Cocoa Elite has a team of ambassadors that proudly use their products (and love them). This group includes dietitians, coaches, elite athletes, and health-conscious individuals. This group also includes individuals interested in improving their well-being and overall health. The team regularly offers insight into the needs of athletes. These ambassadors also serve as a pulse for what the market wants in a sports nutrition product. Long story short, one of the top athletes on the Elite Team stated the need for an Overnight Recovery Protein.
Kelly Fillnow, a professional Ironman athlete and owner of Fillnow Coaching, suggested that “having a patented product which athletes can use during their sleep cycle would be well received.”
The ambassador team also emphasized the importance of chemical-free, preservative-free ingredients. In typical company fashion, Cocoa Elite responded quickly and with genuine interest. The next steps included collecting information about ingredients and potential benefits of this type of product. Fast forward a few months later and the company is proudly introducing Sleepy Time Recovery.
Let’s start with a few of the reasons the company created this new product.
First of all, athletes need more protein than the average American. Additional amino acids help with recovery from hard training and competition and preserve muscle mass with weight loss.[ii] Non-athletes can also benefit from this type of recovery product. After all, as we age, we need more protein in general. In addition, we know that it’s better to eat protein incrementally throughout the day rather than all at once. This concept, called “protein-pacing,” improves muscle protein synthesis and absorption.[i] Another strategy for optimizing recovery is to add a source of slow-acting protein right before bed. This improves overnight muscle protein synthesis and repair in addition to adding another incremental protein feeding.[iii]
So, yes, the overnight recovery product made good sense. Then came the discussion of which key ingredients to include. What should be in the product? Why did the ingredient make sense?
After considerable deliberation and input, the team came up with this short list of Sleepy Time’s main ingredients (minimal but mighty): casein protein, high-flavanol cocoa and tart cherry.
So let’s get started– how did each of these ingredients make the cut?
Milk contains approximately 20% whey and 80% casein proteins. Whey is thought to be digested more rapidly, while casein slowly releases amino acids. This slow rate of digestion in casein may promote a positive net protein balance overnight. This positive balance may increase muscle protein synthesis, potentially leading to greater performance gains.[ii] Recent research suggests that overnight muscle synthesis may be limited without a source of overnight protein. This is because there is not a significant amino acid pool for the muscles to pull from that lasts through the entirety of sleep. Casein protein ingestion prior to sleep is effectively digested and slowly absorbed. This can help with overnight recovery in athletes doing extensive exercise.[iii]
Non-Alkalized Cocoa Powder
Cocoa is a key ingredient in Cocoa Elite products for good reason. First of all, Cocoa Elite’s products, including Sleepy Time, are rich in plant-derived flavanols. Flavanols are important because, as polyphenols, they exhibit antioxidant activity. This activity is the reason for many of cocoa’s health benefits. One such benefit is supporting a person’s cardiovascular system. Consuming foods rich in flavonoids protects lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids from oxidative damage. Furthermore, oxidative damage is associated with damage to the heart, which is why this sort of protection helps keep the entire system healthy.
Flavanols also reduce inflammation and help regulate vascular homeostasis, which is again important to optimizing cardiovascular function.[iv] Furthermore, consuming flavanol-rich cocoa improves the elasticity of blood vessels. Basically, the antioxidants in cocoa stimulate nitric oxide, which helps keep blood vessels relaxed.
A healthy circulatory system is also vital to athletic performance. At the most basic level, the circulatory system is responsible for delivering nutrients and oxygen to the tissues in the body. Oxygen delivery and optimal cardiovascular function are key to helping propel endurance activities. Both the health benefits of cocoa and the potential for optimized athletic performance are why cocoa is a key component of all Cocoa Elite’s products. In fact, Cocoa Elite recently received their patent for using flavanols to improve athletic performance.
Tart Cherry Extract
Scientists have hypothesized that Montmorency tart cherries may have positive effects on sleep. One explanation for this possibility is that tart cherries contain high levels of phytochemicals including melatonin. The fact that melatonin plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans is the basis for this potential link.[v] Another explanation is that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals in tart cherries may act on cytokines associated with the sleep–wake cycle.
There is some preliminary evidence to suggest these hypotheses could be correct. In one study, participants who drank tart cherry juice (compared to those who didn’t) had higher melatonin levels, longer sleep time, greater time in bed and increased sleep efficiency. Other studies and anecdotal evidence, echo these results.
The final step was taste testing. Luckily, the founders of Cocoa Elite and the team of ambassadors truly enjoy this step. Long story short, Sleepy Time Recovery tastes delicious. It’s a rich, dark chocolate, night-time treat. In addition, it contains only 100 calories, packs 21 grams of protein, and provides 40% of the daily value for calcium. Consume Sleepy Time prior to bed (the minimal amount of caffeine, less than what is in a cup of decaf, has been fine for our team).
Most of all enjoy the chocolaty goodness and recover well!
[i] Arciero, Paul et. al. (2016). Protein-Pacing and Multi-Component Exercise Training Improves Physical Performance Outcomes in Exercise-Trained Women: The PRISE 3 Study. Nutrients 2016, 8(6), 332. Retrieved from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/6/332/htm.
[ii]Karpinski, C. and Rosenbloom, C. (2017). Sports Nutrition: A Handbook for Professionals, 6th Edition. Chicago: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
[iii]Trommelen, J. (2016). Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Protein Response to Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 28;8(12). pii: E763. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27916799.
[iv] Katz, David L. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 15(10): 2779-2811. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/.
[v] Howatson, G. et al. (2012). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 51 (8): 909-16. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497.
Katie Elliott is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is the founder of Elliott Performance and Nutrition, based in Aspen, Colorado. Katie works with clients nationwide via tele-health and provides counseling and exercise testing at Achieve Health and Performance.
Katie’s specialties include sports nutrition, nutrition for the prevention and treatment of disease, weight loss, and worksite wellness. She has coached athletes to several podium finishes as a Triathlon Coach.
In addition, Katie attended IMG Academies as a junior tennis player. She played Division I tennis at Davidson College. She has competed on numerous amateur world triathlon teams. Since 2004, Katie has won numerous overall amateur titles. She has been on 6 World Championship teams and has finished 2nd at two National Championships. Furthermore, Katie achieved a 6th place finish at the World Championship in her age group.
Contact her here: Katie Elliott, MS, RD.
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