I usually feel like I’m either not getting enough sleep, or when I do, it may not be the best quality of sleep. While we don’t exactly know why we sleep, we do know that there are lot of physical and cognitive things going on while snoozing. This article is going to talk about the best proteins and fats to help you sleep well and wake up recovered!
When we sleep, our bodies use protein and fatty acids to repair muscle and brain tissue. To get the most out of this reparative benefit, it is important that the body has enough raw material (for example protein and omega-3 fatty acids) to mend and restore fibers. Unfortunately, not a lot of proteins are well-suited for pre-bedtime consumption. Some can take too much energy to digest, and leave you feeling too full or bloated, making it difficult to fall asleep.
My two favorite bedtime proteins are casein and collagen. I usually take a couple of tablespoons of collagen (Bulletproof’s Upgraded Collagen Protein is my favorite, since it’s grass-fed and mixes well) about an hour before bed, and I’ve never had a problem digesting it! The hydrolyzation process makes the collagen easier to digest, and grass-fed cows are usually not fed genetically modified grains or exposed to rBGH, bovine growth-hormones. Any byproduct — including both collagen and casein — of cows treated with rBGH becomes contaminated with this hormone, which has been linked to a number of diseases, including breast cancer.
Speaking of growth hormones, during the first few hours of a sleep cycle, we usually get a surge in naturally occurring HGH, the human growth hormone. This hormone helps “plump up” tired tissue and reduce the look of superficial wrinkles, leading to what some call “beauty sleep.” When I wake up with a dull, extra dry complexion and bags under my eyes, I know that I either didn’t get enough sleep, didn’t have enough protein before heading to bed, or a combination of the two.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, has mood-altering benefits, helping combat anxiety and depression, but it’s are also to helping repair our bodies—especially our brains, as we sleep. The best food source for DHA and EPA (another essential fatty oil) is fatty seafood. Because I probably eat more seafood than the average person, I try to stick with the low-mercury stuff. My favorites are:
- Wild Salmon. I really like the Natural Sea Brand, since all of their fishing practices are sustainable, and they don’t add any salt.
- Anchovies. The Ortiz anchovies are the best at this moderate price point. If you want to splurge, my absolute favorite are the Merro anchovies from Sicily.
The beauty of these foods is that they give your body the protein AND the omega-3 fats it needs to repair itself. I’ve tried a lot of omega-3 supplements, and after tons of undesired burping (a side effect of some fish oils), I’ve settled on Jarrow Krill Oil. I take these at night, unless I’m having seafood for dinner. I keep my pills in the freezer, which helps slow down the digestion and subsequently the burps.