Science & Sleep
In order to maximize muscle growth outside of the gym, we need to eat and rest. Sleep is a natural part of our circadian rhythm. We need rest in between days as much as our muscles need rest in between workout sets, as optimal sleep can cause great improvements in muscle recovery and cognitive function.
Little to no sleep has been associated with reduced strength training performance, with one study demonstrating the impairments it has on compound movements (1). If strength-dominant compound movements are a priority in your workout routine, so should sleep.
Overnight Muscle Growth
During sleep, our bodies shift into a fasted state. The assumption is that our bodies would catabolize during this, but that’s not quite true. Since our heart rate slows down during sleep, we do not use as much energy as we think. Instead, it will rely on pre-stored energy, also known as fat, to remain satiated. If you want to increase muscle overnight, look at what you eat before sleeping. It could help improve overnight muscle-protein synthesis.
Late-night protein intake can help increase muscle mass overnight (2). Muscle-protein synthesis occurs during sleep. While the body is resting from a day’s work, it’s utilizing this time to repair the body. The recovery of growth hormones can be improved with amino acids. Whole food options such as lean meat and non-fat dairy contain high profiles of these muscle building blocks. As far as supplements (animal and plant-based), check the labels to assure they have the essential amino acids. Including these nutrients in your dinner or nighttime supplements will provide your body with plenty of material to repair itself the way it needs to.
Carbs At Night?
Carbohydrates play a role in overnight muscle-protein synthesis as well. These foods use insulin to send tryptophan and amino acids towards the brain. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, an essential sleep inducer (3). However, it is important to combine these carbohydrates with protein, or else tryptophan may not be activated. This combination can also boost cortisol at night (4) which maintains stress and tissue repair.
Sleep is the most important part of muscle recovery, allowing the body and mind to cool down and maintain its health. As for muscle building, sleep is as important of a practice as exercising and diet. What we eat can change the way we recover overnight, but there is more to it than that. Light exposure can impact sleep rhythms. Dimmed lights and less screen time can contribute to increased levels of serotonin. Vitamins that can improve sleep quality are Vitamin D and Omega-3’s. Sleep is a practice we can change everyday and it can impact the way we function tomorrow.