This week, we explore effective nutrition strategies to improve sleep quality and quantity in athletes.

A reduction in sleep is associated with fatigue-related injury, compromised immune function, muscle remodelling and disruption of cellular maintenance.

A recent review by Gratwicke at al (2021) provides an insight to the latest nutrition considerations. The main areas explored were:

– Total Sleep Time (TST)
– Sleep Efficiency (SE) = Ratio of TST to time spent in bed.
– Sleep Onset Latency (SOL) = Time taken to fall asleep.
– Wake After Sleep Onset (WASO) = Time awake after initial sleep onset but before the final awakening.

In addition to a well-balanced diet and recommended sleep hygiene practices, the nutrition strategies worth exploring are:

1) High glycaemic index carbohydrates 2-4hrs pre-bed can improve TST by 7.9-62.4 mins, SOL by 5.9-18.9 min and SE by 0.4-8.1%.
2) A 20-40g serving of α-lactalbumin enriched whey protein isolate (rich in Tryptophan) pre-bed can improve TST by 55 mins, alongside a 7% increase in SE.
3) Tart Cherry Juice, an antioxidant and source of melatonin, can increase TST by 29-39 mins, SE by 2.7-3.7%, and a reduction in SOL by 3.6-9.1 mins, and WASO by 16.8 mins.
4) 100-300mg of the amino acid GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) can reduce SOL, WASO, and increase SE.
5) Kiwi fruit, a source of serotonin and folate, can substantially increase TST by 55 mins, SE by 2.4% and decrease SOL by 14% and WASO by 6.1% when consumed 1hr pre-bed.
6) 3g of the amino acid glycine 1hr pre-bed decreased SOL and morning fatigue, whilst improving cognitive function in those sleep deprived.

It’s worth noting that these findings weren’t exclusive to athletes, nor do we know the effects of combining numerous strategies simultaneously. That being said, these foods and supplements may be worth considering if sleep disruption is a continued issue.

Whilst you’re here…If you’re an elite or sub-elite athlete and find this content interesting, but don’t quite know how to apply this information to take your athletic development and performance to the next level, I can 100% help you.

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