You work out intensely. You have your diet and nutrition plan dialed in. Your supplement regimen includes a pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout. You take a multivitamin/mineral to ensure there are no gaps in your nutrient intake. You take fish oils and pre-and probiotics for gut and immune health. Although you’re making gains, not nearly as fast or dramatic as you hoped given your disciplined approach. Are you missing the secret sauce? Or are you not putting enough focus on rest, repair & recovery, and hormonal release?
Without the appropriate quantity and quality of sleep, you won’t optimize your results. Sleep provides the rest required to renew your energy levels, the environment for the repair, recovery, and growth of muscle, and stimulates the release of crucial hormones. Without a good night’s sleep, you simply won’t achieve your desired body composition changes.
All too often, the importance of sleep is overlooked by the strength athlete or bodybuilder. Most erroneously believe that you build muscles in the gym during your workouts. You do not. During training, you cause micro-damage and trauma within the muscle tissue. The body almost immediately initiates a series of reactions in response to the damage inflicted; however, much of this intra-muscular chemistry takes place at night – while you sleep. Sleep is when the majority of your muscle repair, recovery, and growth occurs!
This guide will focus on the role of sleep in mental and physical performance. We’ll dive deep into sleep and the effect it has on our bodies. We’ll also, of course, go over our top picks for the best nighttime recovery supplement so you can find the right option to provide you with sweet dreams.
If you’d rather skip the in-depth information and get right to our best nighttime recovery supplements, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this guide. Otherwise, let’s get started!
Breaking Down The Critical Role Of Recovery At Night
There were several possible approaches to this Best of Article. 1. Provide a review of the best products in the space. 2. Review the best ingredients in a nighttime recovery product. 3. Segment nighttime supplements and components based on their role in the recovery process – then provide a recommendation of the best products in each segment.
Although a bit more extensive and a longer read, option 3 seemed more comprehensive and logical. The role of sleep for an athlete may be expressed as the four “Rs,” Rest – Repair & Recovery – Release. This article explains why nighttime supplements should be a component of your nutrition and supplement regimen.
The Importance Of Sleep
Athletes, particularly strength athletes, expend significant energy and stress their bodies and central nervous systems during their workouts. At its most basic, sleep is about restoring energy for the next day’s activities. Don’t get enough sleep, and your endurance will suffer – while the potential for injury increases. Stress is known to inhibit the body’s ability to recover, be it mental or physical stress.
As a general rule, for every two hours you spend awake and stressed, your body and central nervous system require an hour of sleep to recover adequately. Seven to nine hours per night of quality sleep are usually sufficient. Getting that 7 – 9 hours starts with good sleep practices; however, some athletes need a bit of help. Below are our picks for the best supplements to aid you in getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Best Nighttime Supplement Ingredients For Deep, Quality Sleep
Melatonin – Although this naturally occurring compound in the body plays a role in the release of Growth Hormone (GH), it is best known for its ability to maintain the sleep cycle. Travelers have used Melatonin for years to treat jet lag and facilitate deep sleep.
Valerian Root – Research indicates that valerian root can reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Valerian Root is often used as a natural remedy for insomnia and stress due to its sedative properties.
Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in hundreds of processes in the human body and is frequently used to treat sleep disorders. It is known to improve sleep quality and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Research indicates magnesium’s relaxing effect may be related to its ability to regulate the production of Melatonin. Magnesium also appears to increase levels of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA).
L- Glycine – Glycine is an amino acid your body uses to promote sleep via calming effects and lowered body temperature. It also helps to create proteins for the growth and repair of tissue.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) – Speaking of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, GABA is an amino acid neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the central nervous system. Supplement companies use GABA due to its ability to promote deep and satisfying sleep while promoting the release of Growth Hormone.
Several other supplements frequently included in sleep aid supplements are:
- Ginkgo biloba
In our Best Of choices, you will note several of the above ingredients used in combination to promote restful, quality sleep.
Best Nighttime Supplement Ingredients For Muscle Repair, Recovery, And Growth
As related, sleep is when your muscles repair, recover and grow, so savvy athletes make getting sufficient quantity and quality sleep a priority in their regimen. They know that sleep can help you have more energy, perform better, reduce the risk of injury, fully recover from your workouts, and boost your immune system.
After your workout, your body begins to address the muscle damage (the micro-tears) you inflicted; however, many of the functions such as tissue repair and muscle growth occur while you sleep. Anti-inflammatory agents and other chemicals are directed to your muscles to remove damaged cells and tissue and begin the process of repair and recovery. To facilitate this growth and recovery during sleep, your muscles receive an increase in blood flow, bringing along additional oxygen and nutrients to help repair muscles and regenerate new cells.
Anabolic Versus Catabolic While Sleeping
When you’re in an anabolic state, you’re building and maintaining muscle mass – when you’re in a catabolic state, you’re breaking down or losing muscle. One dilemma of a full night’s sleep is that fasting for 8 – 10 hours can bring on a catabolic state. In this catabolic state, muscle is broken down to provide our stomach with amino acids converted to glucose for the brain. This may seem a contradiction to all the benefits of sleep; however, there is a strategy to avoid catabolism that doesn’t require getting up in the middle of the night for your protein fix.
Fortunately, eating a slow-digesting protein before sleep can reverse this catabolic process and increase protein synthesis. A serving of low-fat cottage cheese can serve in a pinch, but the ultimate pre-bedtime supplement is micellar casein – casein is the predominant protein found in cottage cheese.
Micellar Casein – Casein protein is a slow-digesting protein that works better at bedtime and is more efficient than whey at preventing catabolism. Micellar protein mixes well in water or milk and provides a sustained-release protein to supply amino acids and nutrients to muscles throughout the night. Many strength coaches recommend up to 40 to 50 grams of casein at bedtime.
Glutamine – Always one of our aminos of choice, glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body, serving a multitude of functions, and imparting significant benefits. Post-workout and before bed glutamine helps alleviate muscle soreness, prevents muscle breakdown, and is essential for gut health and immune function. Glutamine is also a staple, along with other amino acids, as a growth hormone booster during sleep.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – Omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs have numerous beneficial health outcomes, including fat loss and muscle growth. They also play a role in cardiovascular, joint, and neural health. At bedtime, fish oils work with your micellar casein, combining to further slow the release of amino acids throughout the night.
Caveat – For Those Practicing Intermittent Fasting Or Keto
For those practicing Intermittent Fasting or Keto, or IF and Keto, ingesting 40 – 50 grams of protein before bed can derail your progress. That much protein in one setting at any time of day is sure to prevent entering ketosis or kick you out of ketosis, and good luck figuring out a 12 – 16-hour fast when eating at bedtime.
As an alternative (we admit we do not have sufficient scientific research to guarantee this), we recommend a low dosage, full-spectrum essential amino acid (EAA) supplement. This option should provide the essential amino acids required to prevent going catabolic overnight without initiating gluconeogenesis and may even improve sleep.
Best Nighttime Supplement Ingredients For The Release Of Hormones
As important as the rest component of sleeping and the muscle repair and recovery phase are, releasing beneficial anabolic hormones at night is crucial. Growth Hormone secretions peak during intense exercise and the first few hours of sleep. You already put in the time and intensity in the gym, so in this segment, we’ll recommend those ingredients proven to stimulate GH secretions at night while you sleep.
In addition to GH, sleep also aids in releasing other anabolic hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1, essential for muscle growth. During sleep, the body balances your ghrelin and leptin levels, affecting hunger and satiety, and lowers cortisol levels. The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) reports that in clinical studies, sleep deprivation, even in healthy young men, results in elevated cortisol levels – potentially responsible for rapid weight gain and muscle weakness – sure to hinder any body composition goals.
Arginine – Arginine is one of the most popular sports nutrition ingredients, used as a vasodilator in pre-workout products. Its nitric-oxide boosting effects are also beneficial during sleep to enhance blood flow – remember, more blood flow to the muscles while sleeping delivers oxygen and nutrients for repair and recovery. Arginine, in the form of L-Arginine, AAKG (Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, or Arginine Ethyl Esther, can also enhance GH release during sleep by inhibiting a hormone that normally stunts GH release.
ZMA – Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 – originally developed by Victor Conte of BALCO infamy is thought to increase testosterone and IGF-1. Intense exercise can deplete zinc and magnesium, so replenishing them is important. The magnesium component also enhances the quality of sleep, aiding in GH release.
Mucuna Pruriens – Mucuna Pruriens are a type of tropical bean native to Africa, India, and Southern China. They are processed into a powder and frequently used in dietary supplements to elevate the body’s store of L-dopa. L-dopa is a precursor to dopamine, which plays an important role in the secretion of GH by the pituitary gland.
So, there you have it, the various roles of sleep in your recovery plan. In our Best Of picks, we select one or two branded products to enhance each phase of your night’s sleep and recovery process.
Best Nighttime Recovery Supplement
When selecting the best Nighttime Recovery Supplements, we adhered to our standard criteria of products manufactured in a cGMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practices). We sought companies and brands with independent third-party testing such as NSF, Informed Choice, or Safe for Sport certifications.
Best Nighttime Supplements For Quality Sleep
Genius Brand, Sleep Aid
From the company that produces popular and highly-rated products such as Genius Mushrooms, Genius Joy, and Genius Consciousness, comes Genius Sleep Aid. A product from The Genius Brand that delivers on the deep, quality sleep needed to restore energy, allowing you to perform the next day’s activities at a high level. Genius Brand contains several of our favored ingredients, including Melatonin, Glycine, and Theanine. The product promises to help you combat stress and anxiety, allowing you to get to sleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling energized and refreshed.GET THE BEST PRICE ON GENIUS SLEEP AID
Natrol, Melatonin Calm Sleep
Melatonin Calm Sleep is made and produced by well-known health and supplement company, Natrol. They produce a variety of health and cognitive related supplements such as Calm Sleep and Natrol’s Cognium. Calm Sleep incorporates only two ingredients, but two of our favorites, Melatonin and L-Theanine, from one of the most well-known and reputable brands in the nutraceutical industry. The Melatonin at 6 mg per serving is guaranteed to help you fall asleep faster, and the Theanine reduces stress and anxiety. Natrol Melatonin is designed to deliver better overall health and is the #1 sleep aid brand in America.GET THE BEST PRICE ON NATROL MELATONIN CALM SLEEP
Best Nighttime Supplements For Muscle Repair, Recovery, And Growth
Universal Nutrition, Animal PM Nighttime Anabolic Recovery Packs
From the creators of Animal Pak and Animal Stak, comes Animal PM Nighttime Anabolic Recovery Packs. This one covers all the bases. Promotes relaxation and deep sleep, addresses repair, recovery, and growth, and aids in releasing anabolic hormones! The product contains these three powerful blends: Sleep & Relaxation Complex, Recovery Complex, and a GH Boosting Complex. Key ingredients include GABA, Arginine, Glutamine, Essential Amino Acids, Mucuna Pruriens, and L-Theanine.GET THE BEST PRICE ON ANIMAL PM NIGHTTIME ANABOLIC RECOVERY PACKS
Optimum Nutrition (ON), Gold Standard 100% Casein
From one of the most popular sports nutrition brands in the space, Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Casein Powder. Micellar Casein is our preferred nighttime protein for its slower digestion and absorption. The Gold Standard delivers over 9 grams of naturally occurring EAAs, BCAAs, Glutamine, and Glutamine precursors per Scoop, encompassing all our preferred ingredients for muscle repair, recovery, and growth.GET THE BEST PRICE ON OPTIMUM NUTRITION GOLD STANDARD 100% CASEIN
Best Nighttime Supplement For Those Practicing Intermittent Fasting Or Keto
Kion Essential Amino Acids
We’ve explained our rationale for Essential Amino Acids versus casein at night for those practicing Intermittent Fasting and/or Keto – ingestion of too much protein will interfere with your fast and entering ketosis. EAAs provide the basis for muscle recovery from exercise without an insulin spike; they help regulate appetite, support cognitive function, and may even improve sleep.GET THE BEST PRICE ON KION ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
Best Nighttime Supplement For The Release Of Hormones
JYM ZMA Caps
ZMA is the perfect nighttime recovery supplement, and JYM delivers the correct dosage, 30 mg Zinc, 450 mg Magnesium, and 10.5 mg of Vitamin B6, plus Bioperine® to improve absorption and bioavailability. JYM’s ZMA is shown to help optimize hormone levels while sleeping.
Replacing the zinc and magnesium lost through exercise, sweat and urination is important. Vitamin B6 provides fuel for your muscles to help the repair and recovery process, and ZMA promotes a better night’s sleep. Need proof? Wait until you experience the vivid dreams associated with ZMA supplementation.GET THE BEST PRICE ON JYM ZMA CAPS
There are a plethora of other testosterone support and GH release products on the market. Several of the more popular, better-selling GH products include Growth Factor 9 for Men and SeroVital for Women from Novatech Biotech – both with identical ingredient panels, Prime HGH from Force Factor, and GH Boost from Nugenix.
In Summary: Nighttime Recovery Supplements
We hope this Best Of review has helped you to understand the importance of quality sleep, its role in overall health and muscle recovery and provided a rationale as to why nighttime supplements may be an ideal addition to your nutrition and supplement regimen.