Lee Haney, the only 8-time Mr.Olympia used to say “assimilate don’t annihilate” when he was talking about volume in a training session. Lee would often tell people that it was at nighttime that that you grew. Then research started coming out showing that muscle protein synthesis was high for upwards of 24 hours post exercise. So people started to think about what they could do to take advantage of their nighttime nutrition.
Nighttime Nutrition 101
After all, if we just trained a muscle, it’s possible to focus on that muscle with your nutrition and ensure that you grow. So if we recover and grow while we’re sleeping them why do we ignore it? Why would we ignore the seven to nine hours and completely miss our bedtime nutrition? Without proper nighttime nutrition our body will need amino acids for energy and if we don’t feed our body then where do you think those amino acids are going to be pulled from? That’s right, our muscles. Don’t take your nutrition at night for granted.
Nighttime Nutrition Step One: Make sure that you’re sleeping enough. No amount of protein or supplements will help you recover and grow if you aren’t getting adequate sleep. No, sleep after you’re drunk doesn’t count. Most people have no clue how delicate the relationship between a healthy metabolism and sleep is, if we sleep less our metabolism gets screwed up.
Look at sleep as two phases (there’s actually five), REM sleep, not Michael Stipe, and deep sleep. Once we hit deep sleep our body will start changing hormone patterns and will put us into a even deeper sleep, almost like a coma. It’s during this period that that our body will try to repair, recover and grow. Once we progress to REM sleep we actually start to wake up, our body starts go through more normal functions (blood pressure increases as does heart rate).
Nighttime Nutrition Step Two: After we assured that we are actually getting a good nights sleep then the next option is to manipulate our hormones naturally. Research shows that testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1 are all elevated at nighttime. So what can we do to make sure that we aid them in increasing? For one, we need to make sure that we aren’t eating any sugar pre-bed. We don’t want our blood sugar levels to fluctuate during the night, instead we want a steady pulse of blood sugar. To accomplish this, make sure that your last meal consists of healthy fats, protein and fiber.
What protein is better and how much protein do you need? Click that link and look deeper into that issue. In short, I really don’t think it matters that much if you choose whey or casein. I would say that to be on the “safe” side, you should go with casein and whey mix.
How to increase growth hormone at night
There are select nutrients which have been proven to increase your growth hormone at night such as
- Arginine is the most popular supplement for nighttime GH boosting but in reality most forms stink. Stick with alpha-ketoglutarate arginine and keep the dose to around 800mg to 1 gram
- Ornithine is another popular amino acid that has been shown to have some nighttime GH boosting benefits but I’m not too sold on it alone. As a matter of fact, pairing it with arginine increases the effectiveness of both amino acids
- CDP choline is a new star for growth hormone release and the science is promising.
I’ve found a formula from Life Extension that works very well for boosting your growth hormone at night and it happens to have all three of these nutrients plus additional supplements in a safe delivery system. For more information check it out here.
Bedtime nutrition for a better body
Nighttime Nutrition Step Three: Now we need to make sure that you’re hydrated. Going to bed dehydrated is like wearing high water pants today. It just isn’t cool. All of the cell processes that happen at night require the cell to be hydrated for optimal work. A hydrated muscle cell is a anabolic muscle cell. Look into adding taurine and glutamine into your diet as well as just drinking enough water throughout the day.
Does eating late at night cause weight gain?
Not if you have proper nutrient balance. As a matter of fact, your quality of sleep matters more,
Nighttime Nutrition Step Four: So we’re getting enough quality sleep, we’re not eating sugar before bed and we’re drinking a whey and casein protein shaker with some essential fatty acids and fibers pre-bed as well as just being hydrated. What else can we go in our pre-bedtime nutrition to ensure that we build muscle and lose fat? Well, we can make sure that our immune system is healthy. Why do we care about our immune system?
A healthy immune system decreases catabolic processes and improves protein synthesis. So how do we improve our immune system. Aside from getting sleep, consuming whey and casein protein as well as glutamine and vitamin C on top of a moderate fat, high protein and low carb diet. A good six pack diet is a great place to start if you are unsure of what type of diet you need to be on.
What foods to eat at night?
Are there specific foods that are better to eat at night? I go back and forth on this issue often. On one hand you have the argument that I’ve been making all article and that is that as long as your calorie consumption is balance throughout the day then you can choose to eat whatever you want at night. Provided you’re carbohydrates and fat are not exceeding your metabolic demands then you’ll be ok. On the other hand I’ve found numerous clients whom I’ve worked with that just do not have the ability to not eat before bed time. For one reason or another, they just need to eat before bed. I’m not captain creative with my meals but here’s some foods to eat at night that won’t cause fat gain.
Nighttime nutrition shake: 30 grams of chocolate whey protein, 1 cup of skim milk cottage cheese, one scoop of natural peanut butter mixed with either water or grass fed skim milk.
For those individuals looking to optimize growth hormone levels pre bed: 10-15 grams of whey protein mixed with a greens product.
Just looking to feel full before bed? Get some fiber in you with a fruit cocktail of 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup raspberry and 1 cup pineapple.