Before a training session, you may turn to a number of supplements — a protein shake, nitric oxide boosters and maybe even stimulants, such as caffeine or yohimbine to augment intensity and focus. There’s also a supplement you wouldn’t normally place anywhere near the top of that list: melatonin, the well-known sleep aid. Sure, melatonin has a host of benefits, including antioxidant protection and improved sleep quality for enhanced recovery, but who the hell wants to doze off during an all-out set of squats with 405 pounds across his back?
However, including melatonin as part of your preworkout cocktail may not be as far-fetched as you’d initially think. Surprisingly, research is revealing that supplementing with it before a workout can stimulate muscle growth without negatively affecting performance.
Before we get into melatonin’s role in muscle growth, it’s important to understand its function as a sleep aid. When our eyes are exposed to darkness, signals are relayed to the brain to begin the sleep process. These signals are sent to the pineal gland, which acts to convert serotonin into melatonin, also known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. Once melatonin levels are increased, it circulates throughout the body to spread the message of sleep to active cells.
When taken in supplemental form, melatonin has been shown to have powerful effects for inducing sleep. Melatonin supplements have proven beneficial for a wide range of people, including those experiencing occasional sleeplessness, insomniacs, those suffering from seasonal affective disorder and even travelers trying to adjust from jet lag or time-zone changes. Study dosages for promoting sleep usually range from 0.3 to 5 milligrams.
Although we all know the importance of sleep for recovery from training, quality sleep often gets sacrificed due to our busy lifestyles. Unfortunately, skimping on rest can lead to subpar recovery and the inability to break through training plateaus. If you have trouble winding down at night and find that you stare at the ceiling counting sheep, try taking a melatonin supplement 30 minutes before you get into bed. Not only can it help you fall asleep faster, but it also has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to enter into deep sleep, and may help you sleep longer. All of this adds up to a better quality of overnight rest and improved muscle
Since weight training also has been shown to increase GH levels, scientists from Baylor University (Waco, Texas) designed an experiment to test the combination of melatonin supplements and weight training on GH levels. Sixty active, college-aged men and women were assigned to receive either melatonin or a placebo one hour before a workout. Blood tests were taken a few times before the exercise session. The subjects performed seven sets of high-intensity leg presses to stimulate natural GH release. The results showed that even before the workout began, the men receiving the high-dose melatonin supplement (5 mg) had elevated GH levels. After the training session, men in the low-dose (0.5 mg) and the high-dose (5 mg) groups had elevated GH levels when compared to the placebo group.
Boosting GH levels during and after training provides a multitude of benefits for bodybuilders. GH acts as a powerful stimulus for increasing muscle mass, and research confirms that the higher GH levels are during and following workouts, the greater the gains in muscle mass and strength.
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