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How to build muscle while you sleep

During sleep is the perfect time to maximise your muscle growth. Here's how... 

We all know a good night’s sleep is important, but lack of sleep can do more than drain your energy and increase stress; it can actually cause you to lose, rather than gain, muscle. 

“Sleep is one of the most critical times when actual muscle building occurs”, says Steven Hertzler, PhD, RD, chief scientific officer for Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition.

“Without the proper amount of sleep, the ability of your body to restore muscle glycogen, the body’s primary source of stored carbohydrate energy, reduces. This is significant because the presence of full muscle glycogen stores signifies to your body there is enough energy present to rebuild new muscle proteins and replace those damaged by exercise”. 

When you don’t sleep properly, your levels of stress hormone cortisol increase. As a catabolic hormone, cortisol can break down protein into glucose, meaning your body will find it increasingly difficult to build muscle.

Here, Steven provides his top nocturnal nutrition tips to help improve your forty winks, enhance the ability of your muscles to recover, refuel, and get stronger in preparation for your next session.

Got milk?

We’ve always been told that we shouldn’t eat cheese before bed, but Steven tells us that casein, a protein found naturally in milk and dairy products such as cottage cheese and Greek yoghurt, can actually boost muscle growth overnight. 

Hertzler says “Studies show that casein releases into the blood slowly, over a period of about six to seven hours. Thus, it is a great protein to eat right before you go to bed, as it can continue to feed your muscles while you sleep”.

De-stressing with food

Sometimes, taking a deep breath or doing some yoga just doesn’t cut it when it comes to reducing stress. If that’s the case, try including foods rich in phosphatidylserine into your diet, as they work to reduce cortisol levels following a workout. Opt for organ meats like liver and kidneys for the biggest boost.

Time it right

Timing is everything when it comes to getting the right nutrition to help you sleep. Steven suggests eating foods packed with a combination of amino acids L-theanine and L-tryptophan as well as the casein decapeptide Lactium to help promote relaxation. For example, L-tryptophan, which is naturally found in turkey, is used in the body to make the relaxation neurotransmitter serotonin, which has been shown to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. 

Image copyright: rugdal / 123RF Stock Photo

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