The time of day of day you train can have a big impact on the physiological responses to your session. Nevertheless, you need to find a time that fits into your schedule so you can always be sure to bring your A-game.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD QUALITY SLEEP
Sleep is an area that is often affected when training in the evening. Whether it is actually nodding off, or the quality itself, it is crucial that we support healthy sleep. The importance of good sleep cannot be underestimated for repair and regeneration. The effects of poor sleep can seriously impair your progress.
‘You need to use nutrition to help you fall asleep, but also to induce quality sleep.’
NUTRITION FOR EVENING TRAINING
Specific foods and nutrients can balance hormones and neurotransmitters that have been either elevated or suppressed during exercise. Cortisol is crucial for energy production so we want it to be high when we exercise, but consistently elevated levels will impair sleep and recovery.
Boosting melatonin, serotonin and growth hormone levels will help to induce healthy sleep and kick start your recovery. As we can see in figure 1, we want cortisol to be low in the evening to allow growth hormones to be secreted in the initial stages of sleep. If we get our nutrition on point we can take advantage of this spike in growth hormone to maximise your gains.
Foods that will help achieve this include carbohydrates. Yep that’s right I said it – eat carbs in the evening! Why? You have just smashed your body through a brutal WOD, it is primed to absorb carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. This is essential if you are training the next day. Carbohydrates will also lower cortisol levels due to insulin secretion. The consumption of certain foods that increase the availability of tryptophan, alongside synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, will aid in promoting sleep.
Figure 1 – Growth hormone and cortisol levels during sleep.
Eating some protein containing Omega-3 fatty acids is also recommended. I don’t need to tell you the importance of protein for muscle repair, but eating quality protein in the evening can also increase serotonin levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce cortisol, boost growth hormone and lower the inflammatory response from exercise. The last thing you want to be doing is eating foods that heighten the inflammatory response. Foods that are deep fried or high in refined sugar should not even be on the radar. DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE WHO SAYS YOU CAN EAT WHAT YOU WANT AFTER YOU HAVE TRAINED. REFUEL YOUR BODY WITH QUALITY!
Here are some recipe ideas and foods to include in your diet that help induce healthy sleep:
- Turkey meatballs with quinoa
- Baked salmon with brown rice vegetable stir fry
- Mexican chicken with sweet potato wedges and black beans
- Cherries and berries with greek yoghurt
Here are some of the best foods for sleep
CROSSFIT NUTRITION: MEAL PREPERATION
So you have just finished your workout and your thoughts quickly shift on to what am I going to eat to recover from those 50 squat cleans? Having a healthy, nutrient dense meal that is prepared or takes little time to cook is one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your nutrition for evening training plan. Having food prepped will lower the decision stress of what to eat, what to buy and will prevent late night shopping…which always ends in some form of doughnut or brownie being slipped into the basket! Here are some tips on how to achieve this –
- Making extra the night before
- Use up frozen meals (that are homemade!)
- Planning quick cook meals such as stir fry, omelettes or a buddha bowls
- Using quick cook packets of food such as lentils and quinoa can save time. Add in veggies and some cooked lean meat and you have a meal in under 10 minutes.
Using a meal delivery service or pre-prepared packets of food is also a great way to ensure you are getting nutrient dense food. Some people work long hours and weekends so meal prep time is limited. Yes, these can work out more expensive, but they are of much better quality than almost all ready meals in the supermarket.
CALM THE NERVOUS SYSTEM WITH SPECIFIC NUTRIENTS
Hack your nutrition for evening training sessions. After exercising your sympathetic nervous system is dominant. We need this DURING exercise but want to switch into a parasympathetic state to kick start recovery and help sleep. There are a few key nutrients that can help achieve this. Magnesium been shown to boost your parasympathetic nervous system to help you recover faster.
‘The best forms of magnesium include bisglycinate, citrate, L-threonate and malate. Do not buy magnesium oxide – this is poorly absorbed.’
Omega-3’s, taurine, vitamin C and glutamine are also good additions to your evening supplementation plan. These will help to clear cortisol, boost glycogen replenishment and lower inflammation, all of which are crucial to ensure you are maximising your training stimulus. Here are my supplementation recommendations –
Immediately post workout – 20g whey protein with 5g creatine and 1g taurine
With evening meal – Vitamin C 2g, fish oil 3g
1 hour after evening meal or 1 hour before bed – high strength ZMA taken with 10g glutamine.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT EMPLOY RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Follow these tips to reduce stimulation, lower stress hormone levels and induce quality sleep.
- Switch off electronics 45 minutes before bed
- Engage in some deep breathing (belly breathing for 10 minutes)
- Ensure you have a completely dark room
- Read, listen to music or do something else that you find pleasure in