If you are trying to gain mass and get stronger, make sure you consistently get quality ZZZZ’s every night. Getting in a good 8 hours of sleep is just as important as your workouts. It is during sleep that your body is building its muscle – not during the workout! Workouts tear down your muscle fibers – sleep repairs and rebuilds those fibers resulting in bigger and stronger muscles overall.
There are two stages to the sleep cycle: The first stage is non-rapid eye movement (NREM), and the second is rapid eye movement (REM). After falling asleep, an individual will enter NREM sleep first where very little dreaming occurs. The purpose behind NREM sleep is to help the body physically repair itself from the days activities. REM sleep involves a substantial amount of dreaming and is essential to helping the individual recover mentally. During REM sleep, the mind attempts to process and organize all of the information that it is encountered during the day. Both stages of sleep are critically important for overall sports performance.
TO INDUCE HEALTHY SLEEP:
- Keep the room dark. Get black-out shades if you have to.
- Keep the room quiet and TV off. Wear ear plugs if necessary.
- Keep the room cool. A warm or hot room is likely to disrupt sleep.
- Do not drink alcohol before bed.
- Do not train too close to bedtime.
TO GET THE MOST MUSCLE BUILDING OUT OF YOUR 8 HOURS:
- Have a small snack before bed. It should consist of a healthy fat/protein combo – not carbs. Carbs are a problem before bed for a number of reasons. First, processed and refined carbs (which is usually what we reach for at night) can “trigger” you to keep eating more. This ultimately can result in you taking in more calories than you should. And second, you are inactive at this time, so many of those calories can be store as fat, not muscle glycogen. Another problem is that refined carbs will not sustain your blood sugar throughout the night. If your blood sugar drops you may not sleep well and wake up groggy. Not a quality nights sleep for sure! Have a healthy fat/protein snack such as almond butter, peanut butter, almonds, walnuts even fatty fish to help slow digestion. You can even try a teaspoon of flaxseed oil in your bedtime casein shake. Casein is a protein naturally found in milk. I always suggest that individuals trying to gain more muscle mass have a glass of 2% organic milk before bed. But if you are a “hard gainer” have an isolated casein protein powder shake. Casein protein clumps in the stomach and has a much slower rate of digestion than whey protein (the other protein found in milk which is best just after a workout). The casein provides your body with high quality protein all night while levels of natural growth hormone are peaking.
- Take plain arginine before bed. Read the label carefully because sometimes arginine comes combined with stimulants for pre-workout purposes. Definitely not what you want before bedtime. Taking 3 to 5 gms. of plain arginine before bed can help to optimize growth hormone. This is important not just for muscle building and repair, but for fat loss as well.
- ZMA supplements. Zinc, Magnesium and B6 are combined in the perfect ratio for muscle building during recovery (sleep). It aids in protein synthesis and boosts growth hormone levels. And it has been realized that ZMA promotes a deeper, higher quality sleep!
Donna Mincieli, PTI, RD - Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss