The fact is that you don't build muscles and get strong while you're exercising but while you're resting. Following a single bout of resistance training in healthy males, Chesley and colleagues found that muscle protein synthesis in the biceps brachii remained elevated for up to 24 hours postexercise.1
During this recovery period the inhibition of protein synthesis in previously less active muscles and fibers makes it possible to concentrate the adaptive protein synthesis for structures that performed the highest load. That means that the muscle you worked the most get the most attention and grow more in order to adapt to that day's exercise.
If all this is the case then why do we all neglect that part of our 24 hour day when we rest the most? That's right, I'm talking about that forgotten seven or eight hours while you sleep. Why do we fast during the night and then try to make it up with a meal to break that fast? Having a good break-fast just won't cut it. We need to think about all those wasted hours between the time we go to bed to the time we get up.
During our night time fast, since it can't get the energy and nutrients it needs from food, your body gets them any way it can, usually be sacrificing some of your muscle for the amino acids your body needs for it's various functions and for fuel.
The other side of all this is that if you're short on the building blocks that make up muscle, then you're not only losing muscle, but you're not going to build any new muscle - a double whammy that'll knock your muscle mass down.
We already know that the body's primed for growth and repair while we're sleeping. So what we need to do is to give the body the chance, and the materials to do its job. If you do it right, you can make maximum use of that beauty sleep to grow muscle, repair and rejuvenate the body and mind, and lose body fat.
Anabolic And Catabolic Influences For Increasing Muscle Mass
It's important to understand what's involved in increasing muscle mass. There is a delicate balance between protein synthesis (building muscle) and protein catabolism (breaking down muscle). Both processes go on simultaneously and it's the balance between the two that decides whether or not you're going to gain or lose muscle mass.
It's also important to understand that even if protein synthesis increases all during sleep because of an increase in anabolic hormones, the natural tendency of the body is to break down muscle in the postabsorptive phase - when there is no longer any food in the GI tract that is being absorbed. The body needs a constant supply of energy and nutrients and if this supply is not forthcoming from dietary intake then it takes what it needs from body stores and the breakdown of tissues, especially muscle.
It's the net gain in protein accretion that's important, not the degree of either protein synthesis or degradation. Even in states in which there is extensive protein degradation, as long as protein synthesis is greater, then there is a positive protein balance and likely muscle being built.
What this means is that muscle mass can decrease as a result of decreased catabolism, either physiologically or through the use of anticatabolic agents (ingredients that decrease catabolism or muscle breakdown), just as much as from anabolism. In fact if catabolism is not checked it can easily outstrip any anabolic processes and result in muscle loss.
It makes just as much sense to try and decrease protein degradation as to increase protein synthesis, and makes the most sense if you can do both at the same time.
The Missing Link
If you eat right, train hard, and take your supplements and you're still not getting stronger and growing, you better start taking your sleep time more seriously because that just may be the anabolic primer you're missing.
Most of us take sleeping for granted. We go to bed and wake up in the morning with little care of what goes on in between. But if you're a bodybuilder, powerlifter or anyone who's into training, and you want to maximize the effects of your training you should care about what's going on in your body at night. That's because what you do, or more specifically what you're not doing, while you sleep may be sabotaging your body composition goals.
So what should you do to make sure that your nighttime is not down time, at least as far as your body is concerned.
The first thing you have to do is to make sure you're getting your fair share of sleep. Look at sleep as a "do not disturb" sign for out bodies and mind and make sure you're not short changing yourself by not getting enough of it. Without enough sleep both our bodies and minds, and our metabolism are adversely affected.
We live in a society that's in a frenzy 24/7, and few people value a good nights sleep. That's because we have so many demands on us that we're always looking for a few extra hours to catch up. And most of us cut back on our sleep to gain that time. As such, sleep deprivation is all too common in our culture, with disastrous consequences on our mental and physical health. And as important, at least for us, on our ability to gain muscle and lose body fat.
Besides all the rejuvenating effects of sleep on our brain and nervous system, many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like training, stress and even ultraviolet rays, the time we sleep should be optimized to get the best results.
Phases Of Sleep
Although we don't pay much attention to sleep, we all know that there are times when we sleep deeply and times when we sleep lightly and have dreams. Actually there are five stages of sleep that are repeated in a cycle several times during the night. For our purposes, however, we can simplify them into two stages, deep sleep and light or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
When we're first falling asleep, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. This progresses into the first deep sleep of the night, and the time in which there are changes in the regulatory influences and growth hormone peaks.23 In deep sleep we're almost in a coma, eye movements and muscle activity stop altogether and brain waives become slower until in the deepest sleep, the brain is producing delta waves exclusively. It appears that it's in this mode that your body goes into a repair and rebuild or "rejuvenation" mode.
When you progress from deep sleep to REM sleep, you are actually beginning to wake up. In REM, breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow, eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, muscles that are already limp from deep sleep become temporarily paralyzed (likely to prevent us from acting out our dreams), heart rate increases and blood pressure rises. REM is the sleep from which dreams are born and persons awakened during REM will usually be able to remember some details of their dreams.
In REM sleep neuronal messages from the motor cortex of the brain are blocked at the brain stem. As a result, your muscles are completely relaxed and you are unable to move. Thus, REM sleep is characterized by an active brain, dreaming away, in what amounts to a "paralyzed" body.
While there's been a lot of research on what goes on when we sleep, there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge. On top of that many of the studies reveal contradictory or inconclusive findings. So for the purposes of this article, while I'll be drawing on solid scientific research, I'll also be extrapolating from known facts, and mixing this in with my own feelings and opinions.
So What Can You Do?
For years I've felt that we were missing the boat when it came to maximizing muscle mass because we ignored overcoming the nightly decrease in muscle growth caused by post-absorptive muscle catabolism. Well no more. We have the technology to provide full spectrum night time nutrition that will fill this crucial gap.
So what's to do? Well there are lots of factors to consider. Ideally what you want to accomplish is to make sleep time growth time by using a six-pronged approach.
Factors to Consider
- Getting a good night's sleep.
- Increasing the use of fatty acids and decrease the use of muscle protein (and thus decrease muscle breakdown) for gluconeogenesis and oxidation as fuel.
- Manipulating the anabolic and catabolic hormones to maximize protein synthesis and minimize protein breakdown during sleep.
- Increasing cell hydration (volumizing) and as such stimulating protein synthesis.
- Enhancing Immune System to decrease catabolic cytokines and other factors.
- Minimizing the postabsorptive phase by modulating nutrient absorption and effects.
Getting a Good Night's Sleep
First of all you want to make sure that you get a good nights sleep, with solid and refreshing deep sleep phases and REM sleep phases. The deep sleep is important to create that night-time GH peak, and the REM for it's cognitive and immune system rejuvenation.
In fact sleep deprivation, something all of us go through with the hectic pace we keep, can not only deprive you of the benefits you should be getting from exercise, but it can impact all areas of your life including your ability to work, your body's ability to defend itself and your maintenance of a positive attitude.
Exercise can affect sleep quality. Although there are a number of inconsistencies in the literature,4 it seems that while light exercise favors sleep and enhances all the sleep phases,5 more intense exercise can have adverse effects on both sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and sleep quality.67
So sometimes it's hard to get to sleep and get a good night's sleep, and this may be even more so after a hard workout. Ingredients that help you get a good night sleep include calcium and magnesium, melatonin and if needed certain herbs.
What To Do If You Can't Sleep?
You need your rest but everyone has the occasional night when they have trouble nodding off. At times like these most of us have some way to deal with it, whether it's something simple like taking a hot glass of milk, some calcium magnesium, over the counter sleeping aids (usually antihistamines that make you drowsy), herbal teas and herbs (valerian root, kava, chamomile, passion flower), melatonin, and even prescription sleeping pills.
For the occasional bad night where you can't sleep, one or more of these options will usually do the trick. Used appropriately, these sleep-aids can help provide a better, sounder sleep and get you through short term sleeping problems.
However, if you're having to use something every night, especially if it's some of the over the counter or prescription sleeping pills, then it may be time to examine the problem a little more closely.
People using the more potent sleeping aids on their own, however, should be wary about using them for prolonged periods of time. First of all using something to sleep can become both physically and mentally addicting. You can easily get to the point that your body, and more so your mind, begins to need that something extra or it's a no go. If their sleeplessness continues for more than two weeks they should see their doctors because persistent insomnia may be a symptom of an underlying problem or illness.
If you have some sleep disturbance and wonder if you should be worried, the important factors are duration and severity: How long has it been going on? Does it interfere with your daily functioning? Most sleep researchers agree that people develop insomnia from a tangled interplay of psychological, emotional, biological, medical, and environmental factors. It is important to remember that insomnia is not a disease, but a symptom of a problem.
We've all had an occasional bad night, when we can't stop our minds from racing, or we're sick with a cold or a have some aches and pains. This occasional insomnia is annoying but not too serious and usually lasts no more than a few nights or, at most, a few weeks. It can be triggered by almost anything that upsets our status quo including relationship problems, jet lag or almost any other physical or emotional stress. This "acute" insomnia is self limiting and effectively treated by making some changes in your lifestyle and if need be by the use of over the counter medications.
Ongoing psychological stress, such as bereavement, divorce, or relocation can result in longer periods of insomnia that may be more troublesome. Chronic insomnia is usually defined as lasting more than three weeks and can last for months or years. Both these types of insomnia are more serious and should be treated with the help of your physician who can help you sort out and if necessary treat your sleeping problem.
According to national statistics, at least one half of all instances of insomnia are caused by psychological problems. Waking up too early is common for people who are depressed, and difficulty falling asleep is often caused by anxiety. Medical causes, such as chemical imbalances, hormone upsets, infections, allergies, arthritis, pain, headaches, and coughing can cause you to sleep poorly. Insomnia is a side effect of many medications. Alcohol and drug addiction can also interfere with sleep.
Your doctor and other sleep professionals, can suggest the best way to deal with your sleeping problems, including medications to deal with stress, depression and any diseases, biofeedback, stress management, psychotherapy, and sleep hygiene techniques.
Optimizing the Hormones
Secondly you want to optimize the anabolic and minimize the catabolic influences, as well as maximizing fat burning. That can be done by manipulating and maximizing the sex hormones, especially testosterone, and both GH and IGF-1, at the same time as insulin. As well, you should lower cortisol.
Under normal conditions, testosterone, GH and subsequently IGF-1 all increase during sleep. Keep in mind that high levels of all three, equals positive nitrogen balance and muscle growth.
The night time increase in all three hormones, including the GH peak during slow wave sleep,8 has been well established.9 In fact in part because of these increases, sleep may be the prime period for anabolic activity.
However, it has also been shown that heavy resistance training10 and long duration exercise11 may adversely affect testosterone levels, and night time GH, IGF-I and cortisol release. As such, it's important to augment GH release in the crucial 24 hours after training, especially at night.
Insulin is also a major player in the regulation of protein synthesis and can be valuable in the overall nighttime anabolic process. A recent review looked at the issues and factors involved in regulation of protein synthesis in heart and skeletal muscle.12 The review found that insulin is a primary regulator of protein synthesis in both heart and muscle, and that free fatty acids are also important in regulating protein synthesis in the heart.
While by itself elevations in insulin, especially over the long term, is generally felt to lead to some counter productive effects on body fat, when it's controlled, and combined with increased levels of growth hormone and IGF-I, these effects are neutralized and the main effects is an anabolic one on skeletal muscle. As well, increases in insulin sensitivity, along with increases in insulin, provide an even greater anabolic effect while still suppressing the counter productive effects of insulin on body fat.
Augmenting the nighttime anabolic hormones is even more important as we age. Not only do the general level of these hormones decline significantly and steadily after the third decade, but the quality of sleep and the night time surge of GH and IGF-I are adversely affected by aging.13,14 So it's also important to make sure we're sleeping well and to naturally augment these hormones as we age.
Anabolic Effects Of Increasing Cellular Hydration
Using certain compounds to increase cell hydration and cell volume is also a good strategy. That's because cell volume homeostasis involves the integration of events that allow cell hydration to play a physiologic role as a regulator of cell function, including protein synthesis.15
Taurine, glutamine and the electrolytes sodium and potassium are transported into cells with a resulting osmotic swelling of the cell that produces an increase in cell volume. It is generally felt that the mechanism through which there is an activation of key enzymes in these metabolic pathways involves the compound-induced cell swelling and results in an increase in protein synthesis.16
Enhancing The Immune System
While a good nights sleep enhances the immune system and decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines (such as IL-1beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha)17, the use of certain compounds, such as glutamine, ornithine, glutathione, vitamins A and E, whey, casein, milk isolates protein, and colostrums, can increase this response. Enhancing the immune system decreases catabolic influences and improved net protein balance. Several compounds can enhance the immune system and include.
For example, glutamine acts as a primary fuel for certain immune cells, which are activated under stress conditions. High intensity exercise, while considered a beneficial form of stress, still exerts a glutamine-depleting effect on muscle. Exogenous glutamine enhances the immune system to decrease catabolic cytokines and result in a positive nitrogen balance and increased recovery. Colostrum on the other hand contains several immune components and also contains IGF-I, an anabolic growth factor.
The Postabsorptive Phase
Next you want to minimize the postabsorptive phase by making what you take before bed last as long as possible. Ideally for the full time you're sleeping.
The human body, through metabolic and hormonal controls, has evolved to meet the continuous metabolic needs of the body even though eating and thus provision of essential nutrients is intermittent.
During and after feeding while food is still being absorbed, in the postabsorptive period (after a meal has been almost completely digested and the resulting nutrients absorbed into the body - usually 3 to 4 hours after a meal) and even under fasting conditions (as long as the fasting state is not extensive), the body tends to keep a constant energy output by utilizing dietary sources when available and at other times by mobilizing internal substrates (glycogen, cellular and bodyfat, cellular protein) that can be used as energy sources.
Postabsorptive energy sources include circulating glucose, fatty acids, and triglycerides, liver and muscle glycogen, the branched chain amino acids (used by skeletal muscle) and the amino acids alanine and glutamine (released from skeletal muscle and used for gluconeogenesis, in the case of glutamine directly as fuel by the immune system and gastrointestinal tract).18,19 In a normal 70-kg man these postabsorptive energy sources provide up to 1200 kcal (800 calories from carbohydrate sources). These sources can be exhausted in less than 12 hours if no other food is consumed.
In an individual that is dieting to lose weight or in an athlete that is limiting both caloric and fat intake in order to maximize lean body mass and minimize bodyfat, these sources may amount to less than 500 kcal since liver and muscle glycogen levels as well as circulating triglycerides and fatty acids are often limited.
In these cases it helps if the metabolism is geared to burn fat as it's primary fuel rather than carbs. That's because no matter how low our body fat levels, we always have enough fat to burn as fuel without having to cannibalize muscle tissue. This preferred metabolic state is easily achievable by following my Metabolic Diet and Anabolic Solution techniques (see www.MetabolicDiet.com).
However, along with priming your body to burn fat preferentially, it's also extremely useful to avoid the postabsorptive phase as much as possible by loading up on protein and amino acids before bed. This provides the body with both slow (for long term protein absorption and delays the postabsorptive phase) and fast proteins.
The fast proteins allow for several protein peaks in the first four or so hours of sleep. The first one, which should be the largest and timed for early in the sleep process, acts as an added stimulus for the GH peak, which in turn increases long term IGF-I secretion. This early peak also results in a decrease in the formation of glucose through gluconeogenesis, a process by which glucose is formed from other substrates, mainly lactate, pyruvate, glycerol and amino acids.20,21,22 The end result is an increase in the use of fatty acids and ketones by the body, which in turn spares muscle from being broken down and increases the loss of body fat.
Ideally there should be no postabsorptive phase and all the anabolic and anti-catabolic effects of the various hormones should be maximized (through a synergistic action of testosterone, insulin, GH, IGF-I and thyroid), and the catabolic effects of cortisol minimized at a time when the availability of nutrients is maximal. Creating this ideal environment for muscle growth requires both knowledge and dedication.
We know that the availability of amino acids is both anabolic and anticatabolic per se, even when hormones are not optimized, and more so when they are. The lack of amino acids leads to a catabolic response as muscle tissue is broken down to supply the body with the nutrients and energy it needs during sleep.
So it is important to maintain positive "nitrogen balance" in the body while sleeping. When you do and conditions are right so that your rate of protein synthesis exceeds your rate of degradation, and you maintain a positive nitrogen balance, you can grow while you sleep.
So what we need to do is to try to have a continual supply of exogenous amino acids available through the night. This isn't possible with most of the foods and supplements that are widely available. Also eating a big meal before bed, to try and stretch out how long food is absorbed, can be counter productive in that first of all it can make it uncomfortable to get to sleep, and secondly, if carbs make up a significant part of this meal, it may decrease that important GH spike that usually occurs a few hours after you fall asleep, and perhaps more importantly, decrease night time levels of IGF-I.
Another alternative is to get up half way through the night and eat. However, doing so would be disruptive and likely lead to disturbed sleep, decreased anabolic and fat burning hormonal levels, and increased cortisol levels. The overall effect would thus be counter productive.
What we really need is to manipulate our nutrient and hormonal delivery to create an anabolic, anticatabolic environment that will spare muscle by providing alternate fuel and allow the body to grow muscle and lose body fat during sleep.
This nutritional environment, besides being fat adapted and thus utilizing free fatty acids, from body fat, as your primary fuel (see www.MetabolicDiet.com) mainly consists of stimulating the anabolic and fat burning hormones, and providing the anabolic short and intermediate spikes of amino acids, in the first four hours of the night and an anticatabolic all night basal elevation of amino acids. And that's what my NitAbol is all about.
Converting your night-time down time to the plus side with just the right combination of supplements (see NitAbol below) will do you and your body a world of good by:
- Decreasing muscle catabolism
- Increasing muscle anabolism
- Accelerating the breakdown and burning of body fat
- Increasing metabolic and muscular recovery
- Decreasing the effects of overtraining
- Increasing repair of over stressed and injured tissues
- Increasing sleep quality and restorative effects
Important Editor's Note From Bodybuilding.com:
We usually do not allow product endorsements inside articles on our site by the people who own the products, but we allowed it in this case because we trust Mauro's opinion and we feel he has created products based on science and not based on how much money he can make from them. The information above is good as is, but if you are looking for supplements made just for these purposes, continue reading below. - Bodybuilding.com
Grow While You Sleep With NitAbol
NitAbol is a combination of three supplements that will maximize protein synthesis and increase fat oxidation while you sleep.
NitAbol, the nighttime protein combination, uses GHboost (increases levels of growth hormone and IGF-I) along with TestoBoost (increases levels of testosterone) and Myosin Protein Complex (provides peaks and constant levels of amino acids all night long), to provide a nighttime anabolic, anti-catabolic, fat burning effect that lets you grow muscles and burn bodyfat while you sleep.
NitAbol involves 3 formulations to increase muscle mass and decrease bodyfat while you sleep.
- TestoBoost - Increases Testosterone levels naturally, without the use, and side effects of the prohormones. Also decreases cortisol.
- GHboost - Naturally increases growth hormone and IGF-I to above physiological levels.
- Myosin Protein Complex - Provides long lasting nighttime protein nutrition that maximizes protein synthesis and decreases muscle breakdown.
- Helps you get a good night sleep.
- Minimizes the catabolic effects of the postabsorptive phase.
- Increases fat utilization over protein.
- Increases insulin effect and sensitivity.
- Increases muscle, central nervous system and systemic recovery during sleep.
- Has anti-inflammatory effects for increased recovery.
GHboost is formulated to increase muscle mass and decrease bodyfat by increasing the body's natural production of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). Because of its effective dual action, it's an advanced growth hormone stimulating product that has been clinically proven to increase GH and IGF-I levels, often well above physiological levels. In one clinical study using GHboost for a six week period, GH levels (measured in the blood by radioimmunoassay-RIA) were increased from 0.2 to 7.4-the normal range was from 0 to 4). The increase in both GH and IGF-I greatly enhances muscle development, strength, and size while decreasing bodyfat.
When used before bed GHboost will increase the natural growth hormone spike associated with the first deep sleep cycle of the night (usually within 2 hours of going to sleep) and enhance the long term increase in insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). The combination increase of both hormones increases protein synthesis, decreases muscle catabolism, and increases the use of bodyfat as the main energy source all night long.
TestoBoost maximizes your anabolic potential by physiologically elevating your natural testosterone levels. Not only does TestoBoost contain natural ingredients that increase testosterone formation, it also has ingredients that decrease any potential side effects from conversion of testosterone to estrogens and dihydrotestosterone. By boosting testosterone, TestoBoost has beneficial effects on increasing muscle mass and decreasing bodyfat.
TestoBoost is all natural and elevates serum testosterone levels without using any prohormones, compounds with potentially serious side effects and very little effects on testosterone levels. Used at night TestoBoost adds to the anabolic and anticatabolic effects of GHboost to further increase protein synthesis, decrease muscle catabolism, enhance recovery and burn off bodyfat while you sleep.
Myosin Protein is specifically designed for the sleep cycle and to deal with nighttime nutrition. It not only decreases muscle catabolism that occurs when we sleep, but also increases protein synthesis and muscle mass. As such, it is unlike any other protein on the market today and by far the most effective full spectrum nighttime protein and amino acid supplement ever made. The amino acid array provided by the proprietary blend of proteins, peptides and amino acids in Myosin Protein is unique and has been scientifically shown to maximize lean body mass.
Myosin Protein, with its combination of fast and slow proteins and peptides, is specially engineered to provide two distinct effects:
- Several anabolic amino acid peak bursts that result in an immediate and several intermediate marked increases in serum amino acids and subsequently protein synthesis.
- A long term steady increase in serum amino acid levels that lasts for several hours and has been shown to have marked anticatabolic effects.
Although these various proteins are mixed together, the body treats the mix of proteins as if each protein was taken separately. Thus these proteins, even when taken together, maintain their different (fast, intermediate and slow) absorption rates.
Battling the Postabsorptive phase with a Combination of Proteins and Amino Acids
Battling the Postabsorptive phase with a Combination of Proteins and Amino Acids
- Whey - fast protein - increase GH spike, Increase insulin.
- Egg and Soy - intermediate proteins
- Casein - slow protein - delay postabsorptive phase.
- Peptides and amino acids including glutamine peptides, glutamine, and the branched chain amino acids, including leucine.
- Milk protein isolate/colostrums
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- Piatti PM, Monti LD, Pacchioni M, Pontiroli AE, Pozza G. Forearm insulin- and non-insulin-mediated glucose uptake and muscle metabolism in man: role of free fatty acids and blood glucose levels. Metabolism: Clinical & Experimental 1991; 40(9):926-33.
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- Jahoor F, Peters EJ, Wolfe RR. The relationship between gluconeogenic substrate supply and glucose production in humans. American Journal of Physiology 1990; 258(2 Pt 1):E288-96.
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