By Flex Staff
What you eat before, during and after you sleep can make your physique an overnight success. Bodybuilders need sleep to grow. The optimum amount is eight hours for most hard-training bodybuilders who want to continue adding muscle mass. During this time, you may not burn as many calories as you do at other times of day, but you nonetheless still burn calories. If you’re a typical trainer, you don’t get up to eat in the middle of the night. Your body turns to muscle mass for energy while you sleep, burning up the precious muscle you worked to acquire during the day. It’s a conundrum. Sleep means growth, but it also means the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy.
How your body responds to this lengthy fast is also an important part of the equation. Some bodybuilders can go for hours without eating with minimal negative impact on their physiques. Others, though, must eat every few hours if they want to keep the lean mass they’ve built. Hardgainers in particular may have a lot of difficulty holding on to muscle mass throughout the night if they don’t take precautions to protect it. This article will outline the basics of what to do before, during and after sleep to make the most of your muscle mass.
BEFORE YOU SLEEP
FOUR HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME
Your last large whole-food meal of the day should come about four hours before you sleep. This meal should include a large serving of protein — 40-60 grams (g), depending on your size and daily metabolic needs. Good choices are a large steak, a large piece of fish or a couple of chicken breasts. In addition, eat a large serving of vegetables or salad.
Keep carbohydrates on the low side, because your energy needs are lower than they are at other times of day. If you’re a dieting bodybuilder, avoid complex carbs at this time. If you grow or add bodyfat easily, eat no more than a small portion of complex carbs — half a yam, a half cup of white or brown rice or half a mediumsized baked potato. Hardgainers need more calories overall and can eat a regularsized portion of complex carbs with their last large meal of the day — a fullsized baked potato or yam, or a full cup of white or brown rice.
TWO HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME
Have another small wholefood meal. All bodybuilders can take in 20-40 g of protein. Luncheon meat, a chicken breast, boiled eggs and cottage cheese are good sources of protein at this time. Hardgainers can also take in complex carbs, but should opt for smaller servings than at the last large meal. Recommended portions include a small baked potato, half a yam and a slice of whole-grain bread. Dieting bodybuilders or those who gain bodyfat easily should avoid carbs at this meal.
RIGHT BEFORE BEDTIME
Sometime in the 30 minutes before you go to bed, take in 20-40 g of casein protein. Micellar is the best type of casein protein for this time period, because it stays with your body for up to seven hours, providing aminos so your body won’t use muscle mass for energy. Mix the casein with water or milk (or a combination of the two). You mayalso include a portion of fruit (a banana, half of a cantaloupe or honeydew melon, a large pear or a large apple) whether you are a hardgainer or a dieter. The fructose will help stock your liver glycogen, which will prevent you from going catabolic sooner during the night. If the concept of taking in carbs before crawling into bed makes you paranoid, just stick with a protein shake.
DURING THE NIGHT
MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
One of the best ways to prevent your body from getting catabolic and tearing down muscle tissue is to provide it with protein during the night. You might not want to set your alarm to wake yourself up, though — the disruption of sleep is a tradeoff that might not be worth the advantage of an extra protein shake. However, if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night, pound down 20-40 g of casein protein. Consider making this shake in advance (perhaps at the same time as your bedtime drink), so you won't have to invest more time or energy in preparations.
By consuming a shake at the midpoint of the night, you effectively end the fasting phase that naturally occurs during sleep. Your body will have to go only four hours without food at any point around the clock. This is a huge advantage in helping prevent muscle breakdown.
AFTER YOU SLEEP
WHEN YOU WAKE UP
Right after getting out of bed, have 20-40g of whey protein mixed in water. Whey is one of the most quickly absorbed proteins. The faster you get it into your body, the sooner the amnios will be available to end the catabolic process of tearing down your muscle mass. You may also eat one or two pieces of fruit, such as bananas, cantaloupe or pears. This minimeal is a good choice for all — hardgainers, dieters, and those who tend to retain fat. At the beginning of the day, all bodybuilders need quickly absorbed aminos and the quick shot of energy that comes with fruit. You'll restock liver glycogen and convince your body to stop using amino acids as fuel and use more glucose.
Afterward, take a shower or do whatever you do to start the day, and then have breakfast.
This is one of the most important meals of the day, but if you've already eaten your wake-up meal, you've already addressed some of the most critical bodybuilding nutrition issues. At this point, eat a normal breakfast — four whole eggs, lean breakfast meat, another piece of fruit and a portion of oatmeal. A good-sized breakfast with protein and carbs will help fuel your day. Hardgainers should eat as much as they reasonably can. Dieters should go a little lighter on carbs, eating a smaller portion of oatmeal and one peice of fruit with their morning meals.
If you don't eat a wake-up meal, make some adjustments in your breakfast. Whole eggs contain protein and healthy fats, but the fats in the yolk slow down digestion of protein. If eggs are part of your first meal of the day, you'll be better served by eating egg whites to more quickly deliver amino acids to your bloodstream and end muscle breakdown.
You can improve your bodybuilding regimen greatly by making your nights less catabolic. Doing that, you'll be better able to retain the muscle tissue you've worked so hard to build. Implementing a solid nutrition program before, during, and after sleep can be one of the best ways to see dramatic improvements in your physique. Follow these tips to keep your body growing 24 hours a day.
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