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We all know that sleep is essential to athletic performance, but it can’t be overstated that getting consistent and adequate deep sleep is the single best recovery strategy for athletes and hard-training individuals in general. Sleep deprivation has been repeatedly shown to negatively affect aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance.
Many common athlete practices — including intense exercise, late-night meals and long-distance travel — can significantly shift the body’s internal clock. Since athletes are at particularly high risk of messing up their circadian rhythms, many also run the risk of sleep deprivation’s ill effects, especially before important competitions.
Fortunately, there’s one simple, effective remedy to this problem: melatonin.
Melatonin behaves as the body’s “circadian rhythms synchronizer” and is commonly taken as a supplement to enhance sleep quality and recovery. However, up until recently there have been very few studies aimed at investigating the effectiveness of melatonin supplementation on sleep patterns in resistance-trained athletes.
One such study was a placebo-controlled experiment published in Chrono-biology International that tested the effect of melatonin supplementation (100 milligrams per day) on the circadian system in resistance-trained athletes. For four weeks, volunteers who underwent regular, intensive weight training were treated with either melatonin or placebo 30 minutes before bedtime. Daily rhythm of salivary melatonin was measured before and after melatonin administration. Measures of circadian rhythms such as wrist temperature, motor activity and body position rhythmicity were also recorded during the week before and after melatonin or placebo treatment.
Researchers reported that melatonin supplementation positively altered daily waveforms of wrist temperature, activity and position. Taken together, the data illustrate that melatonin not only adjusts the circadian clock but also improves the efficiency of the sleep-wake cycle in athletes.
ACTION POINT: According to the research, you must take relatively high doses of melatonin to modify the sleep-wake cycle. Based on this study, take 100 milligrams of melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before hitting the sack. This dose has been deemed to be well tolerated and safe in other studies.