It’s the period to fully recover from all the heavy training. During sleep, there’s an increase in protein synthesis, which will start to repair the damaged tissue and to build new muscle.

However, it’s key to make sure the body doesn’t run out of this muscle-building fuel, or it will start to breakdown hard-gained muscle in order to get the energy it needs. So, a proper bedtime nutrition is the answer for all anti-catabolism seekers. This includes fast-acting and slow-absorbing proteins to help maintain protein levels elevated, and amino acids like Glutamine and BCAAs to prevent a catabolic state and promote anabolic hormones release. To support a better and deeper sleep, supplementation with Melatonin, 5-HTP, and GABA is very helpful, as these are natural sleep inducers.

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