You may take melatonin supplements before training to boost GH levels, but you’ll also get the added antioxidant benefits of the supplement. Antioxidants protect muscle cell membranes and other important structures, as well as DNA, from exercise-induced free radical damage. Although an increase in free radical levels during exercise is normal, very intense training can lead to excessive free radical production and muscle damage. There is even evidence that excessive free radical buildup can increase fatigue, which may in turn limit the amount of reps you can perform during multiple sets of an exercise.
Melatonin helps counter the negative effects of free radicals, in two separate ways: by directly neutralizing free radicals, and by stimulating the activity of natural antioxidant enzymes. Studies have found that melatonin deactivates a variety of damaging free radicals. The natural antioxidant enzymes that melatonin interacts with include glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and catalase. Supplementing with melatonin in combination with antioxidant vitamins C and E could provide synergistic protection against free radicals.
Another benefit of melatonin may be its ability to assist in the battle to get lean. Preliminary studies in animals have found that melatonin helps maintain glycogen levels during exhaustive exercise, most likely by increasing usage of fat stores due to elevated GH levels.
Further human studies are needed, but there is sound scientific rationale supporting the ability of melatonin to increase the amount of fat released from bodyfat stores, while sparing muscle glycogen levels during training. This can pay off by keeping muscle cells fuller and fat cells flatter.
TIRED OR WIRED?
Previously in this article, we raised one obvious question regarding the effects of melatonin on exercise. That is, won’t taking melatonin supplements before training make you sleepy? A recent study out of Liverpool, England, attempted to answer this question by providing subjects with either 2.5 mg of melatonin or a placebo before a running trial. The researchers didn’t find any difference between melatonin and the placebo on alertness, sleepiness or RPE (a measure of how difficult each subject rates the exercise protocol) when melatonin was taken 75 minutes before exercise.
In another study by the same Liverpool researchers, melatonin did reduce alertness at a higher dosage (5 mg) and when it was taken more than three hours before exercise. Although melatonin did reduce alertness in this case, it had no negative effects on performance.
In other research where melatonin was given before exercise, these variables were not directly assessed, but it is noteworthy that these studies did not report that subjects receiving melatonin felt sleepier or that they had a more difficult time completing the training protocol. Although everyone’s response to melatonin will vary, most studies show that sleepiness and fatigue are negligible if it is taken within 75 minutes of exercise.
The stimulatory effects of exercise on the mind and body most likely offset any sleep-inducing effects of melatonin when it is administered soon before working out. Additionally, darkness causes other physiological changes that work with melatonin to induce sleep; without the additional stimulus of darkness, melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects may be lessened.
Since both large and small doses of melatonin have been found to boost GH levels, start with small amounts of the supplement about 30-60 minutes before workouts. Research indicates that as little as 0.5 mg could increase GH levels, so consider starting there. Depending on how your body reacts, you can always work your way up. We recommend between 0.5 and 5 mg of melatonin as an effective range for most bodybuilders. This will help you boost GH levels during training, while minimizing any potential sleep-inducing effects.
More GH without any dent in performance? There’s a lot to like about melatonin as a workout aid. It just goes to show, you never know what science will reveal next in the ever-changing world of training, nutrition and supplementation. FLEX