Muscles do the largest share of their rebuilding during the night. Therefore, it is important that your before bed snack contain fairly high amounts of protein instead of just carbohydrates. It is too tempting to grab something before bed that is high in carbohydrates without thinking about the protein side of things. Carbs have been known to occupy a very important place in pre-race meals and training run preparation. Maybe too much emphasis is placed on that gala dinner that we all have gone to. Research is showing that there is growing evidence that we need more protein as athletes than we realize. In a recent Runner's World online article in their Nutrition section titled: Eat More Protein, comments are made about needing a higher amount of protein. The article makes several good points about the fact that 1) Protein helps muscles heal faster, 2) Higher amounts make the immune system more efficient and stronger, 3) Protein taken in the right amounts help make injuries less frequent, and 4) Protein intake should be spread out during the day. I don't disagree with that, but I do disagree about the timing and the lack thereof for any additional protein at night when muscles do the majority of their healing/rebuilding. I felt that the article left us at about mile 20 of a marathon. There is more.
The October 2007 issue of Hammer Nutrition's Endurance News, presents some more information on the protein subject. The article More about Whey & hGH, speaks directly to the point that I am trying to make. In one section, the article states, " Elevating Human Growth Hormone (hGH) levels is the surest way to enhance athletic performance and shorten recovery time". This can be accomplished by taking 1 scoop of Hammer 100% Whey Protein Isolate (possesses the highest biological value of all known foods) in 4-6 ounces of water before bed. It advises that you do not use juice or milk as the carbs in them will hinder the process. This will safely raise hGH levels while you are asleep. I have always felt that if your snack consists of carbs alone, you get a 'spike in the night" and simply want more because the carbs have burned off. The Whey Protein is slower burning. The article also says that, "During sleep 85% of hGH is released, and 6g glutamine in each serving of Hammer Whey is adequate to cross the blood-brain barrier to potentially raise nocturnally-released hGH". Soy Protein can also be used in the same way but it does not have the same high biological value as whey protein. I realize that not everyone can do the whey thing so if you need to do soy, do soy. Just get the protein.
So there you have it. Try getting more protein into your nutrition plan, around 24-40 grams or more in some cases, per day. Most importantly though add additional amounts to your bedtime snack plans. You may be asleep, but your muscles aren't. Shhhhh!
Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!