Sports Nutrition Tip for the Month: Foods for Sleep
If you are feeling tired and run down, unable to recover from workouts, and struggling to focus, it’s time to take a hard look at your sleep patterns. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling exhausted and unmotivated to train, as well as suppresses the immune system. Not a good combination for an athlete-in-training. Lack of sleep is also associated with weight gain and increased cravings since the hormone leptin, the satiety hormone, is disrupted.
How much sleep do you need? Most adults need somewhere between 7-9 hours per night. I personally feel best around 8-8 ½ hours and barely get by on 7 hours. Growing teens and adolescents need more to accommodate developmental changes.
Stress and changing hormones (especially for women) are probably the culprits at play and because it’s difficult to control them, use your diet to improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Additionally, consider establishing a new sleep routine in the evenings and manage stress. In the meantime, check out these nine foods and consider adding them into your diet if you have problems sleeping.
- Kiwi – researchers in Taipei found that research participants slept an extra hour when they ate two kiwis an hour before bed.
- Soyfoods – soy naturally contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with the sleep-wake cycle. Research volunteers who ate two or more servings of soy a day slept longer and reported higher quality of sleep compared to those who didn’t eat soy.
- Fiber-rich foods – fiber-rich foods are associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep cycles. That is, the more you eat, the better you sleep. Get a fiber boost from whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, veggies, and quinoa.
- Fish – most fish (especially salmon, tuna, and halibut) give you a boost vitamin B6 which is a precursor to melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.
- Tart cherry juice -- according to a study, drinking a small amount of tart cherry juice at one-to-two times a day helped adults with chronic insomnia. Try drinking a cup at bed time for restful sleep. ** Note: avoid tart cherry juice if you follow a Low FODMAPS diet.
- Yogurt – dairy products such as milk and yogurt provide good doses of calcium. Individuals who are calcium deficient may have difficulty falling asleep. Try a yogurt parfait at bed time.
- Whole grains – bulger, barley, whole wheat are rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps with the relaxation response. People deficient in magnesium may find it harder to fall and stay asleep.
- Kale – also rich in calcium, this leafy green along with its cousins such as collard greens, mustard greens, spinach provide a good dose of calcium that may help you fall asleep. Add greens to a stir-fry, soup, or salad.
- Bananas – rich in potassium, bananas are also a good source of vitamin B6 which is a precursor to melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. Eat a banana with a warm mug of milk at bed time for restful sleep.
Nutrition in the News: "Night Time Snack can Build Muscle as you Sleep"
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Consuming enough protein is important for muscle recovery and regeneration and a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that consuming whole food protein in the form of cottage cheese can help build muscle as you sleep. Research participants were fit, active women in their 20s. Benefits of ingesting 30 grams of protein (in the form of cottage cheese) at bed time included improvement in strength, metabolism, and overall health. The study’s lead author indicates that athletes (any age and gender) can benefit from eating protein prior to bed.
Rather than going into a state of muscle degradation at nighttime, try consuming 1 cup of non-fat cottage cheese before bed.