Would you like to be able to adapt your nutrition in order to get better sleep? What are the impacts of sport on your sleep and its quality? Nutrimuscle informs you and provides you with many details.
What is the impact of food quality and nutrients on sleep?
When you have sleep problems, you are legitimately led to wonder about the impact of your diet as well as the timing of meals. Should we avoid proteins, carbohydrates or lipids? What Nutrients Help Sleep? Should you eat or not before sleeping?
It is to all these questions that the latest scientific studies will help you answer in order to improve your quality of sleep.
The limits of science
No scientific study has shown the existence of a miraculous method to get to sleep like a baby, even if we all want it. This is normal, because there is no single cause for sleep problems, but many. It goes without saying that a technique that works for one will not necessarily work as well for another. Thus, only half of the scientific studies show that diet modulation can improve sleep. The other half fails to detect an effect.
What science offers us is a multitude of avenues that everyone will have to explore in order to find what suits them best. At least each of these tracks is based on solid and coherent arguments.
Impact of sport on sleep and its quality
One might think that the fatigue caused by a sports practice helps to sleep well, but it is not so. Paradoxically, athletes are one of the groups of individuals who sleep the least well (1-2).
The incidence of sleep disorders tends to be higher than in the general population. The athlete tends to experience both a reduction in the quality and quantity of sleep (3).
Sport and lack of sleep
This is of course only an average which hides great disparities. However, we can conclude that sport tends to have a negative rather than a positive impact on sleep , while at the same time physical activity will exhaust the body.
This is a problem because lack of sleep slows recovery and progression, while having a negative impact on health. On the contrary, by sleeping longer, performance improves (4).
How can we correct this phenomenon by modulating our own diet?
Competition between amino acids to enter the brain
Amino acids aren't just for building muscle; they are also the precursors of neurotransmitters . It is their ability to enter the brain that modulates the production of these cerebral neurotransmitters.
Among the most effective amino acids are BCAAs and tyrosine, which act as boosters by serving as precursors to dopamine (a stimulating neurotransmitter). On the contrary, tryptophan increases the level of serotonin, which acts the opposite of dopamine by accentuating the feeling of fatigue.
There is competition for brain entry between tryptophan and BCAAs. It is their concentration in the blood that determines who will be the winner of this competition.
Why take BCAAs?
During an effort, especially of long duration, the level of blood BCAA decreases while that of free tryptophan increases. It is therefore the latter who will win the competition to enter the brain (5).
When the concentration of tryptophan in the brain rises, we start making serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Performance drops! This is why it is recommended to take BCAAs, especially those rich in valine , during exercise: in order to reduce the arrival of tryptophan in the brain and therefore the synthesis of serotonin.
On the contrary, in the evening, it is necessary to promote the arrival of tryptophan. By filling up with tryptophan, it promotes the synthesis of serotonin and therefore the onset of falling asleep . Indeed, serotonin is the natural precursor of melatonin, the sleep hormone (5).
Studies show that less than 1g of tryptophan is enough to cause a sedative action (6). On the other hand, taking pure BCAAs before sleeping is not a good idea when you suffer from sleep disorders.
How to modulate the result of BCAA/Tryptophan competition?
It is possible to influence the chances of tryptophan reaching the brain by taking some carbohydrates. The latter, by stimulating the secretion of insulin, will transport the BCAAs to the muscles, which leaves the field free for tryptophan to reach the brain.
This provides an explanation, at least partial, to the question: how can taking carbohydrates before bed promote sleep? (7).
Oil, such as olive oil, by increasing the level of fat in the blood, will also promote the entry of tryptophan into the brain (8). Be careful though, too much fat interferes with sleep (9).
Don't forget that if the nervous system takes advantage of sleep to recover, at night the muscles are in a phase of net catabolism due to a lack of protein. Fortunately, contrary to popular belief, muscle-friendly high-protein diets do not degrade sleep quality, since they tend to improve it (10).
Other supplements that help you sleep better
- Glycine (temporarily) reduces brain neurotransmission which promotes sleep.
- Green tea, thanks to the presence of a calming amino acid, theanine accelerates sleep.
- ZMB improves sleep quality through pidolate-magnesium synergy.
- Mate and taurine will also promote the quality of sleep.
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(2) Fallon KE. Blood tests in tired elite athletes: expectations of athletes, coaches and sport science/sports medicine staff. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(1):41–44.
(3) Leeder J. Sleep duration and quality in elite athletes measured using wristwatch actigraphy. J Sports Sci. 2012;30(6):541–545.
(4) MahCD. The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep. 2011;34(7):943–950.
(5) Fernstrom JD. Large neutral amino acids: dietary effects on brain neurochemistry and function. Amino Acids. 2013 Sep;45(3):419-30.
(6) SilverBY. Effects of tryptophan loading on human cognition, mood, and sleep. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010;34(3):387–407.
(7) Porter JM. Bed-time food supplements and sleep: effects of different carbohydrate levels. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1981 Apr;51(4):426-33.
(8) Knowlden AP. Systematic Review of Dietary Interventions Targeting Sleep Behavior The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2016 April
(9) Grandner MA. Relationships among dietary nutrients and subjective sleep, objective sleep, and napping in women. SleepMed. 2010;11(2):180–184.
(10) Zhou J. Higher-protein diets improve indexes of sleep in energy-restricted overweight and obese adults: results from 2 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2016 Mar 103(3): 766-74.