Elite and professional athletes know that habits off the court (or track/rink/field/etc…) are just as important as the actual sport training. This is because secondary lifestyle habits such as stretching, diet, stress, and sleep can heavily influence performance outcomes.
These well trained, highly competitive athletes are known to sleep 10-12 hours per day. Some teams even utilize sleep centers for their athletes to promote better rest as well as study the rest the athletes get. In addition to a full night’s rest, coaches and trainers often ‘prescribe’ daytime naps between workouts. Focusing on sleep is more than a plush benefit of being pro; scientific research shows that extra shut eye positively effects performance.
Regardless of your athletic status, you can benefit from more sleep. Especially since it’s likely you do not get the recommended 8 hours a night. In fact, roughly 40% of adults barely manage 7 hours a night. Getting enough sleep allows the body to rest and recover from training stress. Getting enough sleep is just part of the equation, because, like with most things, quality trumps quantity. During deep sleep, the body produces human growth hormone (HGH) which (in the natural form) is responsible for assisting with tissue repair and fuel utilization.
Being in a sleep deprived state can leave you mentally foggy, unmotivated, and susceptible to making poor training decisions which can lead to increased injuries. Athletes suffering from lack of sleep are more likely to produce extra stress hormone, cortisol, which impairs fuel utilization and appetite control. Studying your own sleep habits is becoming an easy task thanks to personal fitness devices. Phones, simple apps, and numerous watches can track how long you sleep for and some can even tell you the quality, or restlessness of the time you spend sleeping. Becoming more in tuned with your sleep status and habits is a beneficial task.
Simple advice: sleep more! Easier said than done. Most recreational athletes do not have the luxury of day time naps or 12 hour nights, but there are a few things you can do to increase shut eye.
- Start a bedtime routine. This helps your body recognize when it is time to start ‘shutting down’.
- Set a bedtime and stick to it.
- Avoid caffeine after noon.
- Avoid late, heavy meals as they can make one feel uncomfortable
- Try supplements such as melotonin, mucuna, valerian root, tryptophan, vitamin D, chamomile, and magnesium. If you are an elite or pro athlete, always make sure your supplements do not pose a drug test positive risk.
- Have a light bedtime snack of carbohydrates and fats to promote comfort and satiety.
Let’s discuss that last tip for a moment. What makes a good bedtime snack? One of the best might just be a warm cup of cocoa. Flavanols found in cocoa can lead to increased cognitive function which can help athletes wake feeling mentally stimulated, able to comprehend training data, and hit performance measures. While struggling to increase sleep, cocoa flavanols may help act as a Band-Aid to keep mental levels high during times of fatigue and low sleep.
Not only can cocoa potentially assist those struggling with getting enough sleep, but a warm cup before bed can actually improve your chances of getting to sleep. The verdict is still up for debate on why this happens, but popular thought is that cocoa is simply comforting, calming, and promotes a sense of joy which aids in the body relaxing and therefore more likely to drift off to sleep.
Here’s a recipe to try tonight:
- 1 cup milk (whole milk or unsweetened nut milk)
- 1 scoop Cocoa Elite
- 1 scoop Collagen Peptides
- 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp Mucuna Powder
- ¼ tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
- 1-2 drops Lavender essential oil
Gently heat the milk in saucepot while whisking in all other ingredients. Sip slowly to promote relaxation 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Lori Nedescu is a Sports Oriented Registered Dietitian. Lori has assisted numerous individuals and mentored several athletic teams. She has helped guide them on how to improve their overall wellness, health, and athletic performance through better nutrition and diet quality. She created The Cadence Kitchen as a platform to provide her expertise to those who wish to change or adjust their lifestyle through fitness, diet and wellness. She is an elite marathoner and a competitive CAT 2 cyclist.
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